21 February 2018

Things you should know before Business O Week

Not sure what to expect as you head to the University of Sydney Business School's Orientation Week? Harry Nicol shares six tips that every Business student needs to know before attending Orientation Week.

1. Introduce yourself first

Break the staring stalemate early. When waiting around for stuff to start, most people really appreciate that guy or girl who breaks the silence and asks everyone for their names.

2. Learn to avoid the queues

The hardest part of Uni is not the study, it's the administration. Learn all the tips you can on where to get help to avoid the lines at the Student Centre. You might not need it now but at some point over your degree you will need admin help.

3. Educate yourself

Orientation day might not answer every single question you have but it will give you a better idea of what questions you will still need to ask and where to go to answer them.

4. Ask for help

Your peer mentor will be able to help with tips and tricks that aren't in your student handbook. Ask them about where to get textbooks, a good coffee place (or vanilla milkshake if you're like me) and how to find a free computer on campus. Expect them to help you find the buildings your classes are in during orientation.

5. Get involved at Uni 

Clubs and societies are a goldmine of experiences and friends but you need to give them your time before you'll find anything meaningful. They are the fastest way to make friends, both professional and unprofessional, so trawl the stalls at business orientation and USU OWeek (down Eastern Avenue). I've ended up running a social marching band (SUMBA) and being involved in Science Revue (SciRev). If you can think of a club, it exists. And if it doesn't exist then make your own club!

Side tip: SUBS (Sydney University Business Society) first year camp is a good way to fast track friend making, I didn't go and regretted it.

6. Get job ready

The Business School’s CEO is not the Business School’s chief executive officer. CEO stands for Careers and Employability Office and they can help you get job ready with workshops and resume consultations. Join their Facebook group (search ‘CEO@SYDNEY’) to stay updated on what they have to offer.

Check out everything that's on during the University's Orientation Week.

Written by Harry Nicol, student and peer mentor at the University of Sydney Business School

Exploring Singapore with Oliver Pang

Why did you want to participate in the International Immersion in Singapore program?

My career goal has always been about making a meaningful difference to the world and leaving it in a better place than when I entered. So when I heard that the theme of this program would be ageing population – a topic which has always fascinated me since I first came across it and one of greatest social and economic challenges facing the world in the 21st century – I was instantly drawn to the program.

Given that in Australia, the policy response and media attention has primarily focused on the challenges of the ageing population (such as increased government expenditure on pensions and healthcare), I was interested in analysing the perceptions and representations of ageing in Singapore, to see whether this was the same or different in a similarly developed country. I was also particularly interested in learning how businesses were responding to this demographic trend.

Also, I knew that this program would give me the opportunity to develop and enhance my communication, teamwork, critical thinking and research skills in a way not possible through a normal unit of study at university. Doing so while learning about a real-life topic with real-world implications was probably the biggest drawcard for me.

What did you do during your time in Singapore? 

There was no “average day” in Singapore since every day was unique and exciting in its own way! We started off with activities that introduced us to the cultural and social context in which we would be doing our research. We learnt about Singaporean society and its founding father Lee Kuan Yew through a cultural tour. We also learned about the ASEAN region in general at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute and the Malay language at the National University of Singapore [NUS].

Learning about Singapore's history and founding father

We were then introduced to the topic of ageing through fieldwork visits to a variety of locations. For example, we visited the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board, an ageing related exhibit in the Science Centre, a Housing Development Board flat, National University Hospital, National University of Singapore, various hawker centres and wet markets, where we mingled with Singaporean locals of all ages, academics, policymakers and doctors. We also had the opportunity to conduct our own interviews at other fieldwork sites relevant to our individual research topics.

Health Promotion Board 

Seniors working at the Chinatown wet markets 

Ageing exhibit in the Science Centre 

Throughout our visit, we also visited 3 Senior Activity Centres – community centres that are designed especially for Singaporean seniors. I, along with four of my colleagues helped organise activities for seniors such as origami. We mingled with the seniors and overall it was a moving, eye-opening but fulfilling experience.

