Transcript of Speech By Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Launch of Republic Polytechnic’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations and Opening of its Xperiential Learning Centre, 6 January 2022.
Mr David Wong, Chairman, Republic Polytechnic Board of Governors
Mr Yeo Li Pheow, Principal and CEO, Republic Polytechnic
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a real pleasure to join you this morning to kick-off Republic Polytechnic’s year-long 20th anniversary celebrations1, as well as to launch the new Xperiential Learning Centre (XLC), on the first day of RP’s Open House 2022.
I have been privileged to have been involved in several of RP’s milestones over the years. As Li Pheow mentioned, I was here at your groundbreaking ceremony, together with Teo Chee Hean who was then Minister for Education, and I also remember vividly officiating at RP’s first graduation ceremony in 2006 as the Minister for Education.
RP’s value in a differentiated educational landscape
I have followed RP’s progress closely over the years. It is of course of a very different scale today. RP today offers 36 different full-time diploma programmes across its seven schools, catering to over 12,000 full-time students. In line with our national push for lifelong learning, RP is also a key training provider for Continuing Education and Training (CET), providing over 380 such programmes.
However, RP also pushed the envelope of our thinking in higher education. It has used its youth and absence of legacy to its advantage, to develop unique strengths and approaches in higher education. In addition to the usual diploma programmes in Engineering, Marketing and Infocomm, RP offers unique diploma offerings through its School of Sports, Health and Leisure, as well as the School of Technology for the Arts.2 RP also set itself apart from the outset through the problem-based learning pedagogy that it pioneered. Instead of lectures based on a traditional curriculum, students are presented with problems which they work in teams to solve. This approach allows students to both see how the knowledge they learn can be applied in a practical setting, as well as to imbibe and retain knowhow in a way that many find more effective. It also allows students to develop strong interpersonal skills and multidisciplinary skills. The approach of learning through real world problems is becoming increasingly important in institutions around the world, and is being adopted in different ways among our institutions of higher learning.
We will have to keep moving in this direction: broadening and deepening collaborations between our applied education institutions and industry, and the contributions of our education institutions in our national technology, innovation and enterprise efforts. For instance, RP has developed expertise in urban agriculture and agritech, by building partnerships with key industry players such as the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation and Singapore Food Agency. It is positioning itself as a leader in agriculture-related training courses. RP’s Centre of Innovation for Supply Chain Management has also made an impact, benefiting over 400 companies through more than 800 consultancy projects to date. These projects provide an opportunity for students to participate in real-world problem solving, and for companies to develop new capabilities, such as in supply chain digitalisation.
Launch of the Xperiential Learning Centre
RP’s new Xperiential Learning Centre (XLC) is the latest meaningful addition to RP’s role, this one in outdoor and adventure learning. At RP, students from the Diploma in Outdoor and Adventure Learning are trained in both practical skills and soft skills to become an effective trainer or instructor in outdoor and adventure learning programmes. Many graduates of RP’s Diploma in Outdoor & Adventure Learning have gone on to become trainers and instructors at outdoor and adventure facilities locally, such as Outward Bound Singapore.
The facilities and wide range of training equipment in the XLC will provide students from the Diploma in Outdoor & Adventure Learning with a realistic environment for practical training.3 Using the XLC’s facilities, students will be able to familiarise themselves with the different types of equipment used in the industry and learn to design suitable programmes for different segments of the population and all ability levels.
The XLC will also benefit the broader RP student population, not just students from the Outdoor and Adventure Learning programme. RP will use this facility in programmes offered by the School of Health, Sports and Leisure, allowing students to put their skills in health and wellness management into practice. Beyond equipping students with the skills to conduct outdoor adventure learning, the XLC will also enable them to develop resilience and interpersonal skills through experiential outdoor programmes.
I am also happy to see RP tap on its expertise in experiential and outdoor learning to champion inclusivity in its programmes. RP has worked with several community partners and social service organisations – including the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled in Singapore (MINDS), Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore, Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, Rainbow Centre and APSN. It has developed inclusive outdoor programmes that assist their beneficiaries to integrate into society, such as community sports activities for cognitively and visually challenged persons.4
To support RP’s efforts in promoting inclusive sport and wellness, the XLC was designed specifically to be accessible to a diverse profile of participants, including the young, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. It incorporates safety features such as the auto-belay system Li Pheow mentioned, which provides greater user autonomy, and a winch system, which allows wheelchair users to access these facilities. Through working with these features, students will better understand the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and be able to customise and adapt recreational and sports activities for them.
Let me once again congratulate RP for its 20 years of innovation and expanding the boundaries of applied education, and for launching the XLC. We all look forward to RP adding value in new ways to education, innovation and inclusivity in the years to come.
 RP was established in 2002, and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. It welcomed its first batch of students in 2003, and the first batch of 619 students graduated in 2006.
 Examples include the Diploma in Outdoor and Adventure Learning from the School of Sports, Health and Leisure, and the Diploma in Sonic Arts from the School of Technology for the Arts.
 These include a Rollglider, High and Low Challenge courses, abseil facilities and a Skyscraper Walk, among other features.
 For example, in 2020, students from the Diploma of Outdoor Adventure Learning collaborated with Click Pte Ltd, a social enterprise supporting individuals with special needs, to organise a short outdoor programme for visually challenged persons. In 2019, students from the Diploma of Outdoor Adventure Learning collaborated with SAFRA Punggol to organise a community sports event for the special needs community (mainly cognitively and visually challenged persons).
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