​Speech b​y NTU President Professor Subra Suresh at the official opening of The Arc​

Published on: 21-Feb-2018

Speech by
Professor Subra Suresh
President, NTU


Basement 2, The Arc
63 Nanyang Drive, Nanyang Technological University
Singapore 636922
10:05am, Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Mr Othman Haron Eusofe, Pro-Chancellor,
Members of NTU Board of Trustees,
Student Leaders,
NTU Alumni,
Distinguished guests, colleagues, students, ladies and gentlemen,

Please allow me to take this first public opportunity to wish all friends, colleagues, and students, a Happy Lunar New Year that is blessed with prosperity, good health, and success. Gong Xi Fa Chai (pronounced as Kong See Far Chai)! 

Today also signals an auspicious start for our second learning hub, our very own ‘Arc’, one of the key building blocks in NTU’s education revolution. We have moved from traditional big-hall mass lectures, to a small, more intimate and interactive flipped classroom pedagogical mode.

So you may ask why did NTU take this step? We know that digital technologies have permeated every aspect of our life and society, and higher education is of course no exception. Smartphones and online media altered the way people, especially young people, communicate, live, interact and work. 

The students among us here today know very well that lessons are ongoing, there is no beginning or an end to learning. They are often googling on the same topics in class at the same time the lecturer is giving the lecture. The role of a professor is changing from someone who imparts knowledge to a student who is furiously copying down notes, to a mentor who shows and guides the student on a journey of discovery, where the content of discovery is coming from multiple sources that are instantly accessible even on mobile devices.

Through the “flipped classroom”, NTU students can learn much more proactively. They access course materials online before class and then come together to tackle problems in teams of five or six. They have the flexibility to plan their own studies.

Gone are the days of traditional rows of tables and chairs where students rush to sit in the last row and learn passively as content is dished out to them by a professor, hoping never to catch the eye of the professor in case they are thrown a difficult question. There is no “sage on stage ” as our professors are now “guides at the side”, facilitating discussions and debates.

Our emphasis is on training the students to ask the right questions rather than giving them the right answers. This equips them to move into a rapidly changing workplace that demands interdisciplinary and collaborative skills.

NTU has had the bold aim to redesign at least 50 per cent of all our course materials using the flipped classroom pedagogical mode by 2020 and I’m delighted to say that we are very much on track. To date, we have already converted 314 or 32 per cent  of undergraduate courses with another 170 currently in the works. 

However, the redesign of course content is just one side of the coin. Facilities and infrastructure are also key as the way a classroom is designed influences the style of teaching, the delivery of knowledge, the mood of the students, the mood of the faculty members and the effectiveness of the entire learning experience.

As you will see when you tour The Arc later this morning, the university has done away with the traditional classroom layouts in designing this new learning hub for our students. It has 56 new generation smart classrooms, each equipped with multiple LED screens, wireless communication tools and clustered seating to facilitate group discussions.

Even though buildings are necessary, they are not sufficient. It’s all about people and we are blessed with the fact that we have some of the most talented student cohort here in NTU. At the undergraduate level, 88 per cent of more than 23,000 students of NTU are trained by one of the best education systems in the world, in Singapore. We want to offer these students the best opportunity to learn here in NTU, so when they leave the university they become movers , believers, shakers and shapers around the globe.

We now have more than 280 smart classrooms on campus. Together with buildings such as The Hive and the Clinical Sciences Building at our Novena campus for our new Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, 116 new smart classrooms have been introduced over the last three years. And this is not the end of it. As the campus grows, we will see more and more of this coming into existence and even all the classrooms being converted. We’ve also converted existing tutorial rooms into 166 smart classrooms.

I am very proud of the fact this campus, which is not only known for being one of the most beautiful university campuses on the planet but also for being eco-friendly. Like every new development at NTU, this building, The Arc, incorporates various eco features such as energy-saving LED lighting and solar powered systems.

It is also cleverly designed to take advantage of its natural surroundings. Instead of walls, we can find people and activities. The Arc’s façade has an aluminium sunscreen, allowing free flow of air from any direction. The building is also fitted with a unique cooling system that uses passive cooling coils to create a natural convection cycle, chilling the air as it sinks downwards. I just couldn’t get that engineer out of my system, so I have to say these things.

Even before it was ready, The Arc was awarded the Green Mark Platinum award, the highest award for sustainable building design in Singapore from the Building and Construction Authority. There’ve been 57 building projects on this campus -- more than 230 buildings. 54 of the 57 projects have received the Green Mark Platinum certification. That’s 95 per cent of all the buildings on this campus are Green Mark Platinum-certified, which is the equivalent in the western world or the colder climates of LEED Platinum certification.

In the next couple of years, we will convert the remaining buildings into Green Mark Platinum so that the entire campus will be an eco-friendly campus. Our vision is that this will be the most eco-friendly university campus on the planet. We’re not that far away from reaching that goal. We’ll reach 100 per cent of our buildings reaching the Green Mark Platinum status by 2020.

The Arc is an integral part of our Smart Campus approach -- adopting digital technologies to support better learning and discovery, and to improve the sustainability of resources. We have another ambitious goal: by 2020, as we are building new buildings and bringing them online, we are also trying to reduce our total energy consumption on this campus by 30 per cent of what it was in 2015. So in every possible way, we are moving forward in becoming a Smart Campus, in every sense of the word.

It is an exciting mix of learning, community engagement, community spaces and recreational spaces for NTU students, faculty staff and researchers. It is therefore fitting that we have five student leaders with me today to officiate the launch of this new building together. It’s all about the students on this university campus and I would like to invite them all now to join me on stage to do the honours.

Thank you very much.

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