We also had the opportunity to visit various Singaporean start-ups, witnessing their innovation first-hand.

Our visit to the social enterprise, Citizen Farm Penjara was particularly interesting. As an aspiring social entrepreneur myself, I was really inspired by how Citizen Farm was responding to the lack of agricultural land in Singapore through its space-efficient sustainable urban farming model and use of innovative technologies while simultaneously delivering social impact by hiring from socially disadvantaged communities.

Citizen Farm's agricultural garden 

Citizen Farm's innovative use of ultraviolet light technology 

Equally interesting were our visits to start-ups FOMO and ONEPIP!

Keen beans learning about innovation in the fintech industry at ONEPIP! 

In our free time, we also had the opportunity to visit some of Singapore’s awesome attractions such as Singapore Zoo’s Night Safari, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road!

Entrance to the Singapore Zoo 

Interactive exhibit at Singapore Zoo 

Gardens by the Bay 

View from the top of Marina Bay Sands 
Singaporean food was also the best! It was cheap, delicious and quite frankly it’s making me hungry even thinking about it!

What was the best part of the program?

It’s so hard to pick, since there were so many great aspects of the program! If I had to pick though, I would have to say it was the opportunity to interact with local Singaporeans of all ages and different backgrounds. It was really inspiring talking to many young Singaporean entrepreneurs and hearing about their innovative ideas.

In addition, the chance to interact with the Singaporean seniors was one of the most memorable experiences of the program and really gave our research a personal human touch. Even though it was at times a very moving experience, especially given that I was close to my own grandparents, it was equally an eye-opening, enlightening and valuable experience that will stay with me for a long time. Even though we spent only a few hours with most of the seniors, I learnt so much and it put many things into perspective. It was also really inspiring hearing some seniors’ positive perceptions of ageing and hearing about their aspirations for their senior years, such as travel!
Also the chance to talk to top researchers, academics and government officials in Singapore was such a unique experience! It not only was very useful and insightful but really allowed me to understand the complex and multi-faceted nature of many ageing-related issues.

What is your biggest takeaway from the experience?

My biggest takeaway is probably all the unique skills I have learned through this program. Researching in an international context, specifically how to effectively collect primary and secondary data and conduct detailed observation in a foreign country, was a big learning experience for me and was only possible through the “hands-on” experience provided by this program. Being able to present research findings to Kantwar Millward-Brown was also a very special learning experience. Presenting to the CEO forced us to step up our communication skills to the next level and the feedback we received was very valuable and insightful. The program also developed my critical thinking skills to the next level. It broadened my perspective on a whole range of things and taught me to think in ways I didn’t know how to before!

How do you think this enhanced your degree?

It would not be an overstatement to say that I have learned more during these two weeks in Singapore than in the previous two years of my degree. It was honestly a money-cannot-buy type of experience which developed my communication, teamwork, critical thinking and research skills to a new level, something not possible through a normal unit of study at university. The knowledge I learned in seminars there was applied daily in a real-life context with real-life implications.

As a student with a strong interest in social entrepreneurship, I gained so much from observing my surroundings and talking with the social entrepreneurs at Citizen Farm Penjara about their journeys and the role of technology in their urban sustainable farming model. Also, learning about ageing and how government, businesses and society itself can play a role in reframing ageing as an “opportunity” and making ageing “successful” was inspiring and no doubt will shape my thinking as I complete my degree and in the many years to come.

I’d like to thank the Business School, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ New Colombo Plan, the program’s Singaporean sponsors and in particularly Dr Jeaney Yip. It’s honestly hard to put into words how much I learned during these 2 weeks. The program wouldn’t have been possible without all the hard work, commitment, perseverance, organisation and passion that Dr Yip put into this program, so I’d like to especially thank her. Thanks again Jeaney!
Do you have any advice for someone considering undertaking this program or something similar?

