The Heart of Learning

The Heart

of Learning

CHAPTER 1: WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

The Heart of Learning aims to inspire change, and communicate SUSS’s character and passion through its: Sense of social mission and service to society; Practice educational orientation that gives direct application to the learning acquired and impact in the respective professions; and Focus on the development of key lifelong learning skills in its learners.

To celebrate SUSS’s new status as an autonomous university, it has published a collection of essays in a beautiful blue hardback titled The Heart of Learning. Two professors were tasked to put the book together. Professor Cheah Horn Mun (right) is the Assistant Provost as well as Dean of SUSS’s S R Nathan School of Human Development, while Professor Leong Thin Yin (left) is a member of the Office of the President. Here, they share their thoughts and inspiration behind the project.

Q1. The introduction explains that the book is organised into four sections: “Post-Brexit World”, “Societal Needs”, “University Education” and “Lifelong Learning”. Why these four?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

The book approaches the ‘heart of learning’ through situating learning within the context of the global environment.  Thus, from sketching out the conditions and current social-economic environment, it is then possible to identify societal needs that need to be (urgently) addressed.  These fold well within the context of what can university do in order to prepare students to not just face such an global/regional environment, but to actively contribute to addressing the ensuing issues.  SUSS, as a university with a strong social dimension, approach the preparation of students through its curriculum, particularly through its lifelong learning engagements.

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

In essence, the purpose of the book is to explain SUSS’s mission: To provide lifelong education, equipping learners to serve society. Thus, the book is organised to state first the tough global situation we are facing and some immediate local societal needs, before progressing to set out in response what equipping learners and lifelong education means.

Q2. The four sections of the book – “Post-Brexit World”, “Societal Needs”, “University Education” and “Lifelong Learning” – are framed in your introduction as subjects which warnings exist and related hurdles need to be dealt with. How would this book appeal to an optimist and how it would impact our students and alumni?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

It is by identifying the issues that one can provide a purpose and focus for education.  The book is indeed for an optimist, in the sense that it proposes that we can do something about the issues, not just to sit back and lament their unfolding. 

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

It would be foolish to pretend that the global climate is calm and placid when storms of disruptions of enormous scale and impact are looming and already hitting some shores. We should not be misconstrued as prophets of doom. Where some see challenges and obstacles, the optimists see opportunities. There is a need to spur those still unaware towards working harder to make the world better. We know our students and alumni will rise up to the occasion when the clarion call for their response actions are loud and clear.

Q3. If you would recommend only one section to read, which would it be and why?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

I am going to be biased and say to focus on early childhood and eldercare.  The former is that only by starting well can we have the best of chance to face the challenges successfully; and the latter because it is going to dominate our policies, social interactions and economic survival.  

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

I too would recommend the Societal Needs section. The topics there are closest to heart and affect most individuals directly.

Q4. What attributes do you think an SUSS graduate should have that bear testimony to the 3Hs? Can you share some examples so that our alumni can better appreciate how to live this ethos?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

The one thing that I hope our graduates would possess is that they become ‘reflective practitioners’.  This means that graduates have to ensure that they have the values, skills and knowledge to contribute at the society and professional levels; and that they possess the ability to identify where they can do better, then design their own (further) learning so as to implement/apply these new learnings. Thereafter, they would also need to be able to assess whether things have gotten better and why.  And if not, then have the resilience to try again.

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

Whilst we encourage our students and alumni to better themselves, the key attribute is not how well they do in life but if the world is a better place because of their existence. Some alumni helped others during their time of studying with us, others contributed as mentors to guide others into the right careers and do the right thing professionally, others volunteered in VWOs and social causes, and still others started social enterprises that employ people to serve others. The 3Hs should become the lifelong ethos that all SUSS graduates live by.

Q5. What inspired you to publish this book?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

An idea from my friend and co-author.

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

SUSS becoming an autonomous university, and thus gaining better recognition with government endorsement, provided us with a window of opportunity to showcase the university. Few people knew us beyond the surface, and there are much more we can do if we can “rally the troops” and encourage others to join in our deep and meaningful mission.

Q6. Who do think should read this book and why?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

Staff, students and alumni of the university to start with.  Then all those who have a desire to gain a little knowledge about what current education means in the 21st century.

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

All affiliated to SUSS should read the book, so that they can understand their institution better and love their work there even more. Also for other academics, students of higher learning and post-secondary institutions, and the general public who cares about the world around them and want to start learning more. In both sets of people, the goal is that they can be spurred to better serve society. 

Q7. What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?

Prof Leong Thin Yin:

Perhaps a sense that we are in it together to try to address the challenges faced at the individual, community, societal, national and international levels. 

Prof Cheah Horn Mun:

A deeper awareness of the challenges and opportunities to get involved, and greater curiosity to learn and contribute to society, individually and collectively.

We interviewed some of our alumni who have read Chapter 1 Why We Do What We Do. Here are their thoughts:

Anita Ong Jieh Ping Class of 2017 BA Sociology

The Heart of Learning paints a clear picture of how university education continues to be relevant in today’s fast-changing world. Not all jobs can be replaced by automation or artificial intelligence. The book does a good job in making the case that retraining plays a crucial part in retaining talented workers who contribute to strong social networks within the workplace. A must-read for those who are considering the importance of lifelong learning.

Elton Kang Song Yao Class of 2017 Bachelor of Communication with English

In the face of constant and often unexpected economic and societal changes, is a university degree relevant, or even sufficient? Basing its governing ethos on “Head”, “Heart” and “Habit”, SUSS goes beyond mere paper qualifications to equip students to stay ahead of the competition and empower them to make a difference in the community, for a better home for all.

Ong Choon Cheng Class of 2016 BA Translation and Interpretation

Knowing why we do what we do has never been more important than now, in this VUCA world, though anyone who has tried to achieve clarity will know just how difficult it is. As such, the mere act of attempting a chapter to outline SUSS’s position is commendable and worth reading. The chapter grapples with fundamental issues of survival, relevance, and adaptation through honest questions posed about the post-Brexit world, societal needs, university education and lifelong learning. While there are no easy answers to many of these questions, the essays in this book present a point of view and offer suggestions on how we can respond to this increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Wong Shi Ning Class of 2017 BSc Psychology

"Why We Do What We Do" accurately depicts the opportunities and challenges in the modern world of education. It also underlines the importance of knowledge as one of the keys to improve the world and lives. The chapter is well structured, making reading a breeze. The topics discussed are also highly relevant, piquing our interest to read on. SUSS was established to play a role in enhancing tertiary education and this chapter explains the basics with clarity. A good read!

Zhang Di Calvin Class of 2015 Bachelor of Communication

With SUSS's recent name and status change, it is extremely timely to launch The Heart of Learning. Not only does the book allow the public to understand what the newly rebranded university stands for, past and present students can also take stock of what personal meaning this change holds for them. After reading the opening chapter, I'm reminded of why I decided to pursue my degree in the first place. More than the hopes of better employment prospects, the quest for continual learning and self-improvement should be an end in itself. Just like SUSS's recent reinvention, we should never stop to remain relevant in a fast-changing world while at the same time, being conscious about contributing back to society in our own ways, having been empowered by the knowledge we have gained at SUSS.

Interviewed by Lim Qiu Ping

May the message resonate with the students and alumni of SUSS that education begins with and has the power to touch the heart.

Download the eBook now

Available in both pdf and epub