It is hard to overstate the importance of teaching good communication skills at a world-class university whose basic mission is to prepare students to effectively participate in their societies. Democratic societies require an informed citizenry with basic communication skills, because communication makes critical thought and ideas available for reflection and action. Critical thought is interwoven with all forms of expression, whether written, oral or visual communication. Written communication is an especially important mode of expression, because the complex process of writing facilitates learning, requiring us to focus, organise and extend our thoughts.
Teaching our students communication skills can help them become lifelong contributors to the societies in which they live. Whether ascribing to a philosophy of collectivism or individualism, educated individuals can contribute to societal debates on issues of public concern, or they can assume roles in which they help organisations—whether government agencies, non-profit charities or corporate entities—communicate more ethically, responsibly and effectively. Graduates with excellent communication skills can assume leadership roles in which they can influence organisations to conduct business ethically and in a socially responsible manner.
To be prepared for the workforce or for their lives as world citizens, students must learn communication theories and skills and then put what they have learned into practice. The more practice we can give students in these critical skills, the better prepared they will be for their careers as well as for democracy.
The NUS Communications and New Media (CNM) Programme focuses on communication. The foundational module in CNM’s Communication Management unit, NM2219 “Principles of Communication Management”, introduces students to the basic fundamentals of strategic communication. These fundamentals are also included in our introductory and professional writing modules, where students review grammar, hone their writing skills and learn how to write for a variety of media to achieve specific communication objectives. Even our publication design and campaign modules stress writing, incorporating written messages, based on research, into print and electronic publications.
Our writing modules also stress the importance of accuracy in the search for truth, whether by a journalist, a public relations practitioner or a researcher. Our aim is for students to incorporate the mindset of “getting it right” into their daily pursuit of knowledge and to clearly communicate what they have learned.
Our writing modules are theory based. Teaching students theory helps them see how communication principles operate in their daily lives as well as in the daily communication of organisations and societies. Students are given as much practice as feasible in applying communication theories to problems and opportunities facing organisations. This practical application of research, theory and skills in our writing courses means that our students will write—a lot.