Definitely go for it, you won’t regret it. 2 weeks may seem short, and yes it is fast paced and intense, but you learn so much in those 2 weeks! It’s probably the best program on offer at the Business School! If you’re after an overseas Business program that offers more than just interning at a corporate company, where you’re researching a pertinent topic with far-reaching implications and have the opportunity to make a difference, this is the program for you!

When you’re in-country, make the most of every moment you’re there! You will learn a lot from seminars and talks from academics, but you learn the most when you’re actually interacting with the locals. Talk to every Singaporean you meet, even the Uber/taxi drivers! You’ll not only probably hear a very fascinating story about their life to that point but you’ll also probably learn a lot and gain a lot of insight about your research topic too!

Also, even though you’re in Singapore, a developed country, be careful with what you eat if you want to avoid catching gastro like how I did!
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

Learning about ASEAN and the South East Asia region in general at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Centre was really interesting and sparked my interest in this region. South East Asia has such a fascinating history and I’d love to learn more by travelling across this region in the future! I’m attracted especially by how different these countries are to the “Westernised” societies in Europe, the United States and to an extent our own! As someone who is passionate about economic empowerment in the developing world, I’d relish being able to explore the unique different challenges and opportunities faced by each different country in the region!

Written by Oliver Pang
Current Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) (Marketing and Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management) student at the University of Sydney Business School.
Program: International Immersion Program in Singapore, New Colombo Plan Program

6 February 2018

Tips for business students starting university

Starting something new always seems quite daunting. When it comes to university, you’ll see new faces, learn new things and navigate new environments. Here are a few tips that have helped me, to ensure you get the most out of your commerce degree and university in general. 

Don’t be afraid to make new friends

One thing I was definitely scared to do when I first started university was making new friends. Coming from a very small school, the idea of meeting a new face and having that awkward “Hello my name is…what’s yours?” encounter was not hot on my to-dos list. But realistically, it’s very rare to enter university with the same set of school friends, who are also doing the same course as you. So be prepared to have those awkward conversations. In terms of talking points, you could always start with the generic, “what course are you doing?” But I like to add in something like “what did you do during your break?” That way you start to get a better picture of the person and what they do outside of university. Also, don’t worry about the awkwardness, you’ll get better after a few failed attempts.

A side note… It’s really important to also keep in touch with your new friends! Add them on social media and don’t be afraid to have regular catch-up coffees with them during the semester!

Take advantage of Orientation Week 

I found that once classes start it becomes difficult to make longer lasting friendships during lectures and tutorials. You’ll be too focused on what’s happening in class that you won’t have any real time to start a conversation that doesn’t revolve around a SWOT analysis. Not only are you able to attend the faculty welcomes – to meet some of the other students doing your course – but Orientation Week is also jammed packed full of information sessions and social events to kick-start your university experience. Don’t forget to join some clubs and societies!

Peer Mentoring Programs 

Since the social aspect of your university experience is settled, you also need to know a way around your actual course! With your newfound independence, understanding your degree and subjects can become overwhelming. The one thing that I found really helped me during my first year of Business School was the Peer Mentoring Program. You’ll be assigned to a peer mentor who basically acts as a human information bank. They’re usually second and third year Business students who are studying a degree to you. So, since they were pretty much in the same situation as you a couple of years ago, you can ask them a range of questions like “where to get the best coffee on campus?”, “what should I expect on the first day of my lectures?” and even “what’s the difference between a lecture and a tutorial?”

Scheduling is your new best friend 

One important thing to master in university is the art of “balance” – and I’m not talking about the physical type. This is where REGULAR scheduling comes into play! (Please place a huge emphasis on “regular”!) I really recommend using a student diary or electronic calendar to start organising!
There are four important things to schedule in:

  1. Sleep – It sounds bad, but a lot of students forget to have their much needed 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Beware! Don’t forget this during exam period.
  2. Work/Career Activities – If you have a job, it’s time to pop that straight into your calendar. Even if you do or don’t have one, be sure to take advantage of any career events that the university may have on campus as well! 
  3. Personal/Social Activities – The one thing that many students forget to schedule! Make sure you have time dedicated to yourself, away from your studies. For example, catch up with your school friends or consider signing up to a Yoga class.
  4. Academic Activities – Use your course outlines as a guide to jot down when your assessments are due. Don’t be afraid to also plan out when you’ll start them too!

