Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Science, Technology
& Innovation

Leading The Way In Education and Healthcare: The HEAD Foundation

Microsite - Featured Image

SETTING THE STAGE FOR CHANGE-MAKING

There is a Chinese proverb that exhorts us, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”

 

Indeed, the importance of education cannot be overstated – its role in ensuring the success and resilience of any progressive society, and the way education, above all else, can continue to sustain it. Education leads directly to the growth of human capital and contributes to economic productivity. It can mould communities and change lives.

 

It was in recognition of the fact that education held the key to change that The HEAD Foundation (THF) was founded and registered as an International Charitable Organisation in 2013. Back then, “HEAD” stood for “Human Capital and Education for Asian Development”, and the focus of the Foundation’s early work was helping to change lives in Asia through supporting educational initiatives and addressing issues around human capital, leadership and sustainability. For only then could change be effected within the communities in the region to meet their ever-evolving social and economic needs. Closely intertwined with this early objective was the development of thought leadership, and the need to support meaningful and relevant research in regional policy development and implementation that could be shared with governments, civic societies and other relevant authorities, towards effecting positive change.

It is essential that THF fosters collaborations with like-minded individuals and organisations to amplify any positive impact it creates.

In addition to gaps in education, the social, healthcare, political and economic diversity of Asia – in particular Southeast Asia – leads to different degrees of deficiency across the region in other basic societal needs. To achieve a better quality of life, a well-functioning society also needs to be a healthy one. For that reason, the mission of The HEAD Foundation was expanded in 2018 to include support for healthcare, primarily from an East-West perspective. Where Western medicine tends to focus on diagnosing and treating conditions based on a patient’s symptoms, Eastern medicine takes a more holistic view of good health being a state of harmony and balance. Healthcare approaches that encompass both can well reap the benefits of both perspectives. Naturally, such approaches are especially relevant in an Asian context.

 

The Foundation has its operations based in multicultural Singapore, where practice and research of both Western and Eastern medicine, especially Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), are professionally regulated, well-trusted and internationally reputable. It is therefore in a good position to advocate and facilitate an integrative East-West approach in public healthcare while helping to reduce inequality in the existing healthcare systems in the region.

 

Education and healthcare continue to form the two pillars of THF’s work today, with its projects focused on supporting these two important sectors that impact Southeast Asia’s growth as a region of significance. In addition, the advancement of thought leadership in the relevant fields was identified as an associated key objective. As an organisation with limited resources, it is essential that THF fosters collaborations with like-minded individuals and organisations to amplify any positive impact it creates. This is achieved by disseminating knowledge and ideas, through our publications, lecture series and other public forums, to create awareness, provoke thoughts and initiate constructive discussions that can in turn influence policies and change behaviours.

Education technology to close the divide

THF’s support has brought to fruition the development of Sekolah Enuma Indonesia (SEI) – a digital learning platform based on Enuma’s award-winning learning app, Kitkit School – which will benefit early-childhood learners in underserved communities in Indonesia

THE PRESENT DAY

A recent milestone in The HEAD Foundation’s vision to empower development in Asia through education has been a partnership with Silicon Valley education technology company Enuma, Inc. THF’s support has brought to fruition the development of Sekolah Enuma Indonesia (SEI) – a digital learning platform based on Enuma’s award-winning learning app, Kitkit School – which will benefit early-childhood learners in underserved communities in Indonesia. The accessibility to an app that helps children to learn on their own proved to be most timely when the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented learning disruptions to many children, particularly those without internet access for online learning. When schools lock down and children are forced to stay home, SEI allows them to continue to learn important literacy and numeracy skills without the need for an internet connection.

 

The literacy module of SEI was made available for free access nationwide in December 2021. Tens of thousands of copies have been downloaded by parents and teachers in Indonesia since. The Foundation is also providing computer tablets and grants to NGOs and sponsoring private companies that support early childhood education as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts to roll out SEI for more children in Indonesia. The Foundation hopes that millions of young learners in Indonesia will benefit from SEI eventually.

 

At a different level of focus, THF continues its effort to conduct regular capacity-building programmes for school leaders and leaders of higher education institutes, by partnering with regional institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Foundation and SEAMEO SEARCA. To help address the changes in educational needs brought on by the pandemic, particularly in less developed parts of Southeast Asia, the Foundation has also launched Making HEADway, a series of webinars and print resources that shares cross-cultural case studies, strategies and actionable tips with school leaders across the region.

Prof David Gross visiting THF

Prof David Gross’ visit at THF’s office was followed by his public lecture at Science Centre Singapore entitled “Looking to the Frontiers of Fundamental Science”, jointly organised by THF and the Institute of Advanced Studies of NTU.

