“Poetry is a Luxury We Cannot Afford”?: What’s Next for Arts, Humanities and Literature Education – Panel Discussion at NIE’s Arts, Humanities and Literature Conference 2015, Singapore 4 June 2015.

The inaugural Arts, Humanities and Literature Conference 2015 was organised in conjunction with Redesigning Pedagogy: Leaders, Values and Citizenship in 21st Century Education (International Conference) and the 11th International CitizED Conference. As part of the symposium’s closing panel discussion, my fellow panelists and I spoke on the future of Arts, Humanities & Literature education in Singapore. Joining me on the panel were author Suchen Christine Lim, educator Rebecca Ng-Chew and our discussant, Assistant Professor Suzanne Choo. We questioned, is there even a future for these subjects? What public role do they play in our country? (See Choo’s closing address)

In my own presentation, I responded to the late Lee Kuan Yew’s statement, “Poetry is a luxury we cannot afford”. I talked about existing conceptions of poetry by both the public and educators alike. It is a mammoth task to change our system’s instrumental attitude towards education itself, let alone the arts and humanities. “Where does one begin? Where could one begin,” I ask. We cannot afford not to begin somewhere. That’s what we really cannot afford.

Panel Speeches: Suchen Christine LimRebecca Ng-ChewTan Tarn HowSuzanne Choo

Suchen Christine Lim is one of Singapore’s most distinguished writers. In 1992, her third novel, Fistful of Colours, was awarded the Inaugural Singapore Literature Prize. A Bit Of Earth (2000), her fourth novel, and a short-story collection, The Lies That Build A Marriage (2007) were subsequently shortlisted for the same prize. Awarded a Fulbright grant in 1997, she is a Fellow of the International Writers’ Program, University of Iowa, and the first Singapore writer honoured as the university’s International Writer-in-Residence in 2000. In 2005, she was a Moniack Mhor’s writer-in-residence in Scotland. She has since returned to the UK several times as an Arvon Tutor to conduct writing workshops and read at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Over the years she has also held writing residencies in Myanmar, the Philippines, South Korea and at the University of Western Australia in Perth. In 2011, she was the Visiting Fellow in Creative Writing at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. In 2012, she won the South East Asia Write Award for her body of work.

Adapted from Lim’s author profile at London Book Fair and her official website.

Rebecca Ng-Chew is a passionate advocate of the arts. She has been in the teaching service for the past 25 years, and was the first Principal of Singapore’s School of the Arts (SOTA) from its inauguration in 2008. Now as Academy Principal of the Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the aRts (STAR), she is committed to the professional development of Art and Music teachers.

Adapted from SingTeach

Suzanne Choo is Assistant Professor in the English Language and Literature Academic Group at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. In 2011, she was awarded the International Award for Excellence by the International Journal of the Humanities for the best published article in the journal. That same year, she was awarded the Walter M. Sindlinger Writing Award by Teachers College, Columbia University for exceptional research paper. Her most recent book is Reading the world, the globe, and the cosmos: Approaches to teaching literature for the twenty-first century, published in 2013 by Peter Lang, New York. It was awarded the 2014 Citics Choice Book Award by the American Educational Studies Association. She co-founded Studies in Educational Innovation at Teachers College, Columbia University which conducts research on how schools around the world prepare students for 21st century globalization. She is also Associate Editor of Asia Pacific Journal of Education.

Adapted from Choo’s NIE Profile


Event information adapted from NIE

Featured Image Credit: NIE


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