Highlights of the 2013 Singapore study tour

Jodie Prakoso Panudju, S.Sn, MA

Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in Asia. Despite its small geographical area, it has successfully reinvented itself and maintained its competitiveness against other countries. It is home to the only night-time Formula One race, Universal Studios, casino, global financial firms, and some of the world’s best schools and universities.

Because of its success, Singapore is regarded as a benchmark in many areas, not least education. Students from across South East Asia, particularly closest neighbor Indonesia, to learn about Singapore’s multiethnic culture, education, economy, and more.

Over the course of this year’s Study Tour, we visited many places that gave us fascinating new perspectives on how to achieve prosperity and peace in our own diverse country. However, the two main highlights were definitely our visits to the Raffles Design Institute (RDI) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Raffles Design Institute

RDI is located at 51 Merchant Road, next to Clark Quay, in a new building that the Institute has only inhabited since September 2013, its walls richly decorated with art and sculpture. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by RDI’s International Marketing Staff and taken to see a glass-walled classroom. We were all struck by the use of facial recognition technology to record students’ ‘logins’ to class and monitor absences.

RDI offers a range of programs: Graphic Design, Interior Design, Fashion Design, Jewelry Design and Multimedia Design. We were taken for a campus tour starting at the studio of Fashion and Jewelry Design, and then on to the library and café.

We were impressed not only by the quality of the facilities, but also by the standard of the students’ work. Fortunately, ITHB offers an International Art and Design Program in partnership with RDI. Under this program, students can study for two years at ITHB, then complete their course with a final year at RDI, obtaining a bachelor’s degree from there.

The first batch of students, who studied at RDI’s branch in Sydney, Australia, have just completed their course. They all confirmed that, with good preparation at home, studying abroad poses no problems and allows you to achieve a truly international standard.

Urban Redevelopment Authority

Singapore’s URA is the mastermind of the city’s development. The URA’s information center near Chinatown provides information about the history of Singapore from World War II to the present day, including highly detailed 3D city models for the whole country and the commercial public area. It also illustrates the development of Singapore’s land reclamation program and the Housing & Development Board plan since 1965.

ITHB students and staff were genuinely impressed by the way the URA has managed its work. The authority is responsible not only for housing, but also for all essential urban facilities such as transportation and waste management. Strict controls over personal vehicle ownership and personal residence have been applied in order to mitigate population growth. This growth is due to migration from Asia and elsewhere – mostly people who come to Singapore to do business and eventually become permanent residents. The land-management challenge facing the URA is so demanding that it even has to limit the amount of land used for cemetery burials.

Waste and recycling

Another pressing urban problem in Singapore is waste management. Every day, around 400,000 tons of trash are transported to Semakau Island and buried – the main reason that the Singaporean government is aiming to increase the proportion of the country’s trash that is recycled from 52% to 70% in the near future. However, even the current recycling rate is incredibly high in comparison with other countries.

It took three generations of education for the Singaporean government to turn Singapore into a clean, organized, wealthy, and civilized country. The way its first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, laid the foundations for this transformation was truly amazing.

The key take-away from the Study Program is that we must quickly transform ourselves. Indonesia’s imminent entry into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 represents either a great opportunity or a serious threat. Without a doubt, we will soon have to compete not only with Singaporeans but also with people from all around the world – and in our own domestic markets, as well as internationally.

We can’t afford to close our eyes to reality. We must become more competitive, in terms of our character and attitudes as well as knowledge. Singapore is undoubtedly a great country in some respects, but so is Indonesia. If our country is to become greater than it is today, we all have a part to play in making it happen.