Since the inclusion of healthcare within the Foundation’s work, its remit has included support for initiatives related to nasopharyngeal cancer, dementia and TCM clinical research, as well as donating emergency medical supplies to pandemic-stricken communities. With a focus on East-West integrative medicine, the Foundation is currently supporting clinical research to compare the efficacy of TCM Tuina (literally “pushing and grasping”, a form of therapeutic massage) in treating lower back pain to that of physiotherapy. Since lower back pain is one of the most common global health problems, the Foundation hopes to help make Tuina an affordable mainstream treatment for lower back pain once its effectiveness is clinically proven. Led by three groups of experienced medical professionals, physiotherapists and TCM practitioners in Mayo Clinic, the Singapore General Hospital and the Medical School of Jinan University in Guangzhou, the multi-centre clinical trial is expected to publish its findings by mid-2023.

East-West collaboration in healthcare solutions

Together with Mayo Clinic in the USA, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), and the Medical School of Jinan University, THF is conduting a multi-centre randomised controlled trial (RCT) to investigate the efficacy of Tuina vis-à-vis physiotherapy in alleviating chronic low-back pain.

While the onset and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic have inevitably restricted THF’s activities and public events, THF promptly adapted to the new norms. Even though public lectures and overseas site visits are on hold for the time being, the Foundation has been able to continue reaching out to the community through online meetings, public webinars and its regular publications. Through these platforms, it continues to execute projects, conduct training and push important agendas in healthcare, education and related areas to fulfil its objectives of improving lives and promoting thought leadership. For example, the SEI project, from development to beta testing to its nationwide rollout, was planned and managed through remote collaboration among project team members based in Singapore, Seoul, Berkeley and various locations in Indonesia. To continue to engage the Foundation’s target communities, recent issues of THF’s flagship publications THINK and HESB (Higher Education in Southeast Asia and Beyond) have explored important topics such as sustainability, the post-COVID new normal, higher education in a post-pandemic setting, as well as impacts from the ever-increasing roles of technology in our modern world. Our recent webinar series has also highlighted key global issues such as water security, energy security and food security in the looming shadow of climate change.

 

THF’s four-member Board of Directors provides the Foundation with the vision to formulate its strategic direction and identify suitable projects to support. The Foundation’s Advisory Board, consisting of four eminent professors in various disciplines of interest to the Foundation, guides the Board to help THF achieve its desired objectives.

 

The mission and activities of THF have also attracted a select group of academics and policymakers who contribute to the growth of the charitable organisation as Fellows of the Foundation. Hailing from diverse backgrounds, this multinational group of Fellows also plays a key role in facilitating THF’s activities and helping to build new alliances and partnerships that will pave its way forward.

Levelling the playing field

To support the education of promising students, THF donated to the Republic Polytechnic Education Fund in May 2020. The donation supports ten bursary awards for deserving and capable students. This is to ensure that no student will be deprived of a quality and holistic education experience because of financial challenges or lack of opportunities or means.

THE FUTURE IS NOW

The shortcomings and inequalities in many Southeast Asian communities have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lives are affected and the fallout has changed education and healthcare in ways unknown in recent history. Less affluent parts of the region are suffering more from the effects of reduced mobility and resource shortages. Disrupted schooling, substandard healthcare, drug and vaccine shortages and malnutrition are commonplace, and their effects will continue to be felt for some time to come. On the other hand, immediate medical and social needs have diverted attention away from important longer-term issues like sustainability and climate change and the resulting consequences, such as imminent food, clean water and energy shortages.

THF will continue to deliver results through its key healthcare and education projects in the coming years, whilst assessing new opportunities to fulfil its mission of improving lives in Asia.

Given the above, THF will continue to deliver results through its key healthcare and education projects in the coming years, whilst assessing new opportunities to fulfil its mission of improving lives in Asia.

 

Recognising that there is much to be explored in integrating Asian and Western medicines, the Foundation will leverage its resources and partnerships to deliver a positive impact in preventive and integrative healthcare by sharing knowledge, supporting research, advocating relevant policies and funding viable solutions.

 

As less critical healthcare is being relocated closer to homes to provide timely care and to reduce the burden on central medical facilities, there is a growing need to support training for community caregivers and family members of patients with chronic illnesses. Doing so will help build capacity, lower healthcare costs and improve patients’ quality of life in the long run. Supporting innovations in medical technology should also be considered, since 5G mobile networks, robotics, artificial intelligence and data-driven predictive diagnosis are expected to make quality healthcare more accessible and more affordable to more patients.

