By Jason Nathaniel Sutio (22S06U), Mei Feifei (22A13A)
What’s in a ‘just city’?
That is precisely the kind of ambitious question that the Global Studies Programme (GSP) sets out to answer. Incorporating multidisciplinary thinking between the realms of the arts, natural world, science, technology, humanity and social impacts, GSP aims to develop its students into Renaissance men and women—people who can “talk a little bit about everything”.
GSP sessions, held from 1pm-3pm on Wednesday afternoons, may seem pretty chill at first glance. Just arrive ten minutes early (the teachers are quite particular about punctuality!), listen to a speaker’s sharing for about an hour, and ask a few questions during the Question & Answer segment.
The only explicit expectation of students is that they must keep a bullet journal documenting their notes from the sessions. The journal should also include their personal reflections in response to questions like “What are the qualities comprising a just city? How do we get there?” and “What strategies can be followed at the subnational level to improve social injustice?”
However, ask any GSP student and you’ll find that GSP delves deeper into questioning dominant narratives and shaping critical analysis. Speakers’ sharings already give plenty of food for thought, but multiple in-depth discussion sessions let you chew on it even further.
The 2021 GSP curriculum can be summed up as a ‘How to talk about’ series, covering a range of topics including film criticism, culture wars, entrepreneurship, mathematics, and international conflict, just to name a few.
One memorable session was ‘How to Talk About Literature’, conducted by Mr James Koh, a master teacher from the Y1-4 side. The sharing was focused on ‘tensions’—think “author’s intention vs. readers’ interpretation”, “meaning vs. form”, and concepts like ‘literary gatekeeping’.
If the aforementioned topics and content sound unfamiliar to you, fear not. The GSP does not expect students to come with prior knowledge of the topics covered. The speakers tailor their content to make it as accessible as possible for a beginner-level audience, whilst also maintaining sufficient rigour such that more experienced students are inspired to think deeper about the issues as well.
Indeed, even for those of us whose last brush with Literature was in Year Two, Mr Koh’s session was equally enjoyable with his breadth and depth of expertise. As for the A-level Literature students, many of the things that we previously took for granted—like Shakespeare’s unquestioned status within the Western literary canon—were questioned.
If this sounds exciting to you, GSP welcomes your application! The application process consists of two mini-essays in response to simple, yet revealing questions about the applicant (more details will be shared on Ivy next year).
Afterwards, shortlisted applicants will attend an ‘interview’—but expect a discourse—that gives you a taste of the discussion and questioning expected of GSP students during actual sessions.
‘Immense enthusiasm’, ‘discipline’, and a ‘keen mind’ are three requisites highlighted by the GSP teachers. The topics covered in GSP are fraught with ambiguities and uncertainties, often leaving us with more questions than answers. That is exactly the mindset that GSP hopes to inculcate in its students: an appreciation of the world’s complexities, and the humility to understand that sometimes, not everything can be fully understood.
The GSP aims to develop students who are “keenly aware of their status as a privileged member of society and who are thus motivated to be an effective global citizen to make a difference”. The interdisciplinary nature of the sharings will give you new perspectives and frameworks; the discussion-based sessions will inspire you to build on others’ ideas.
Ultimately, stepping into the GSP classroom lets you put aside the age-old debates over what it means to be a ‘globally competitive’ city. Here, we explore what it means to build a just city.