When placed outside the sterile comfort zone of their local university setting, NUS students show that they can impress with their lively discussions.
At least that was the feedback provided by some of the discussion panellists at the Global Youth Symposium 2008 organised and hosted by the University of Malaya from Aug. 19 to 23.
Started in 2007 to broaden the knowledge and encourage an exchange of ideas between students, this year’s GYS saw NUS forming the largest contingent with 22 students out of close to a hundred participants from 13 countries.
Professor Tan Khee Giap, a GYS panellist and vice dean of the graduate studies programme in Nanyang Technological University said he was impressed by the participation of NUS students.
Professor Tan said, “I was pleasantly surprised by the NUS students who spoke during the question and answer session. It was very different from Singapore where I teach as students would hardly ask questions. It seems like students from Singapore do speak up when they are in a different environment.”
Professor Tan was not the only one to commend the NUS participants, who drew plaudits from the symposium organisers as well.
Director of GYS 2008, Christine Chai, said, “Most NUS students were very enthusiastic in all the discussions and also the final presentation. Their presence was felt and they definitely did help to create a positive vibe among the participants.”
An explanation for the compliments was that NUS students are more adaptable in open discussions because they are exposed to a wider and more comprehensive curriculum than their overseas counterparts.
Ang Teng Yen, a third year Sociology undergraduate said, “Contrary to what I thought and believed, not all countries teach their youths ideas that can be applied to the real world. As such, I really appreciate NUS for having a good education system.”
The increase in knowledge and involvement by students in issues beyond the classroom is also seen as a reflection of changing values and priorities.
Another panellist, Sabina Inderjit, a journalist and executive committee member of the International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific said, “The GYS is a good platform to get young minds to think beyond what they have done and is an excellent opportunity for youths to exchange ideas beyond their cultures.
“From what I observed during the question and answer session, youths today are a lot more involved and concerned about global issues.”
However, at least one NUS student viewed the situation differently.
Tan Wei Tin, a second-year undergraduate from the School of Design and Environment said NUS should encourage its students to organise symposiums similar to GYS because of the prevalence of a feeling of apathy on campus.
Tan said, “Many NUS students are not very knowledgeable and they do not really care very much about global issues.”
“Therefore, through such symposiums we are challenged to widen our views and it will be the perfect means through which we can meet other students from other parts of the world who are concerned about the same issues as us.”
During the five-day symposium, students had to hold group discussions on topics such as the re-branding of capitalism, evolving role of the media and environmental responsibility’s contradiction with national development.
These discussions cumulated into final-day presentations along with question-and-answer sessions.