Nurturing Students with the Right Values

“Universities should nurture students with the right values, resilience and understanding of what it means to be human,” said SMU President Prof Lily Kong at the Times Higher Education (THE) World Academic Summit 2019 on 11th September 2019 at ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Prof Kong made this comment in her dialogue with fellow thought leaders from Harvard University, Tsinghua University, the University of Waterloo and Elsevier, and over 200 conference participants on the topic, ‘New Definitions of Talent’. Themed ‘How Talent Thrives’, this year’s edition of THE’s flagship summit engaged thought leaders and academic leaders to collectively address and inform the role of universities in creating an ideal environment where talent can flourish.

During the lively plenary discussion, which centred on new definitions of talent and how best to develop them in tomorrow’s leaders, Professor Kong said that universities must support the future of learning by developing human-centric talent – and the key to this was to help young people discover and understand what it means to be human.

“To me, talent (development) should not ignore much more fundamental and foundational dimensions of an individual – one’s personal and interpersonal characteristics and qualities,” commented Prof Kong.

To do this, universities need to nurture graduates with the right values, the curiosity to question and seek out new knowledge, the resilience to deal with change and the social skills to get along with people of all cultures and backgrounds – all contributing to a good understanding of their common humanity.

Echoing this, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner called for future education to inculcate “ethics, morality and decency” from a young age and for future jobs to provide meaning beyond the transactional. Tsinghua Dean Xue Lan was of the view that interpersonal skills and good values would stand one in good stead for the future. Elsevier Chairman and moderator YS Chi maintained that the role of a university was and will always be to “bring out (in a student) more than the student ever imagined him or herself to be.”

In November, Prof Kong will speak at the QS Apple 2019 Conference, themed ‘Industrial Revolution 4.0 and Ageing Societies: The Changing Roles of Universities in the Asia-Pacific’.

Click here to view the highlights of THE World Academic Summit 2019.


[Featured Photo: Professor Lily Kong shared her views on “The Future of Talent” at the THE World Academic Summit 2019 on 11th September 2019 at ETH Zurich. Fellow panellists were (from left) Prof Xue Lan, Dean of Schwarzman Scholars, Tsinghua University; Prof Feridun Hamdullahpur, President, University of Waterloo; Prof Howard Gardner, Senior Director of Project Zero, Harvard University and (moderator) YS Chi, Chairman, Elsevier.]