Talented students are amongst our most precious resources.
To seek out such students, nurture and educate them so as
to fully develop their personal, intellectual and leadership
potential, NUS launched the University Scholars Programme
in July 2000 by combining the Talent Development Programme
and the Core Curriculum.
The strategic goal of the Scholars Programme is to prepare
the University Scholars for making sterling contributions
to the social, political, economic, scientific, technological
and institutional development of Singapore, ASEAN, the Asian
region, and the world. Intellectual broadening and critical
thinkingwith a clear understanding of Singapore and
of the world in an Asian and international contextare
the pillars of the pedagogical philosophy of the Scholars
Programme; all efforts at academic training and personal development
of the Scholars are focused on attaining these objectives.
The Scholars Programme is open to all the students entering
NUS; admission is based solely on merit, with a broad view
of what constitutes that extra spark that we are seeking in
the Scholars. At present we have an enrolment of almost 800
students in the Scholars Programme from all faculties of NUS,
except for the faculties of Dentistry, Law and Medicine.
The Scholars Programme is part of the drive of enabling
our graduates to face an intensely competitive future by providing
them with a world-class undergraduate education at NUS, and
is similar to other cutting edge initiatives launched at many
institutions the world over. To be prepared for an uncertain
futurewith changes becoming more frequent and unpredictableentails
being multi-talented, being able to face up to unforeseen
and trying circumstances, and having the ability to see beyond
textbook solutions. For example, engineers, artists, economists
and scientists are being increasingly confronted with ethical,
technical, management and organisational issues that are far
beyond their specialisations: a manager may need to evaluate
a biotechnology project, a scientist may need to understand
the economic implications of a scientific discovery. We need
to prepare some of our top students to work in the less-structured
environment of the future, and with fewer guideposts.
The best preparation for a University Scholar is to have
the intellectual breadth, powers of reasoning and critical
thinking skills that are necessary ingredients of effective
and creative solutions. The inculcation of these qualitiesthrough
interactive pedagogyis the guiding principle of the
University Scholars Programme.
There are two competing tendencies in the present, and on-going,
explosion of knowledge. On the one hand, there is a proliferation
of discipline-specific methodologies that are rooted in the
specificity of knowledge, and that tend to unavoidably compartmentalise
and subdivide knowledge and indeed the disciplines themselves.
On the other hand, we have increasing trans-disciplinarity.
These trends are interlinked, since the higher level of proliferation
of specialisations, the higher the need for the integration
and synthesis of diverse forms of knowledge, for trans-disciplinarity
within and across different areas. Hence in the emerging landscape
of knowledge, the specialised and traditional disciplines
can be thought of as nodes that are densely linked and interconnected,
and form a trans-disciplinary network that constitutes the
terrain of human knowledge.
Trans-disciplinaritywhich includes inter- and
multi-disciplinarityis an open-ended and all rounded
approach to knowledge considered as an interconnected and
integral whole. A trans-disciplinary approach utilises and
applies all forms of inquiry and methodologies in comprehending
many problemssuch as giving effective leadership for
the development of a societythat can only be posed and
solved using a multi-dimensional approach.
The guiding philosophy of the Scholars Programme can be summarised
1. Intellectual broadening that is based on understanding
the underlying interconnectivity of all human knowledge, and
in adopting a trans-disciplinary point of view. To achieve
optimum intellectual broadening as well as familiarity with
a wide range of methodologies, a key feature of the Scholars
Programme is an equal emphasis on the humanities and social
sciences on the one hand and the natural sciences and technology
on the other.
2. The Scholars curriculum emphasises the specific form
of reasoning that is inherent in a given body of knowledge.
The methodology of acquiring a particular body of knowledgerather
than the content of knowledge per seis given greater
attention than in specialised courses. For example, the University
Scholar learns how the biologists view of the evolution
of species differs from that of the sociologists view
of the evolution of human societies; or what is considered
as evidence and fact in linguistics in contrast with what
is evidence in physics.
