PhD graduate recounts his time at NIE in Singapore

A PhD graduate at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore shared his experience as a doctorate candidate at the institution in a recent interview.

Dr Wan Rizal received his PhD in Physical Education and Sports Science and is currently a senior lecturer at Republic Polytechnic.

“Prior to the higher degree programme, I was a physical education teacher at Hougang Primary School,” he said. “Being passionate in my subject area, I wanted to further explore the dynamical systems theory, which relates closely to the key concept of skill acquisition.”

He added, “Being trained at NIE for both my diploma and degree, I was certain that the education and experience I would receive at NIE would be both relevant and current, especially in the context of the Singapore curriculum.

“I was drawn to the prospect of working with my PhD supervisor, A/P Chow Jia Yi. I felt that the subject area that he was researching on was meaningful and relevant to my interest in physical education and sports.

“Critically, I also felt that he was the best person to get the best out of me and he understood my commitments as a father. And I was right!”

He also attributed his success to the openness of the institution.

“(The faculty) was always open to me sharing ideas and thoughts with them, and sometimes our discussions went beyond the topic of work,” he said. “We talked about family and the trials faced by a PhD student among other things and this reflected the warmth, strong morale as well as professional support that they provided.”

When it comes to skill acquisition, Dr Wan believed in the “inherent nature and behaviour that reflects a person’s decision-making skills and ability to recover from perturbations” instead of the most performance-focussed theories that he found to be inapplicable in practical settings.

As such, his research “focussed on understanding how a learner achieves mastery in a certain skill” and the attributes that “describe a learner beyond performance scores”.

Academia asides, the PhD graduate is always heavily involved in community work, including serving as a board member at his neighbourhood mosque and sitting in a special committee that looks into tertiary students’ education and funding.

“Collectively, all the roles I currently hold reflect my belief in giving back to the community,” he said. “The experience gained has certainly given me a myriad of perspectives that has enriched the way I approach things in life.”