Meeting with Mr Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Introductory remarks by Pericles Lewis, President, Yale-NUS College
United Nations Headquarters, New York
2 Aug 2013

 I would like to start by expressing our utmost appreciation to Mr Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations for agreeing to meet the inaugural class of Yale-NUS College. This is a rare honor and I am sure all of us are looking forward to an insightful exchange of views today.

Before we begin, I would like to share a little about the Yale-NUS College and our inaugural class of amazing students.  As the first liberal arts college in Singapore, Yale-NUS is the first alternative to specialized and technical university programs and one of the pioneers of such learning in all of Asia. We’re not replicating existing models of education, but writing a new chapter in the history of liberal arts and science education for an increasingly complex and interconnected world. In search of the answer to one key question: what must a young person learn in order to lead a responsible life in this century? Hence, our Common Curriculum, together with the residential college system, is designed to provide Yale-NUS students with a living and learning environment that fosters the ability to analyze issues, reflect critically, solve problems and communicate effectively. Students responded positively to this new and innovative approach and we attracted over 11,400 applications from 130 countries. After a highly selective and competitive admissions process, these 155 talented and diverse students that you see here today were admitted to form our inaugural class, representing 26 different citizenships.  Over a quarter of them spent a year or more outside of their birth country in places like Myanmar, France, Spain, Belgium, Turkey, Japan, and Swaiziland.  Some have lived outside of their birth country for 5 years or more. Many of our students were active participants in the Model UN conferences and activities in their high schools. Over the last three weeks, the students have spent a packed and rigorous two weeks in New Haven participating in classes, discussion and fun-filled activities, and this is just the beginning of a distinctive, international education in a community of learning that they will be experiencing over the next four years.

Our visit to the United Nations today provides an excellent wrap to the summer immersion activities for our inaugural batch of students.  I am sure we are all aware that the United Nations has always taken education as a number one priority and Mr Ban has continued to champion this since he took office in 2007. In 2012, Mr Ban launched the Global Education First initiative which has three priorities: to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship. Because he believes that education is a major driving force for human development; because education empowers people with the knowledge, skills and values they need to build a better world.  Recently on 12 July, the United Nations convened a Youth Assembly for the first time so that the youths can voice their concerns on issues that matter to them. Similarly, today is a chance, albeit on a much smaller scale, for all of you young people here to inquire endlessly on issues affecting the world that are close to your heart and to voice your views.