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SMU Provost Prof Timothy Clark delivering his Opening Address at the INDEX Symposium.
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Transformative Education

SMU’s inaugural INDEX Symposium: Learning by tackling real-world issues

Published on 5 December 2023

Active teaching and learning are an important part of nurturing 21st century skillsets that are aligned with evolving industry demands. It is with this belief in mind that SMU organised its inaugural INDEX Symposium.

Held from 4 to 6 October 2023, the symposium, titled “Industry Project-based Experiential Learning (INDEX) in 21st Century Asia: Industry, Integration, Innovation, Internationalisation”, brought together experienced practitioners, educators, and industry experts who shared insights and best practices on curriculum development and models of experiential learning.

The symposium provided a valuable platform on which like-minded individuals committed to shaping the future of education could network and collaborate. Speakers were drawn from SMU’s industry partners – DBS Foundation, Anglo American, Halogen Foundation Singapore, dsm-firmenich, X-Inc, G.H.Y. Culture & Media, Google, and members of the SMU-X faculty.

More than seventy participants from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Singaporean educational institutions, shared their perspectives at the enriching panel discussions.

Delivering the opening address, SMU Provost Professor Timothy Clark set the tone for the symposium, saying “INDEX is an innovative pedagogy that reinforces the importance SMU places on connecting classroom concepts with real-world problems. When I speak to employers they remark on our students’ incisiveness and ability to generate creative solutions. Project-based learning has helped to both amplify and hone these critical skills.”

Past successes, present scrutiny

The opening day of the event provided a platform for industry veterans and academics to share their expertise and experiences in a panel discussion which covered topics ranging from balancing academic rigour with industry pertinence, as well as instances where successful ecosystems have been created within industries, and how to integrate industries into the project-based experiential learning process.

One of the highlights of the day was “The Circular Classroom: Every Stitch Counts”. During the experiential activity, participants repurposed old school uniforms into new and stylish creations – an embodiment of SMU’s commitment to innovative thinking and sustainable living.

On the second day of the event, participants explored the importance of equipping students with global competencies and future workforce readiness. Some of the key areas of discussion included innovation, gamification, the potential of artificial intelligence to invigorate project-based experiential learning, and the pivotal role of cultural intelligence in developing desirable skillsets.

The final day of the event saw participants drawing meaningful insights as they reflected on questions about the purpose, value, and impact of experiential learning for diverse stakeholders. These insights will be useful in helping to direct their work moving forward. The final day of the session also saw reverse mentoring sessions facilitated by SMU-X students. By reversing the traditional roles, the sessions promoted a dynamic exchange of ideas, providing seasoned professionals with the fresh, forward-looking perspectives of the new generation.

Participants unite at the INDEX Symposium.

Bonding amid a dynamic forum

Besides the invigorating discussions and immersive activities, the symposium also gave participants plenty of opportunities to bond during delightful dinners and convivial gatherings.

One of the unique events of the symposium was the launch of an exclusive X-Scent fragrance, charmingly subtitled “Turning Possibilities into Realities”. Each participant was gifted a complimentary bottle, with proceeds from the purchase of additional bottles going towards the SMU-X Opportunity Award, an initiative that seeks to support financially disadvantaged students embarking on SMU-X Overseas (SMU-XO) courses.

Many who attended the symposium expressed appreciation for the organising team and the valuable knowledge-sharing. Dr Hyunsook Oh from Hanyang University said, “Thank you for planning and hosting such a great event. It was also an opportunity to gain future-oriented insights. Above all, I was touched by the warm hospitality and thoughtful consideration.”

SMU-X hopes that the networks and collaborative spirit fostered during the symposium will continue to strengthen a culture of innovation and shape the future of education in Singapore, the region and beyond.

“The INDEX Symposium offered a dynamic forum for the intersection of academia and industry. It was truly inspiring to engage with attendees hailing from across the Asian region and even as far as Canada,” said SMU Vice-Provost (Education) Professor Venky Shankararaman.

“This inaugural symposium sets the stage for increased engagement and collaboration among industry and academic partners.” Who said this? Link to concluding statement?

See also: Shaping the future of education: An Exploration of Industry Project-Based Experiential Learning at SMU's inaugural INDEX Symposium | SMU Newsroom