By Libbi Le
Bachelor of Commerce/Arts student at the University of Sydney

30 January 2018

Breaking Down the Mosaic: Multilingualism and its Place in Contemporary Singapore

“Will we ever become completely homogeneous, a melange of languages and cultures? No.”- Lee Kuan Yew

Stepping off the plane from Sydney, one of the first things I observed about Singapore was its multilingualism. Whether noting signs written in multiple dialects, or the unfamiliar sound of announcements repeated in different ways, the diversity of language was clear. However, as part of the University of Sydney’s 2017 Singapore Immersion Program, I soon came to realise that these “surface level” differences were actually the result of intense political planning. My perspectives about language in the country were shaped by three key cultural activities; An incredible tour about Lee Kuan Yew, language classes taught by the experts at the National University of Singapore and finally, our trip to the HDB flats that allowed me to gain first hand insight into the language of the everyday citizen. Supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan and alongside my fellow business school students and our mentor Dr Jeaney Yip, I learnt the value of observation and the true modern relevance of language.

To briefly recap, my studies at NUS taught me about Singapore’s four national languages; English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Each had been selected for a unique reason, representing a different group of Singaporean citizens. Interestingly, English has been the country’s dominant language since it’s separation from Malaysia in 1965. This language is not native, but rather was selected to drive trade, law and business in Singapore. In addition (in the wise words of Lee Kuan Yew) if Singapore chose to instead elevate one of the three native languages over another “the country would fall apart”. Reflecting on this system, I found it incredibly interesting that the diversity of race and language does not serve to turn the country into a melting pot of culture (as Australians are fond of saying). It rather allows many vastly different people to fit together while still retaining a distinct sense of heritage. A mosaic perhaps, rather than a melting pot.

For me, the biggest takeaway after my first week in Singapore was how language has power. Take for instance, how it shapes policy regarding both education and housing. Although English is the formal language of instruction in Singapore, students are also required to learn a second language based on their “mother tongue”. As a result, today 73.2% of people are literate in at least two languages with may speaking more. Coming from a country where English dominates, I feel that the government is to be applauded for its attempt to recognise individual languages (even those of racial minorities) instead of forcing homogenisation. Language and culture also strongly influence housing policy, as each HDB complex must fulfil specific quotas based on ethnicity. Theoretically, this distribution is meant to stop people from clustering, encouraging racial and cultural interaction. In this way, language and culture shape two key aspects of Singaporean policy.

However, reflecting on these positive experiences, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing a piece of the puzzle. It was only after visiting a HDB flat and talking with a native Singaporean and her elderly mother that I began to realise how language presented barriers too. Firstly, it creates a dilemma for Singapore’s elderly residents who were not taught to speak English. My HDB interviewee described how her mother was terrified to go to hospital in case she received a doctor who did not speak her native dialect. As the number of foreign doctors working in Singapore public hospitals and polyclinics (more than 1 in 4 at last count) increases societies’ disadvantaged may find the increasing prevalence of English to be a greater issue. This also presents a problem for businesses wishing to advertise or interact with this elderly demographic. A second problem was also brought to my attention during my classes at NUS. Although the Chinese population make up more than 74% of Singapore’s citizens, many of these individuals have unique dialects distinct from Mandarin. Students attending school who are forced to learn a “mother tongue” are not given the opportunity to learn other popular dialects like Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. In explaining his decisions regarding education and language, Mr. Lee encouraged the use of Mandarin as a means of “uniting the different dialect groups”. He felt that drawing together the Chinese population under a common language would prevent English from eradicating the local culture.

