Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at Official Signing Ceremony between the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal College of Music, 25 April 2011 at Lee Foundation Theatre

25 April 2011

Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chairman, NAFA Board

Mr Choo Thiam Siew, President of NAFA

Professor Colin Lawson, Director, Royal College of Music, London

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


1.         Delighted to be here this afternoon to witness the signing ceremony between Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and the Royal College of Music (RCM), UK


2.         NAFA has a special place in Singapore’s arts scene

a.         Established in 1938, and celebrating 73rd Anniversary this month

b.         Modelled itself after the Xiamen art school, offering courses in sculpture, applied arts and western arts

c.         Over the years carved a unique niche for itself blending western modernist concepts and eastern traditional techniques

d.         Produced many notable alumni – 11 Cultural Medallion recipients and 10 Young Artist Award winners 


3.         I visited NAFA in March last year

a.         Cheered to see a vibrant campus, full of motivated and talented students

b.         Taking lessons in diverse arts subjects – Music, Fine Art, Dance, Theatre, Design & Media, 3D arts and Fashion

c.         Management proactively thinking about future of school

i.          Planning a new building adjacent to the existing campus on Bencoolen Street

ii.         Ready by 2017, if all goes well


4.         Today marks a significant chapter in NAFA’s history

a.         Agreement will establish a new publicly-funded NAFA degree programme with the Royal College of Music

b.         Partnership marks the first time RCM is conferring degrees outside of London

c.         Programme will give high-calibre students a world class education in music

d.         Students will participate in a seven-week residential study programme at RCM in London

e.         A new RCM Visiting Professor Scheme will facilitate visiting professorial exchanges


5.         Collaboration an important piece in our efforts to enhance arts education

a.         We want to give our students full opportunities to excel, according to their differing aspirations and abilities

b.         Hence our investments in arts education, as well as in science and technology, sports, etc.

c.         Aim is to create a mountain range with many peaks of excellence

d.         Comprehensive set of measures to do this in the arts


6.         First, we are creating more talent development opportunities at all levels, from pre-school to tertiary

a.         More emphasis on PE, Arts and Music (PAM) in our primary school curriculum

b.         Enhanced Art Programme (EAP) and Enhanced Music Programme (EMP) introduced from 2011

c.         MOE will grow its pool of qualified Art and Music teachers by 1/2 in the next few years (500 teachers), to raise the quality of Art and Music education in schools


7.         Second, we are strengthening our arts institutions

a.         Government started to fund diploma programmes in our arts institutions in 1999

b.         Since then, both NAFA and LaSalle have made steady progress

i.          Improved the quality of student intake

ii.         Recruited better faculty

iii.        Enhanced programme delivery

c.         NAFA’s degree programme with RCM a further step

d.         MOE and MICA will provide more undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships in the arts

i.          e.g. National Arts Council (NAC) will double the number of local arts scholarship recipients to 10 this year

ii.         Such scholarships are available to talented students and staff from NAFA and LASALLE

e.         This will augment the teaching workforce and enhance the quality of Music education in schools


8.         Third, develop new peaks of excellence

a.         Enable students keen in the arts to specialise and excel in their interests

b.         Many new arts institutions set up in the last few years

i.          Yong Siew Toh Conservatory together with the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University welcomed pioneer batch of students in 2003

ii.         NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media started its enrolment in 2005

iii.        School of the Arts (SOTA) opened in 2008, offering a 6-year programme with specialisation in music, dance, theatre and art

c.         New institutions will add to the quality and diversity of our arts education offerings


9.         Improving our arts education critical to our economy and society

a.         To bolster our arts and cultural landscape

b.         To train talent for the many creative and arts-related jobs which will be in the new economy

i.          Music producer and manager

ii.         Sound artist and visual effects artist for animation and computer games design

c.         To deepen the soul of our society, and foster nation-building

i.          Enrich our lives, stir our collective imagination

ii.         Promote critical reflection and social dialogue

iii.        Give voice to shared memories and experiences

iv.        Make Singapore an endearing home


10.       Arts institutions cannot thrive solely on public funding

a.         Indeed it is the strength of community support that has sustained and nurtured the arts over the years

b.         e.g. NAFA was founded as a volunteer organisation, and in particular harnessed the strength of the Chinese community

 i.         Founding leaders and teachers included prominent Chinese artists like Cheong Soo Pieng (钟泗宾), Chen Chong Swee (陈宗瑞) and Chen Wen Hsi (陈文希)

ii.         Society of Chinese Artists helped to bring in famous Chinese artists to teach at NAFA in its early days

iii.        Generous donations from many philanthropic individuals and groups, including Ngee Ann Kongsi and the Lee Foundation, ensured that deserving students could afford a NAFA education

c.         Arts institutions need not just funds, but also appreciative audiences who will cheer the artists, and help them to do better

d.         Encourage the community to continue supporting them 



11.       NAFA-RCM tie-up a milestone in arts education

a.         Encourage students who are passionate about music to take up this new opportunity

b.         Wish NAFA and RCM the best as they embark on a new journey together


12.       Hope to see more quality partnerships for our arts institutions

a.         To raise their quality, and our overall arts and cultural landscape

b.         To pave the way for Singapore to become a premier arts centre of Asia and a distinctive Global City

. . . . .