15th November: Discussions

15th November 2012, 10 am – 12 pm, Student Lounge, NUS High School

Attendance: Cheong Tien Yang Clarence, Lee Si Yuan, Lim Yi Fei, Ng Ri Chi, Soon Hao Jing*

Absent (with reason): Lim Yi Herh Ansel, Stanley Quek Tee Kai, Zhou Ruohua

*Denotes moderator and recorder

AGENDA

This meeting was convened to discuss members’ feedback regarding the two preceding Insight discussions (9 Nov, US elections and their results, and 10 Nov, Singaporean education, meritocracy, and other issues), targeted at improving future discussions, as well as future plans for Insight activities and leadership roles. By a spoken agreement, a discussion focused around the Syrian crisis was postponed to a future date to be set.

SUMMARY

Feedback for 9, 10 Nov sessions

As the long duration of the two preceding sessions, each at over 3 hours, had led to members’ exhaustion and reduced appetite or capability to pursue discussions in a focused manner, it was suggested that meeting durations in future be cut to 1.5 hours. However, it was acknowledged that the 10 Nov discussion had covered many noteworthy topics substantially, thus justifying its duration.

Regarding the 9 Nov meeting, it was suggested that there could have been a more serious start to the discussion. At that meeting, a number of videos had been played at the beginning before the start of discussions.

Members’ comments about the 10 Nov meeting reflected that the letter chosen was of substantive length, dealt with many Singaporean concerns, and proved to be a challenge to analyze. The letter itself, reflecting its author’s desires for an ideal Singaporean upbringing for herself as a child, also lent itself to productive discussions, as its standpoint and opinion helped members to develop their own opinions and beliefs in response to it.

Members commented on the need for more time in future to be allotted to them to conduct prior reading and research. As members were not entirely familiar and thus knowledgeable and comfortable enough to contribute to the discussions on 9 and 10 Nov, some felt that perhaps they had listened more to others speak than speak up themselves. However, they later agreed that they had probably listened and spoken in equal measure as the discussions went on.

The role of the moderator was also remarked upon. He should have attempted more strongly to maintain focus and order during 9 Nov. On 10 Nov, he posed broad questions in response to each members’ comments and analysis, which helped the progress, breadth and depth of the discussions substantially. Nonetheless the moderator contributed his own opinions and thoughts substantially, a dominance that will, it was hoped, decrease gradually as members increasingly direct their discussions with their opinions, questions and arguments.

Possible format for discussing international issues

When asked the question of whether a mock United Nations-style discussion could be adopted for discussing international issues such as the on-going Syrian crisis/civil war, members noted the following: They believed there would be little disagreement between members due to a possible homogeneity of understanding among fellow NUS High students reading international news from similar sources. It was, however, noted that on 9 Nov, when the US election process and results were discussed with a marked lack of disputes or debate by members, it had been more about facts than about opinions based on facts. Members believed there was a need for them to ‘show their thinking process’ instead of just stating ‘facts and conclusions’ – hence, a need to justify their stances instead of merely stating them. Members were unanimous in recognizing the benefits of a model UN style discussion, whereby members represent and promote the stances of specific stakeholders (for e.g. Syria, the US, NATO, Russia and Arab states in discussing the Syrian crisis), in hopes of attaining consensus and passing a joint statement in response to the Syrian crisis.

Opening up Insight discussions to students in general

Topics of closer proximity to Singapore and Southeast Asia, as well as those regarding science and technology, were proposed as part of future discussions, which would be opened up to an audience of NUS High students. However, members agreed with the Co-President that members’ oratorical skills had to be honed, and substantial research and preparations performed, and a suitable topic of sufficient interest to students be chosen, before such a discussion could be held to the student audience’s satisfaction and benefit.

A model UN style conference was proposed by members to be held in school for students following the 2013 Semester 1 exams. The Co-President advised that preparations would have to be made far in advance so that Insight members could chair and organize the debates successfully, while Insight would manage to contact the school early in order to integrate this activity into the school timetable. Collaboration with Sustainable Development Youth Conference organizers in school was also suggested. This event could also be organized with prizes given to winners.

Attendance

This issue was also raised in response to the absences of registered members in previous meetings. While stating that absentee members who had failed to turn up for most meetings should be deemed to have given up interest in Insight, members also acknowledged that the onus lay on the present members to make sessions even more attractive and of better quality to attract and retain student support. However, the Co-President noted that this was a circular problem as inconsistent attendance would impact the perceived quality of sessions too.Recruitment would have to be pursued in future with the support of the Humanities Department but more importantly, on the basis of Insight having quality sessions.

Standing Committee duties in 2013

Noting that the Standing Committee members had not been able to organize themselves to perform substantial work so far in the first two months of sessions, members agreed that the Standing Committee in future had two main duties [part of a list laid out in the Constitution].

The Academic Committee of Insight, a subgroup of the Standing Committee, was originally envisioned as responsible for performing background research in preparation for discussion topics approved and proposed by members at previous meetings. The Academic Committee would then publish topic guides to aid all members in pursuing their discussions. Members today proposed and accepted that the Academic Committee shall advise Insight members about possible topic choices in future sessions, and craft and administer Writing Exercises.

An ‘Excursions Committee’ shall organize Insight members’ visits to Parliament sittings and dialogues of relevance to Insight members’ interests, as well as secure Insight participation in external competitions.

The Communications Committee shall also be responsible for contacting members, organizing in-school events, and recruitment.

Future of Insight’s Facebook group

The Facebook group belonging to Insight is currently ‘closed’ from other viewers with 88 registered members, the only ones who can view content posted within the group. The group is predominantly visited and used by some NUS High alumni, but discussions are few and far between. Insight does not use it for discussions, but just to post some of its material. It was suggested that the group should be opened up to the public, or that Insight’s future discussion topics could be chosen through polls on this group; however, the Co-President was apprehensive about the utility of these suggestions or their likelihood of success.

Ratification of meeting statements

The Co-President stated that meeting statements of the 9 & 10 Nov meetings were published and ready, but lacked signatures to finalize them in their current form.

_________________

SOON HAO JING

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