Despite Mr Lee’s assertions, it was easy for me to observe how English is still growing in significance in Singapore. In fact, my research suggests that his push towards Mandarin may not have been enough. A 2015 survey of the population has shown that, for the first time the majority of Singaporean residents aged 5 and older now use English most often at home (36.9%) as opposed to the 34.9% who speak Mandarin. I asked myself, what does this mean for the future of language in Singapore? To me there was a clear answer. As in many parts of the world, in Singapore you can see how globalisation is influencing local identity. The next generation of individuals are eschewing traditional conceptions of race, and are more likely to call themselves “Singaporean” rather than citing the ethnicity of their ancestors. Even observing the use of “Singlish” throughout the week highlighted how hybridising language allows people to reshape their own identity and make connections no matter the ‘mother tongue’. Where to from here? It’s hard to say. But you can bet that Singapore’s multilingualism has not finished evolving.

Mikaela Colgan 
Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies)

23 January 2018

Retiring stigma around ageing

From ‘timebombs’, to ‘tsunamis’ and even a ‘national disaster’ – why Singapore’s government is its own worst enemy when it comes to dealing with the elderly.

The Lion City: a dynamic nation home to delicious eateries, stunning tourist attractions, and one of the most breathtaking harbourfronts in the world. Over the past half-century, Singapore has transformed itself from a rural fishing village to an international business powerhouse. With a collective mentality of “foodies, explorers, socialisers, and world-changers”, Singapore has carefully cultivated its contemporary image; attracting expatriates from all corners of the globe: a 5.6-million-person multiracial metropolis.

From 8am day one, Dr. Jeaney Yip had scheduled a jampacked itinerary, as our 15-strong New Colombo plan Singapore Immersion Program University of Sydney Business School troop was hustled onto a shuttle bus and taken on a whirlwind tour around the city, visiting the Civilian War Memorial, the Chinese Heritage Centre and Old Parliament House. Having taken some history electives (despite being a business student!), I was elated to see the reverence bestowed on these heritage sites by Singaporean society, as our tour guide, Iris, recounted the glorious legacy of the “father of Singapore, former Prime Minister Mr. Lee [Kuan Yew]” with near-fanaticism.

As we paused for lunch in a local Hawker Centre, a chaotic farmers-market-meets-food-court, I couldn’t help but notice swathes of elderly cleaners; many of whom looked well over the official retirement age of 67. I watched these stoic custodians collect endless trays of rubbish left by an apathetic younger generation, and understood a growing sense of cultural bias towards the elderly existed.

From a personal and business perspective, I was mystified.

To me, it seemed almost paradoxical that the Singapore of yesteryear could be held in such high regard, serving as a major tourist attraction viewed with such nostalgia and veneration, whilst the working class who had toiled under the blinding sun to forge this very legacy were discarded and mistreated by society.

Over the next two weeks of our cultural immersion, that sense of social bias fuelled my investigation, and on a hunch, I decided to review policy responses to ageing from the government. As a very authoritarian city-state, I deduced that the government and state media would have massive influence over perceptions towards social issues.

I was right.

Since first acknowledging the issue, the Singaporean government, along with state media, has been quick to label this growing age bracket as an ‘ageing ambush’: an almost guerrilla-style offensive against an unprepared political sphere. However, from the research I had done into ageing in Singapore, it is clear this propagation is anything but unexpected.  

In 1982, the Singaporean government first legislated on their ageing population, with the ‘Committee on the Problems of the Aged’ formed to study the “implications of ageing and recommend solutions for society”. Full of tenuous policy measures such as fostering filial piety, the true focus of this initial response was to mitigate the “negative effects of ageing on the younger generations”. 

With a state controlled media, this passive ideology would ultimately go onto inform years of anti-ageing propaganda, and indoctrinate a generation of Singaporeans terrified of the ‘ageing timebomb’ looming on the horizon. 

By labelling an entire generation as inherently ‘problematic’ and incompatible with Singaporean society, by definition, the government’s language choice implied there was a necessary solution – a way to nullify, not co-exist, with this demographic. With one phrase, more than 500,000 Singaporeans were painted a blight to their own society, walking stereotypes of a vindictive stigma. 


