Saturday, 11 April 2015

[Straits Times] Groom more top talent in social sciences

THE recent letters calling for scholarship boards to re-evaluate decisions are reflective of the critical role these scholarship providers play in directing the future of our nation ("Ensure scholarship holders are made of sterner stuff" by Mr Heng Cho Choon, Wednesday and "No foolproof method to awarding scholarships" by Mr Ling Ming Hui; Thursday).

An academic field that is growing locally is our social sciences.

The major problems our nation faces today are social in nature - coping with an ageing population, finding a national identity, dealing with more contest in the political arena, and reaching out to the needy.

These problems are not easily perceivable or analysed, and can be dealt with using empirical research only.

How can we solve problems if we do not know they exist?

In the long run, we can even introduce subjects such as sociology or anthropology into our A-level curriculum. This will help ease the transition to university.

The inter-disciplinary nature of social sciences makes them suitable preparation for the 21st-century world.

The social sciences can empower people in a way many other disciplines cannot.

Research findings from universities can inspire many ground-up and altruistic initiatives, hence, promoting inclusiveness in society.

An opportunity is arising for us to increase our investment in the social sciences. We have the talent pool and practical demand for it.

Scholarship boards are important players to this end, as they are able to redirect our top talent to pursue the social sciences locally.

Without top talent, any push to develop our local social science fields will be hampered.

Singapore could be the front runner in Asia's march forward for social science research.

Tan Yang Long