Notes from AQAF’s quality review of LASALLE

Published on February 3rd 2015

It was my honor to have a chance to raise my concern with the External Review Panel at the AQAF’s Quality Review of LASALLE recently.

First of all, I am highly impressed by the effort and process every educational institution in Singapore is required to deliver to be evaluated for the governmental support. And I need not mention that thanks to the Lasalle staff’s effectiveness and professionalism, from initial contacts with alumni to the follow-up, everything went as smooth as planned.

The briefing by Provost about AQAF was closer to a sharing session where they talked about LASALLE’s mission and identity. The current target of Lasalle is the Singapore market, but in the long run, the school aims for a position in the international scale. What challenges Lasalle is not only educating its students, but also informing their family and the entire society, about design. Evaluation is still based on many traditional criteria, for instance, assessing intake quality using O or A levels. One evaluative method that has raised a lot of debates is grading education outcome in accordance to the number of students who get a formal full-time job within 6 months after graduation. On one hand, it is in the nature of art and design industry that professionals have their options to be either freelance or full time artists. On the other hand, the government needs a certain chart, with a specific set of “numbers”, which acts as a benchmark for measuring and comparing art institutions, to make sure their funding is most appropriately spent. If the present benchmark is not accurate, what is the alternative? In a broader picture, how to give objective judgment in subjective areas like arts and design?

After the briefing the audience was split into two groups, Visual Art and Performance Art. The interview started with each of us introducing our own education background and sharing how LASALLE had well prepared us for the real world. There were representatives for most faculties, including film, design communication, product design, interior design, art management, art therapy, and fine art (I wonder where the fashionistas were). Among about ten of us, there were 1 diploma and 2 master degree holders and the rest were bachelor degree holders. Three were international students while the rest were PRs or Singaporeans.

I was the only diploma representative. And I was surprised that both bachelor and MA programs have professionalism courses, which is something I never had during my time. Listening to their story gave me great motivation in my current work; well, I’m not the only one struggling and diploma students actually are not well prepared for this.

Honestly, I am not quite satisfied with my own speech. I think I was a bit rushing when bringing out the difficulties that my batch is faced with because of the conflicts between MOE and MOM. One department is encouraging us to stay and serve the bond, while the other raises the bar critically high by increasing the quotas for employing foreigners under S-pass and giving unjustified rejection even when the candidate is qualified. Another argument to be mentioned is that Art Therapy graduates have no qualification from respective institutions. The number of graduates working in related industries was also discussed. There was one interesting question regarding the levels of competitiveness in specific markets. In my opinion, the supply has exceeded the demand in some fields such as graphic design, whereas in film industry competitiveness has risen only recently.

Yet the most inspiring point of all was the idea that which makes an successful institution, aside from its preparation for its students to leave the “greenhouse” for the real “cold world”, is the strength of alumni network. We are in lack of this connection and the great part of our alumni network has been built based on personal friendships. The school reputation and alumni’s support are not much developed at the moment. So I hope for a positive change in the near future from LASALLE to reinforce this missing link. Thanks to the review session, I got to meet lots of interesting people from various departments and start connecting with some of them. It is always great to be acquainted with more passionate and talented artists and designers out there.

Disclaimer: These are just a few notes from my very own point of view, which do not represent any party.