As both a philosophy and international business major, I love the persuasive power of language across cultures, and what really interested me is how the syntax used by the government and media regarding the ageing played a significant role in framing societal response. It was to my complete surprise that it was not until 2015 that the government could no longer deny their demographic changers, and finally took reactive steps towards re-defining ageing as something to be “celebrated”, making an almost complete U-turn on their longstanding admonition of ageing. Delivering the ‘Action Plan for Successful Ageing’, Singapore was suddenly told to celebrate that “residents are living longer and staying healthy”.  

“Suddenly, the elderly were no longer “a timebomb”, or a “drain on resources”, but rather, the aspirational “silver Singaporeans of the pioneer generation”.”

Upon reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder how a society so dependent on their government for cultural context would react to this radical transformation in thinking. From what I could observe, it seems for the foreseeable future, that despite championing ‘active ageing’, damage to public opinion has already been done, and as a marketing student, I believe this will serve as a powerful case study in how not to shape political discourse going forwards. 

So, with Singapore now staring down the barrel towards a future dominated by ageing, will the government’s newfound optimism rub off on its people? Personally, I think it’s a matter of when, not if, Singapore wholeheartedly embraces “glorious ageing”.

As the old Chinese proverb (somewhat) goes, “just remember, once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed”, and for Singapore’s silver segment, the summit is finally within arm’s reach. 

James Sinclair
Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies)
Majoring in Philosophy, Marketing, and International Business

16 January 2018

Allan's Take on the Singapore Immersion Program

The opportunity to participate in the Singapore Immersion Program; under the guidance of our unit coordinator, Dr Jeaney Yip, has extended beyond merely a cultural learning experience. Whilst the obvious takeaways from this experience were those related to my increased understanding of the Singaporean context and culture, I was surprised by the extent to which my softer skills were developed; particularly those of communication, learning, and intercultural competence. As a Business student in an increasingly globalised environment, this program will have a profound effect on my ways of thinking.

My immersive experience began from the moment I arrived in Singapore. What struck me most, aside from the heat and humidity, was the systematic layout of the environment; particularly the placement of trees and plants, as well as the prevalence of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats – a stark contrast to Australia. Immediately, I realised that, contrary to the sensationalisation of the prevalence of globalisation that I had been taught in classrooms, Singapore and Australia were still completely different countries, despite both being developed nations.

Fig 1. Systematic placement of trees
Fig 2. HDB flats (Tanjong Pagar)

The next formal encounter with Singapore’s cultural context was the ‘About Mr Lee’ tour, which focused on who Mr Lee (the first Prime Minister of Singapore) was as a person. This experience was particularly insightful for my way of ‘learning’ about significant historical figures. Whilst in the pre-departure classes, it was easy to think of Mr Lee as simply another leader in history, being able to personally witness the ‘fruits’ of his visionary ideals for Singapore – exhibited across the physical environment; from the greenery to the carefully planned neighbourhoods, has changed my perceptions of individuals within the context of societies. What I learnt was that the context of Singapore was inextricably tied to this one man’s vision of how Singapore should be – “a garden city…productive…taking the best ideas from different countries” as mentioned by our tour guide Iris (December 4, 2017).

Following this was the ‘Made in Singapore’ tour, which focused on the economic development of Singapore, and how it deals with its limited resource. This largely helped to deepen my understanding of the economic context of Singapore, with one of the most interesting insights being that despite Singapore’s relatively small size and population, the country takes a strong and proactive approach to economic development – with economic planning largely having a long-term focus. This was contrary to my previous perceptions of Singapore, where despite already knowing that Singapore was a strong commercial and business hub, I was taken aback by the innovative means by which this small country dealt with its economic limitations; notably the use of land reclamation (Urban Redevelopment Authority), and urban farming techniques (Edible Farms). This experience has helped me understand the importance of economic development in the Singaporean context, and this was a theme that recurred throughout the rest of the program.

