Internet Edition

Issue No. 2, October 1997

Charting New Frontiers with a Revised Dental Curriculum
by A/Prof Grace Ong

The Faculty of Dentistry introduced its new curriculum this academic year in July 1997. Highlights of the new curriculum include a competency-based curriculum, more integration of courses, developing problem-solving approaches to teaching and learning, and compulsory research projects to be undertaken by the undergraduates.

Competency-based curriculum

The advancement of knowledge and technology has developed rapidly and will do so at a tremendous pace. Traditionally, dental education is discipline-based. If every discipline in dentistry attempts to impart all the new knowledge to the undergraduates, the curriculum will be unnecessarily "bloated". Competencies are basic skills essential to the practice of dentistry. The new curriculum will be competency-based. A didactic competency-based programme will teach relevant knowledge and skills necessary to train a competent general dental practitioner. This will reduce excesses in the curriculum.

Currently, clinical assessment requires a student to complete a clinical schedule of requirement. With the new system, this is no longer necessary. A student will sign up for competency tests for different procedures after he or she has had adequate exposure to basic clinical dentistry. This will allow the better and more clinically competent students to progress at a faster rate. At the same time, students who may need remedial attention can also be identified. When a student has completed his clinical competencies, he/she continues with comprehensive patient care and will be allowed to take electives of his interest.

Integration of courses

There will be more coordination and integration between disciplines and the various departments in the Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine. This will reduce duplication and improve students' understanding of concepts that are multidisciplinary in nature.

In the first year, multidisciplinary seminars will be conducted for some topics that will involve all the basic science disciplines. Oral Physiology and Biochemistry will be combined into a new module called Oral Biology. This module will be taught as an intensive 2-3 week module by a visiting professor in Oral Biology.

Other integrated courses in the dental course are Radiology, Cariology, Occlusion, Ethics and Jurisprudence and General Practice Management.

Developing analytical and problem-solving skills

The new curriculum will include more problem-based tutorials. Problem-based learning involves the student in the learning process, they will have to analyze the problem and look for the information themselves. This will train them to be independent learners. The student would also be able to integrate basic sciences with clinical situations as well as the different disciplines in the decision making process.

Research will also be given more weightage to further develop creativity in students. All third year students will have to undertake a research project. At the beginning of final year the students will then present their research projects on Research Day where the whole faculty, staff and students as well as part-time staff will attend.


International student exchange programmes have been introduced since 1995. Students can apply to visit dental schools in Australia, Canada, Japan and US as an elective. This will broaden our students' outlook and experience.

Information Technology

The new curriculum will also exploit information technology (IT). Self-paced learning packages and multimedia programmes will be used for teaching. The IT strategy for the Faculty is to have ports for computers in clinical areas and laboratories. Students need only to plug in anywhere in the Faculty and get access to information.

The new curriculum will meet the mission of both the Faculty and the National University of Singapore to excel in teaching and research as well as our objective of producing competent, well-rounded graduates who will be independent lifelong learners.

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