This week in the media, faculty from NUS Arts and Social Sciences addressed pertinent issues affecting different segments of society in separate commentaries for The Straits Times. On 29 November, NUS Economics Lecturer Dr Kelvin Seah wrote on the need to help children from poorer backgrounds better integrate into popular schools in order to encourage diversity and prevent class divides. He said that schools and teachers need to be mindful of the socioeconomic differences between students, and ensure that such differences are not needlessly highlighted in school and classroom activities. Helping students from less privileged backgrounds gain acceptance from their teachers and peers will empower them to be active and engaged participants in school.
On 30 November, NUS Economics Visiting Professor Tilak Abeysinghe opined that policies aimed at boosting Singapore’s fertility rate should not only address the affordability of child rearing, but also encourage educated women to marry, and marry early. Citing the flexi work arrangements in Britain and Sweden as successful examples of turning the negative relationship between working women and fertility into a positive one, he viewed female participation in the labour force to have a much smaller negative effect on Singapore’s fertility rate compared to female higher education, as the latter leads to a fall in the number of marriages and increases the age at first marriage and first childbirth. Prof Abeysinghe emphasised that encouraging females with higher education to marry is not an elitist consideration; it is simply because they are the ones who tend not to marry, or marry late. He also advised parents to encourage their children in tertiary institutions to find marriage partners while studying — though not at the expense of their studies — as the choice pool shrinks in the workplace and socialising opportunities get replaced by hectic work schedules.
Dr Ko Pei-Chun, Joint Research Fellow at the NUS Asia Research Institute and NUS Centre for Family and Population Research shared her vision of productive ageing in Asia on 30 November. She believes that older adults, who today have longer healthy life expectancies, are assets who can continue to contribute to family, community and society through working, caregiving and volunteering. To promote productive ageing, she highlighted the need for change in the social, cultural and political factors that shape opportunities for older adults, such as building infrastructure and environments that will support older adults and combat the idea that they are too old to meaningfully contribute. This opens up new dialogues to think more positively about old age; “60 is the new 40”, added Dr Ko.
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