Fig 3. Layout of Singapore's island (Urban Redevelopment Authority)
Fig 4. Urban farming - in-door plantation shelves (Edible Farms)

As a part of the immersion program, the cultural and language classes I attended enriched my understanding of Singapore as an ‘ethnic mosaic’. Prior to this program, I often perceived ‘multiculturalism’ as merely a ‘badge’, at least within the Australian context – one that the country flaunts, but does not practice substantially enough. Contrastingly, ‘multiculturalism’ in Singapore is a ‘practice’ and a way of life with Abdullah describing it as a form of ‘social control’ to direct people towards cultural tolerance and harmony. This enhanced my understanding of the Singaporean cultural and political context by highlighting not only the extent of ‘multiculturalism’ within Singapore, but also the large extent to which the government controls social behaviour to minimise issues related to ‘race’ – and this was seen directly from my visit to the HDB office where I saw how the allocation of HDB flat residences were determined by ethnic quotas.

Fig 5. Screen showing HDB flat availabilities based on ethnic quotas (HDB office)

To facilitate my understanding of ‘start-up culture’ within Singapore, I attended a presentation by ‘Onepip’ (a remittance start-up). Most relevant to my cultural immersion experience was the focus on issues the business faced in its initial stages. Notably, before Onepip could conduct its business in Singapore, it was required to hold a licence that demonstrated it had at least one year of operational experience. This allowed me to re-evaluate my perceptions of Singapore’s political context, from that of being a relatively laissez-faire economy, to one that is actually stringently regulated; and thus, demonstrated the strength and influence of Singaporean government.

My knowledge of ageing within the Singaporean context was both complemented and enriched by my visit to the Ministry of Health (MOH) where I learnt about the various initiatives the Singaporean government was implementing to support an ageing population. Of particular interest was the emphasis on ‘workplace longevity’, which I had previously perceived as merely an ideal, and not an option most of the elderly would follow. However, this was immediately subverted when I witnessed the number of elderly people working in menial labour tasks; particularly in cleaning food court areas, and as cashiers for food vendors. Thus, this solidified my understanding of how Singapore’s perceptions of ageing have changed from that of an ‘ageing tsunami’ to ‘opportunities’ – with the elderly still being encouraged to contribute to the economy. 

Fig 6. Elderly woman working at a market stall (China Town wet markets)

Overall, this immersion program has exposed me to a new form of ‘learning’ – one that is not achievable within the classroom or an industry placement. Being able to immerse myself within the Singaporean culture has deepened and refined my perceptions of Singapore as a context, and I would encourage all future Business School students to consider applying for a New Colombo Plan Program in order to experience a truly unique and immersive learning opportunity.

Allan Yip 
Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies)

12 January 2018

Foresighted father; a cornerstone of modern Singapore

To reflect on the experiences that the New Colombo Plan Singapore Immersion Program 2017 coordinated by Dr Jeaney Yip, has offered, a striking quote sits at the forefront of my mind. As Marcus Garvey stated, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” (Afrobella, 2009), of which I have witnessed history and culture to be preserved and deeply entrenched in modern Singapore’s people, policies and place.

Prior to arriving in country, my preconceptions of Singapore were superficial. Singapore is a young country, and so I had not anticipated the cultural diversity and rich history that has moulded society today. Upon arrival, my first observation was the greenery, and soon after it was brought to my attention that the tropical gardens and urban landscaping that we see today is a product of Lee Kwan Yew’s foresighted policy implementation.

Lee Kwan Yew may have envisioned Singapore as a garden city (The Straits Times, 1967), however, today Singapore stands to be a city built within a garden. This is illustrated by figure 1., a photograph of the strategically placed greenery in Singapore’s urban neighbourhoods. The plants and green landscaping serves as both an aesthetic element to Singapore’s landscape as well as a mechanism to reduce the temperature and humidity of the local climate.

Mr Lee was a pragmatic leader, one that was instrumental in ensuring
infrastructure, technology, land and public transport were efficiently allocated to support Singapore’s rapid urbanisation (Kwek & Hung, 2017), and establish a nation that is self-sufficient, and a trade partner that is globally competitive and influential in ASEAN initiatives. This made me reflect on the significant influence that political leaders and their ambitions can have on a country, and the vital role that politicians have in shaping the future of a nation for the better.

