by Dr Quek Swee Hwa on
the SMU difference for real?" by Alvin Pang,
week's "Good Books" is not a book, but just some reflections on
a Straits Times article to prod all
burdened for BGST to engage in prayerful reflection concerning the raison
d' être of BGST. My hope and prayer is that we can all work
strenuously and strategically toward the attainment of the 'product' we
are trying to achieve at BGST. I would love to hear your comments (Dr
I need to enter a caveat at the
outset, lest it be misunderstood that I am trying to be arrogant or to run
down our sister Bible schools in
What’s the reason then
for having BGST? Is there a surfeit of Bible schools in Singapore? What
makes us different from other schools? Like the Singapore Management
University (see below), we strive as the “new kid in the block” to
match the training given in the more established schools, both locally and
abroad. But first, our “education delivery” will differ
somewhat in certain courses where we will constantly employ new ways of
teaching, revamping courses to bring them in line with the needs of the
laity – without losing the quality. Our lecturers are fellow learners
with our students, who are allowed, within reason and within the terms of
our accreditation with the Asia Theological Association, to have a say in
what kind of assignments they can submit, etc. Our course scheduling
allows students the flexibility of choosing to follow traditional
‘live’ classes. Where desired, students may pursue their studies
largely (though not entirely) through private study, with a strong
tutorial component. That enables those who need to hold on to a salaried
position to combine work with studies. It is by no means easy, but many of
our graduates have shown that this is possible. You will have to “taste
and see” this for yourself to understand and believe that our courses
are really different and distinctive. Second, our curriculum. Sometimes
we will craft and customize courses to fit special needs of our students.
Within the limits of a tight curriculum, our students can choose from a
wide selection of elective subjects. The majority of our students
exemplify the spirit that we wish to inculcate, namely, lifelong learning.
For these we have about 80 courses that are available! We endeavour to
uphold the best standard of scholarship and our students know that we go
extra miles to help them reach the requisite standard. We see the study of
biblical languages as a sine qua non to biblical studies and we
continue to buck the trend of either removing or diluting the study of
Biblical Greek and Hebrew. Third, we want our students to ‘think
outside the box’. That
means that when they are dealing with the meaning of a biblical text, they
should always keep in mind the context and background of the Bible. When
studying an event in biblical or church history, they should set it
against its religious, intellectual, social, economic, and political
milieu. When trying to understand a theological or philosophical point
they will ask not only “first-order questions” (what?) but also
“second-order questions” (Why?). That often entails clarifying and
re-clarifying a question before attempting to give an answer. We are not
afraid to question our faith because we are certain about what must not be
altered and which matters can be regarded as theologically indifferent
(e.g., adiaphora issues like the Millennium). We adopt a healthy
skepticism, shy away from easy-believism, and are uncomfortable and
dissatisfied with conventional answers that do not explore an issue
sufficiently. We encourage our students to open up their minds, explore
uncharted territory and think within the bounds of our biblical moorings.
It is our prayer and
fervent hope that our students will sit lightly on their learning as they
humble themselves before our loving, wise and righteous God who expects
from some of us academic excellence and from all of us nothing less than
our very best efforts, even though we may not all attain the best results.
May all at BGST, lecturers and
students alike, honour God in their life and acknowledge that all
knowledge gained is never personal, as “feathers in our caps”, but is
to be shared freely with the rest of Body of Christ because in a very real
sense all knowledge is communal. Soli deo gloria!
Is the SMU difference for
real? (by Alvin Pang)
THE pioneering cohort of
Singapore Management University (SMU) graduates will face their real test
as they enter the job market in the coming months.
they convince potential employers that their hard-earned qualifications
– a much vaunted American-style liberal education from a university
still in its infancy – can match those from more established
institutions, both locally and abroad?
every indication, the odds are on their side. The batch of students who
accelerated their course and graduated earlier secured employment within a
month of graduating. The economic recovery is no doubt a factor. But SMU
students have also earned their reputation for being articulate,
confident, out-of-the-box thinkers – and it’s not just marketing hype
about being “different”.
an occasional guest at classes over the years, I’ve been pleasantly
surprised by the attentiveness and open-mindedness of the average SMU
student. They demonstrated a refreshing knack of engaging with the topic
at hand, even when the material ventured into the esoteric, be it Greek
tragedy, Filipino erotic literature or blues music. And yes, they were
outspoken, probing, earnestly interested in the unfamiliar and its
willingness to tease out value from the seemingly tangential is a
recurrent trait at SMU. Apart from the core business curriculum, students
must take elective courses in both the arts and sciences – which may
include such diverse fields as creative thinking, art, politics and
weeks ago, I was invited to an accountancy conference organised by the SMU.