Deliberation on climate change

The NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS) and THF concluded its joint series, “In the Wake of a Changing Climate”, with its fourth and final webinar titled “Securing our Food for Tomorrow” on 15 September 2021.

Likewise in education, THF plans to build on the impact it has already created while looking for new gaps it can help to bridge. One aspect of education that THF plans to focus on in the coming years is STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Some studies have shown that STEM education is key to producing a more resilient, future-ready workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge to sustain long-term economic growth. But as STEM education moves from being content-driven to focusing on softer skills such as adaptability, creativity and effective communication, pedagogies and best practices need to be updated for the teaching of STEM subjects. Designing the appropriate programmes to equip teachers with the new pedagogies and working with the right partners to deliver them will provide timely support for STEM teaching.

 

Maximising the impact of SEI is also a priority of the Foundation in the coming years. It will work with multiple implementation partners to bring SEI to needy communities in Indonesia, to help hundreds of thousands of young learners make up for their pandemic-induced learning loss. It will also work with independent education researchers to measure and analyse the effectiveness of SEI as an education tool for young learners. THF hopes that the positive learning outcomes observed from a critical mass of SEI users will eventually convince the Ministry of Education to endorse SEI as a recommended product for all Indonesian young learners.

Agribusiness skills for sustainable communities in Cambodia

THF supported the Green Shoots Foundation in the last phase of their three-year project to teach organic farming skills and agribusiness to students in public schools in rural Cambodia. 348 teachers and 1,700 students were trained in farming knowledge and practices, with positive impact on the local community – about 400 home vegetable gardens were established as a result.

Helping to mitigate the risks of climate change should also be on the agenda of the Foundation because such risks are increasingly threatening the health and wellbeing of the people in the region. THF’s recent webinar series on climate change has already started the ball rolling and opened the door to greater awareness and discussion. As Prof Koh Lian Pin, Director of the Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions in the National University of Singapore, so aptly observed in his recent interview for the Foundation’s THINK digest, the Healthcare and Education focuses of the Foundation are perfectly placed to address climate change. The Foundation could invest in educating its audience on the health impact of climate change, as well as supporting the development of solutions to prevent and address these health risks.

Transforming educational leaders

To support the development of educational leaders in the region, THF has partnered with international and regional universities to deliver the Certificate of Education Studies in Leadership (CESL) programme. CESL is designed to provide K-12 school leaders and senior administrators in Southeast Asia with the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed for them to be effective, culturally-sensitive and context-responsive leaders within their school systems.

In fact, THF’s contribution to Asian development should focus on developments that are sustainable – for both the social and the physical environments – and be guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set up in 2015 by the United Nations (UN). The recent UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow has also highlighted the urgent need to finance sustainable projects and for developing countries to adapt to climate impact. The Foundation should pay attention to sustainability because it is directly related to the health and wellbeing of the communities it targets to help. Renewable energy research, sustainable farming, reforestation and initiatives related to the circular economy are examples of projects THF can potentially support to help drive sustainability. Helping to educate the younger generations about sustainability through effective education programmes (for example, by including sustainability lessons in SEI) will also sow the seeds for valuable long-term benefits for the region.

True to its charter of helping to support development in Asia, the foundation’s strategy for the years ahead... Will consolidate different facets of a multi-pronged approach to explore new avenues.

Much remains to be done. While strides have been made, no organisation that seeks to effect positive change can afford to rest on its laurels, and The HEAD Foundation is no exception. True to its charter of helping to support development in Asia, the Foundation’s strategy for the years ahead – informed by and adjusted to accommodate the unforeseen circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide – will consolidate different facets of a multi-pronged approach to explore new avenues. The Foundation wants to continue to look back and be contented that it has truly been making a difference in improving the lives of underserved communities in the region.

PROF DR CHAM TAO SOON

Prof Dr Cham Tao Soon has served on government bodies, such as the Singapore Science Council, National University of Singapore Council, Jurong Town Corporation and Land Transport Authority. He was a Member of the Council of Presidential Advisers from 2004 to 2010. Prof Cham was the founding President of the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) until 2002. From 2005 to 2014, he was Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of SIM University. Prior to this, he was Dean of Engineering at the National University of Singapore from 1978 to 1983.

He received the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1986 and the Distinguished Service Order in 2003, is a Chevalier des Palmes Académiques, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Academy of Engineering, Singapore.

He was Chairman of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra from 1999 to 2010, and chaired its Advisory Council from 2010 to 2018. He has also served on the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation Council since 2003.

MARCH 2022 | COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE

Healthcare and Education for Asian Development

About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

Join our mailing list

Stay updated on all the latest news and events

Join our mailing list

Stay updated on all the latest news and events