Political leaders such as Lee Kwan Yew demonstrated integrity, accountability and charisma to inspire the young, mature and old citizens of Singapore, and continues to do so today as is observed in the tone of our tour guide. Perhaps the most significant influence that Mr Lee has had on the young people of Singapore is in the educational legacy that he leaves behind (Milne & Mauzy, 1990).

The policies that Mr Lee laid down promotes racial harmony and cultural diversity as a central part of the school curriculum, requiring students to learn both English and their mother tongue. Whilst learning Malay at the National University of Singapore (NUS), a quote by one of the lecturers continues to resonate with me until today, it is that cultural tolerance is not the same as cultural harmony, and whilst at the surface I had initially thought otherwise, I soon came to realise how different the two were. As reported by Dialectic Singapore 2016, 43% of Singaporean’s state that they are racially tolerant, whereas 57% indicated that Singaporean’s have achieved racial harmony. Cultural tolerance refers to bearing a different culture without understanding, whereas, cultural harmony refers to accepting and understanding individuals from different cultural backgrounds (Dialectic Singapore, 2016). To me, cultural harmony forms a stronger community, which sets an example for both the children and elderly of Singapore. I mention elderly in this context, as they may have been raised in an age where cultural diversity was not celebrated and racial harmony was unheard of. From this experience I have learnt first-hand the power of uniting people from different cultures and demographics to inspire change, and foster a vibrant city that drives global economic development.

Furthermore, through the series of cultural lectures at NUS I have observed a clear disparity between the way Singaporean’s and Australian’s refer to “race”. In Australia, “race” is not commonly used due to the associated negative connotations, and instead is replaced by “cultural background”. Whereas in Singapore “race” is commonly referenced and promoted by the Singaporean government to preserve the historical cultural roots of Singaporean families today. Singapore adopts the cultural mosaic framework, which refers to the recognition and celebration of different cultures as individual aspects of Singapore’s overall identity (Giam, 2009). Upon reflection, I have noticed that the cultural mosaic framework exists not only as a racial label on citizen identification cards, but also permeates into the observed urban infrastructure. Figure 2. Illustrates the pastel colour schemes favoured by the Peranakan’s. The Peranakan’s seamlessly fused Malay and Chinese cultural practices with aspects of European living, and is demonstrated in the exterior of their homes. The decorated columns and shuttered windows reflect British influences, whereas the accents of calligraphy and foo dogs were inspired by Chinese culture.

However, it was interesting to note that by recognising the many races and ethnicities in Singapore, it became apparent that individuals from similar cultural backgrounds congregated, to the extent that social segregation becomes apparent. 

Overall, the NCP program has been an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. As a business student my key take away from this experience has been to think fast and flexibly, whilst respecting local cultures. As globalisation continues to expand with improving information and communications technology, this program has both inspired and motivated me to learn and respect the cultural ways of the world to better understand Australia’s trading partners.

Jenny Liu 
Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science student

Reference list
Afrobella. (2009). Remembering old Marcus Garvey. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from http://www.afrobella.com/2009/08/17/remembering-old-marcus-garvey/
Dialectic Singapore. (2016). Has Singapore achieved racial tolerance or harmony. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from http://www.dialectic.sg/discuss/has-singapore-achieved-racial-tolerance-or-harmony
Giam, G. (2009). Singapore: multiculturalism or the melting pot?. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from http://geraldgiam.sg/2009/07/singapore-multiculturalism-or-melting-pot/
Kwek, D., & Hung, D. (2017). Making a common future: Lee Kuan Yew’s values for the 21st century. Lee Kuan Yew’s Educational Legacy, 1, 141-159.
Milne, R., & Mauzy, D. (1990). The legacy of Lee Kuan Yew. Westview Pr.
S’pore to become beautiful, clean city within three years. (1967, May 12). The Straits Times, p. 4.