City College’s new School Of Design and Entrepreneurship offers two diploma courses that break the mould of education in Singapore, through taking a real-life learning approach.
Education curricula over the years have progressed from textbook-based to a more hands-on, project-based approach. Even so, certain disciplines demand nothing less than experiential learning in order to produce graduates who can hit the corporate ground running.
City College’s new courses, the Advanced Diploma in Design and Entrepreneurship and Advanced Diploma in Professional Photography, are designed with exactly this demand in mind. Both are full-time two-year courses, offered under City College’s newly set up School of Design and Entrepreneurship (SODE).
With a proven track record of offering students an alternative avenue to complete their ‘O’ Levels outside mainstream schools, City College’s foray into niche tertiary disciplines is yet another initiative aimed at filling the gaps in the local educational scene.
Program director for the Advanced Diploma in Professional Photography Jim Orca points out, “This is, I believe, the first advanced diploma in professional photography offered in Singapore. While other education institutes may have modules that touch on photography, these are often mixed in with other complementary modules such as software and animation. SODE’s advanced diploma is purely on photography.”
A prolific Singapore-based photographer whose works have been published in magazines like TIME and Tatler, and who has done commercial photography for the likes of Coca-Cola and Canon, Orca has a wealth of experience under his belt—exactly the sort of mentorship his students are looking for. They are thrown in the deep end right from the very start, learning in real-life settings such as commercial photography sessions.
“Students meet and work with real clients with real needs, real problems to solve and real repercussions to their businesses,” Orca explains. It’s a win-win situation—clients pay students a gratuity for projects undertaken, while students learn to navigate the marketplace by pitching their services to paying customers instead of teachers and learning to manage people and projects instead of merely striving for a grade.
While some clients are referrals from lecturers like Orca, who also runs his own studio, Jim Orca Photography, others link up with the students through exhibitions organized by the school. “We build up the intensity all the way until graduation, so that students don’t just have head knowledge, but business sense and skills. You can be a talented photographer, but equally important is the ability to sell and run your business,” Orca explains.
The benefit of this approach is two-fold. “Firstly, photography is a craft; you can’t just learn the theory of it. You need to have practice and hands-on experience.” Having to perform in a real-life setting also nurtures boldness, says Orca. “My heartbeat for students is that they will learn through their mistakes and to be fearless. Push the boundaries and dare to do things. All things are possible; if you want it, just do it!”
Students enrolled into the Advanced Diploma of Design and Entrepreneurship benefit from the same learning approach. After all, they face a tall order as its website states, “We expect every student to be a business owner upon graduation.”
“We respond to industry needs almost immediately by engaging industry practitioners (“studio masters”) who come in to run real, paying projects with our students,” explains program director for the Advanced Diploma in Design and Entrepreneurship course, Edwin Low.
With a Masters of Arts (Industrial Design) from the National University of Singapore, Low is a man wearing many hats; besides being the program director of the diploma course, he runs a shop/gallery/residency space called SUPERMAMA (www.supermama.sg) and a design consultancy, STUCK (www.stuck.sg). He is also an adjunct lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and is engaged as a consultant to Singapore Polytechnic’s education department, working on experimental projects to enhance learning experiences.
Every student completes at least 16 different projects with different studio masters over two years. “Our primary focus is to train up entrepreneurs; as such our aim is to help as many students as possible graduate in ownership of businesses. Building a strong portfolio is still a student’s key into the industry,” says Low.
The end result is that students are equipped with much more than head knowledge and practical skills. “We hope that these two years can provide our students with relevant working experiences, industry contacts and the right attitude to make things happen. We strongly encourage our students to not be afraid to fail—by the time they graduate, they will be 16 failures nearer to their success, and they will develop the courage to pursue their dreams,” states Low.
To those who may have a dream but are filled with trepidation at studying less conventional disciplines such as these, Orca has this to say: “One of the most important things [of the course] is helping students turn their dream into a reality. I always believe that if you have a dream, you have to at least give it a shot. Dreams are meant to be fulfilled! Be truthful and honest about who you are, and you will discover your vocation—something you were meant to do—instead of just a job.”
The next intake date for both Design and Entrepreneurship and Professional Photography is Aug. 19, 2013. Learn more about SODE at www.sode.sg.