The first phase of the curriculum development effort for Singapore’s first liberal arts college has come to a close after a year of intensive work. Writing on a relatively blank slate, the inaugural faculty of Yale-NUS College constructed from scratch a curriculum that will strive to achieve the educational mission of the new college: to found a community of learning.
Documenting the year-long process in a report titled “A New Community of Learning”, the inaugural curriculum committee tasked to plan and oversee the process of curriculum development, detailed the guiding principles that had steered the Yale-NUS faculty in designing the courses and majors that students can now look forward to. Besides the rationale for the curriculum, the report also outlined the historical and current social context, as well as the goals for future assessment and revision. Challenges and issues that the faculty considered and deliberated on were also addressed in the report.
One key feature of the curriculum that the report covered was the Common Curriculum and how it redefined ‘breadth’ in collegiate education. Yale-NUS students will be devoting a significant portion of their coursework to a Common Curriculum that continues through all four years of study, and is being taught by teams of faculty. Faculty must create a whole set of courses together, teach them together, and review and revise them together. This approach ensures that courses are borne of an interdisciplinary nature, and students benefit from a coherent and structured education.
The report also included details on the thinking behind other issues such as the purpose and relevance of a residential college system, the challenges posed by the sciences, tensions between research and teaching, and the perspectives on the other parts of the curriculum such as the majors, minors, electives and capstone projects.
In a foreword that he wrote for the report, founding President Pericles Lewis noted how Yale-NUS College presented an opportunity to found a new community of learning, with its small-group teaching and an engaged pedagogy. He said, “We believe that the community of learning we are founding will help our students to realize their virtues and talents to the full; this report outlines how we hope to achieve that worthy and ancient goal.”