It featured activities least likely to be associated with double-entry
bookkeeping – cultural performances, poetry readings, even a creative
course the fashionable business rationale for these “soft” events was
to provide “insights into the workplace and the processes of social
organisation”. Yet these were by all accounts well-attended and
well-received sessions, not token “feel good” efforts.
GOING FOR UNCONVENTIONAL
takes in candidates from relatively diverse educational backgrounds,
applying admissions criteria that leans famously towards the
unconventional (one interview question goes: “If Singapore goes totally
‘dry’, how will you find laughter in what you do?”).
might expect more gravitas in a university – as would likely be the case
in traditional faculties such as law and medicine. Yet such risk-taking,
breadth and even playfulness is entire appropriate for a private
institution geared towards developing a new generation of managers and
entrepreneurs – equipped to translate today’s niche ideas into
tomorrow’s business opportunity. It’s a design feature, not a bug, as
some IT pros might put it.
able to move easily from one domain to another, says Associate Professor
Kirpal Singh from SMU’s humanities faculty and author of creativity
guide Thinking Hats And Colored Turbans, is an asset in dealing with the
“larger sensibilities” of society and the new global environment.
a view long shared by experts around the world. Economists Frank Levy and
Richard J. Murnane even suggest in their recent book, The New Division Of
Labour, that job skills involving complex communication and adaptive,
multi-disciplinary thinking are going to be the most valuable and least
likely to be outsourced to lower-cost centres.
I spoke to had the same eye to the big picture, and were nonchalantly
confident about their own prospects. “I didn’t come to SMU only to get
a job,” declares Mr Taresh Dhawan, a third-year business student from
India. Instead, he’s acquired, at a fraction of the cost, a
“comparable quality of education” to that in the United States, with
plenty of face-time with professors and opportunities for development.
Dhawan, who is vice-president of SMU’s Student Association, is
dismissive of the notion that SMU graduates are necessarily a class apart
– they too have their share of quiet ones. Still, he thinks there’s a
higher percentage of those with “special qualities” in SMU than other
institutions and believes the SMU environment “makes it easier for
students to develop in such a manner”.
does he think about Singapore in general? The sore lack of “outliers”,
or individuals who buck behavioural trends to do their own thing.
There’s “too much pressure to conform”, he feels.
DOING THEIR OWN THING
less of a problem among SMU graduates, it seems. Like many of them,
finance and marketing graduate Amelia Quek waited for the right job fit
instead of jumping at the first offer – and they apparently get to
cherry pick from the best firms. Ms Quek now works for financial giant JP
others, like Chinese national Zhou Bing, are proudly self-employed.
have to look beyond boundaries,” asserts marketing major Elfarina
Mohammed Zaid, who wants to apply business management skills to the
there’s no silver bullet to nurturing the outliers, trendsetters and
entrepreneurs we will need to get ahead in the next wave of growth,
whatever our business. But, speaking as a prospective employer, I’d be
inclined to look at an SMU graduate first. Assuming they aren’t all
already snapped up. Enterprising candidates know how to get in touch.
[The writer works in the IT
sector and has no affiliation whatsoever with SMU].
Last Wednesday (7 July) during
Chapel, Dr John Lim spoke from Jn. 2:1-11 on the topic, “The
Transforming Business.” Using the miracle of our Lord’s turning of the
water into wine, Dr Lim shared that our Lord Jesus is in the transforming
business; the transforming of the lives of men and women into God’s
image. This “business” has been passed on to us, His disciples. We are
to share the Gospel, the greatest miracle of all!
speaker on 21 July will be Mr Kua Wee Seng.
with Tze: “How I wrote my Thesis”
BGST GENERAL FUND UPDATE:
Budget for the month of Jul 2004
= $ 36,926
Funds received to-date
= $ 37,516
Surplus for Jul 2004
Budget for Jul - Dec 2004
= $ 308,661
A Blessed Birthday to ...
Toh See Kiat 20/7
Collin See 21/7
Pierre Fong 22/7
Dawn Yap 23/7
Philip Soh 24/7
Eunice Tham 25/7