Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Singapore Polytechnic

Singapore’s human resource development made Singapore what it is today, particularly in the field of S & T and technical education, The Singapore Polytechnic, through its 53 years of history, contributed a great deal to Singapore’s development. I spent many years developing S & T and related field together with many others. My colleagues who have gone through these interesting and challenging times with me will have their own stories to tell of the role that Singapore Polytechnic played in the development of Singapore. I have encouraged some of them to do so for the benefit of those who may need this. Our oversea colleagues, especially those in the region, may like to share with us some of our experiences of what to do and what not to do in S & T and technical education.

It has been to me a very positive experience. In 1959 when Singapore became self governing, our country and the region were in turmoil. We were concerned about the spread of the Vietnam War and the need to create meaningful jobs and a future for our people and our families. When we look back, in the 48 years we have achieved a lot. The Singapore Polytechnic has played its role. Without the Singapore Polytechnic Singapore would not have industrialized so quickly. Yes, there may be some who can argue that it could have been done faster and better. These are people who were not personally involved in the implementation or carry the responsibilities of the decisions/actions taken. I have been involved in the building of the Singapore Polytechnic as a Board of Governors member from 1959-1981 ( 21 years). I have also been an active player in S & T and technical education for many years in many fields. The policy making , planning and their implementation under some trying conditions have been a very positive and satisfying experience for me. I believe my colleagues and I have all given of our best.

In building the Singapore Polytechnic there were many contentious issues involving vested interests of many influential parties to be resolved. These included:The authorities on why we needed a polytechnic How to ensure that the standards meet the needs of those we serve? - our country, our industries and commerce, our professional bodies, the expectation of the parents and the students and our image to those we serve etc. How to find and develop the resources (finance and people) and create the environment to keep the important forces balanced for everybody’s benefit.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive academic study of the development of the Singapore Polytechnic. Many studies and reports are available from the archives and libraries on this subject. However there are few articles written by the people who were deeply involved for years in the Institution’s development. I like to share my personal experiences with those interested in:

1. How the Singapore Polytechnic was built and continuously restructured
2. How some of the these activities have affected the lives of so many
3. Some special cases of Singapore Polytechnic’s experiences in its development.

The above information can help us to project our visions for the future of Singapore Polytechnic. To make easy reading the articles will be presented in Parts over time.

Part (I) will start with a brief history and comments on how the Singapore Polytechnic was conceived and started till 1959 when it was first re-structured.

Part (II) will present some of the restructuring activities carried out and the challenges the Singapore Polytechnic faced and how these were handled.

Hopefully Part (III) will convey to you not only what has been done, but also on why and how certain decisions were taken and implemented. In some of the case studies you may be able to spot occasional comments on why I wish certain events had been done differently at different times. These are not “regrets” but rather they are to be taken as hind sights where useful lessons may be learned.

These articles are my personal experience and views and they do not represent the official views or stands of the Singapore Polytechnic and its related authorities.

Lee Kum Tatt

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