16 October 2020: Yale-NUS students bring their interdisciplinary learning experience to high schoolers in Wales

By Kelly Ng

During the semester break, five Yale-NUS students had the opportunity to share their interdisciplinary learning experiences with a group of over 100 high school students from Wales through their work as teaching assistants.

The students Bilge Arslan, Jacinta Speer (both from the Class of 2022), Fahrisa Islam, Raquelle Yu and Tan Qian Hui (all from the Class of 2021) did this as part of the Seren-Oxford-Equal-Education Summer Programme, under a larger initiative by the Welsh Government to support Wales’ most talented students to reach their full academic potential.

Clockwise from left: Tan Qian Hui, Bilge Arslan, Fahrisa Islam, Raquelle Yu and Jacinta Speer. Images provided by the students. 

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-week programme was taught fully online. As teaching assistants, the Yale-NUS students designed and led various online seminars for the high school students under two tracks, Life Sciences: Antibiotic Resistance, and Social Sciences: Human Rights in the 21st Century.

Bilge and Qian Hui shared that they decided to join the programme as a way to contribute their time and knowledge in a meaningful way.

“I am very privileged to have learned about various interesting topics in a liberal arts and sciences college where I can hear diverse opinions and discuss my ideas in a seminar-style learning environment. I wanted to create a similar opportunity for the Welsh students and allow them to feel the joy of learning through sharing with their peers,” Bilge said.

The teaching opportunity came about through alumnus Liam Rahman (Class of 2017) whose company Equal Education was appointed by the Welsh Government to run the programme for the students. Explaining the design of the programme, Mr Rahman said the syllabus was inspired by the capstone projects of Yale-NUS College and the Yale Young Global Scholars Programme. The Yale-NUS capstone project is a year-long in-depth research study that Yale-NUS seniors embark on in their chosen major and marks the culmination of the students’ learning experience at Yale-NUS.

For the Welsh high school students, they had to synthesise what they had learnt from the seminars and through a final capstone project present their solutions to real world problems faced by the Welsh government.

In terms of curriculum design, Bilge and Qian Hui combined their personal and academic interests and competencies to produce their lesson plans. As part of the Life Sciences track of the programme, Qian Hui designed and taught a seminar that tracked antibiotic resistance over time. Using Tableau, she visualised the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) data on antibiotic resistance to foster students’ chronological understanding of how resistance has evolved.

“My second seminar focused on examining and critiquing antibiotic resistance policies. Using my experience as a Writing Tutor at Yale-NUS College, I encouraged my students to put themselves in the shoes of a particular stakeholder and put their ideas in conversation with other stakeholders. I facilitated this by splitting the class into teams (e.g. WHO vs Welsh Government) to debate one another on strengths and weaknesses of policies,” Qian Hui added.

Additionally, Qian Hui also delivered several “Out-Of-The-Box” lectures that gave students an insight into her own personal research work. She spoke about her experience bridging the disciplines of Ancient Greek and modern biology at Yale-NUS and presented a final paper on COVID-19 and the Athenian Plague that she wrote when she was on semester abroad at Harvard University.

Meanwhile, for the Social Sciences track, Bilge taught one class on Climate Change and Human Rights and another on Digital Privacy and Security.

To familiarise herself with the Welsh context, Bilge consulted the programme coordinators to learn about sensitive topics in Wales and made sure that she used wide-ranging and global case studies. The discussions turned out very fruitful and Bilge was heartened by how the students often stayed beyond seminar hours to continue their discussions.

Reflecting on her experience as a teaching assistant, Bilge said, “I can confidently say that I also learned a lot from them and my main key takeaway was that the things I learn in school become much more meaningful and impactful when I share them with others in some way to inspire and empower them.”