3. The Scholars Programme is designed to instil values and
traits necessary for a strong nation. University Scholars
study the history of Singapore and the region to develop their
awareness of the social, geographical and political contexts
of Singapore, and to develop their instincts and reflexes
as to what is in the best interest of the nation, even if
this means challenging current orthodoxies. This exposure
is intended to anchor the identity of the University Scholars
in the culture and traditions of Singapore, and yet also enable
them to look forward, seeing historys relevance to the
Specific Features of Our Pedagogical Process
Openness to innovations is fundamental to our approach to
pedagogy, with a special emphasis on imparting trans-disciplinary
knowledge. The Scholars Programme also serves as a seedbed
for developing new forms of pedagogy that can be applied to
NUS as a whole.
The Scholars Programme brings together bright students and
capable teachers so as to create and foster a dynamic learning
communitythe mainstay of which are the teachers
and students, and indeed non-teaching staff. The learning
community extends beyond the Scholars Programme to the rest
of NUS, and with national and international scholars, thinkers,
scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, artists and policy-makers
being invited to participate.
The integration and synthesis of the various domains of knowledge
is a priority in the Scholars modules, and every module explores
its connections with other disciplines. Scholars undertake
multi-disciplinary projects that help to create intellectual
teams and commanders. Trans-disciplinary research amongst
faculty members is another unique feature of the Programme.
Scholars take 30% of the total Honours graduation requirement
in our Programme, and which consists of first-tier and advanced
modules. The first-tier modules are to be taken in the first
six semesters, and discipline-specific advanced modulesbased
in the various participating facultiesare to be completed
Advanced Scholars modules are intended to achieve intellectual
broadening across the body of knowledge that is specific to
a faculty. Scholars also take charge of their education by
undertaking (guided) self-study of advanced specialist topics
that reflect their individual interests.
The Scholars take the first-tier modules as fresh entrants,
and then go off to their various fields of specialisations.
The advanced modules are intended to bring the Scholars back
to the Programmeto close the circle so to speakso
that they again experience the Programme, but this time as
developed and mature individuals. With the maturing of our
Programme, we hope to form a Scholars Circle with
new entrants being paired up with the senior Scholars.
Every year about 250 students enter into the Scholars Programme.
A selection processbased on an essay, an interview and
other criteria that go beyond gradeshas been evolved
and refined over the last few years. A select group of dedicated
lecturers, as well as international experts including consultants
from Harvard University, have been organised to fulfil the
objectives of the Programme, supported by a network of mutual
support with all the participating faculties.
Over 40 first-tier and advanced modules are presently being
taught in a wide range of subjects. Scholars first-tier
modules are designed for achieving intellectual broadening,
and are equally accessible to all students, regardless of
the subject they choose to major in. Thus a science student
reads modules such as Memory and Modernity and
Cyberarts while a literature major reads modules
such as Physical Laws and Why Calculus.
Advanced modules such as Protein Science span
the disciplines of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology,
and Civil Society in Singapore combines literary,
historical, political, economic and social perspectives.
The body of knowledge addressed by the Scholars modules aims
to be at the confluence of the specialised knowledge of the
various faculties, and attempts to lie beyond the domain of
knowledge of any given faculty. For example, the module Brain
and Cognition is at the intersection of neuroscience,
psychology and human behaviour.
An example of the educational experiment in creating a participatory
learning community was a semester-long competition to build
a robota requirement for a module on digital information
systems, and which was open to students, teaching and non-teaching
staff members of the Scholars Programme.
The University Scholars have organised themselves into the
University Scholars Club, and have taken the initiative in
organising academic and social functions and activities that
directly reflect the issues foremost in their minds. Last
year, an overseas trip to Cambodia was undertaken by a group
of Scholars, and a trip to Langkawi was an integral part of
the module on Evolution.
We have developed an extensive web site with a rich variety
of information and interconnections between diverse fields
to reflect the pedagogical principles of the Scholars Programme.
The Cyberarts Initiative has been recently launched
that brings together artists, scientists, academics and students
to innovate and create artistic and scientific products using
advanced digital technology. An artist-in-residence scheme
has been launched for the integration of the arts with new
An international conference on Moving Text into E-Space
was hosted last year, and focused on the transition of the
structure and information contained in a text from print into
cyberspace. A workshop on Metaphors in Science
is being planned for this year, and will address the increasingly
important catalytic role of metaphoric thinking in the emergence
of new scientific ideas.
Trans-disciplinary teaching and research, together with
a well thought out plan for social development, are the main
pedagogical vehicles of the Scholars Programmeand are
intended to bring about an all-rounded development of the