Singapore—According to the president of the National University of Singapore (NUS), Professor Tan Eng Chye, learning will not return to pre-pandemic days anytime soon.
Professor Tan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday (Oct 19), “I do not see things going to (a) pre-Covid-19 period.”
The NUS president also discussed the university’s three strategies to avoid Covid-19 outbreaks on campus, which are: containment, decongestion and contact tracing through the university’s own app.
For containment, NUS’ campuses will be divided into five self-contained zones, with students and staff only staying in those areas.
As for decongestion, density in the campuses will be minimized through a hybrid virtual and in-person learning scheme, together with a “business continuity plan” for working within NUS. This limits the number of individuals on the campuses to only three-fifths of maximum capacity at any given time.
And finally, the university has its own customized “NUS safe app,” for contact sensing and tracing, fitting into the university’s scheme of zoning students and staff into designated areas. This app is required when individuals go to class, purchase food, ride campus shuttle buses and use the other facilities on campus.
The university will also conduct testing of its sewage water on the campuses to detect for the coronavirus.
Professor Tan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” that he expects NUS to use the hybrid virtual-and-in-person learning scheme for “quite a while,” adding that it made for a “nice environment” and that professors have been thinking about how to supplement and boost the virtual learning mode.
CNBC quotes him as saying, “The whole idea is really how to complement the virtual learning with face-to-face classes, which are still essential especially if there’s need to do more creative engagements amongst groups.”
Additionally, NUS is encouraging a higher level of interdisciplinarity, which includes a new proposed college of humanities and sciences.
Last month, NUS announced that it was carrying out preliminary consultations with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science regarding plans to set up the proposed College of Humanities and Sciences.
This followed a commentary written by Dr Tan in the Straits Times on the “move from subject specialisation to interdisciplinary teaching and research” needed by universities in the post-Covid-19 world.
He wrote, “Many a university leader has tried and failed to get researchers to embrace range and interdisciplinarity. Covid-19, however, demonstrates the value of embracing different disciplines to solve a problem at once global and local, epidemiological and societal.
My colleagues have tapped our strengths in engineering and medicine to develop test kits and vaccines; in public health to set guidelines on mask-wearing, personal hygiene and safe distancing – even through cartoons – and in social work and business to address mental health or improving food delivery services during the crisis.”
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