Monday, September 15, 2014

Anoop Shankar – Would NUS World Rankings be affected

The revelation of a ‘genius’ professor (Singapore has this fetish craving for geniuses) who was an academic staff of NUS but got caught with his pants down, with fake credentials in the US is sending a little tremor around our reputable institutions of higher learnings. We have carefully honed our skills by gaming the ranking systems, oops, I mean by making sure that we followed the norms set by international agencies, not intentionally of course, to raise our rankings to be among the top universities in the world. We are definitely not gaming, otherwise if the criteria demand having a monkey as a professor, they would have appointed a monkey to the staff too. Now doing that would be gaming. We are quite near to the class of Harvard and Cambridge, beating many top Ivy League universities in the US and UK. And we achieved this by sheer quality of the institutions and the staff.
Now we have this dubious honour of sharing in the hiring of a fake as an academic staff and publishing many papers to help in our rankings. How would this affect our university’s rankings? Is this another one of those, ‘it happens once in 50 years’ cases? If it is so, then we should thank God that it would not cause too much damage to our reputation. If it is not the case, and many more are fakes, then we will have a very embarrassing problem at hand.
How would we know that there are other fakes in the academia? The only way to find out is to comb through with a fine brush, the academic qualifications of the staff, especially the foreigners. The question is, do we want to do this and risk our rankings and reputations tumbling to the abyss? My suggestion is not to do anything. Let it be. Then we can keep our rankings and the integrity of the institutions? Did I say integrity? Oops, wrong choice of word definitely. Change that to reputation.
How many people really think that there is a need for a thorough investigation in the academia for fraudsters? This disease of having fakes and fraudsters in the whole island has been spreading and the writing has been on the wall for too long. And it is not only in the academia! It is something that must be done and in a hurry. But no one bothers. Or is this problem already known in the closed circles and the solution is to announce that no degrees also can if one can perform, and can be promoted to high positions too. Definitely not! These are two separate issues.
Do we have a problem? Yes, no? Do we want to acknowledge that we have a problem? Do we then want to address this problem? If all the answers are no, then we have no problems and Rip Van Winkle can go back to sleep for another 50 years. We can continue to plan for the big 50 year celebrations and party.
Some say the best solution to a nasty problem is to look the other way. Don’t talk about it, don’t do anything is the best.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ex NUS prof resume fraud

In the ST today, former asst professor of NUS ‘who landed a prestigious position at a United States university is now at the centre of a sensational fraud investigation’. Anoop Shankar’s resume includes ‘a doctorate in epidemiology, graduated from India’s top medical school when he was 21, was a member of the prestigious Royal College of Physicians and had been awarded a “genius” visa to America’.

I must say that was impressive. And more impressive, he was at the Duke NUS Graduate Medical School and his 3 papers with Associate Professor Koh Woon Puay must be so good that she had no reason to doubt his talent and is standing by the joint papers.

Now that this professor Anoop Shankar has lost all his positions in the US, maybe he can come back to this talentless island to resume his position here. When a person is good he is good. Just like when a person is good, without a degree doesn’t matter. Singapore has made a quantum leap forward by looking at real talent and performance and not about a piece of paper.

The Americans were not impressed and have regarded this as ‘among the most serious of its kind, has now also sparked scrutiny into the larger issue of fraud that goes unchecked at some institutes of higher education’.

Singapore has no such worry and has no need to go on a witch hunt. All the talents landed in Singapore are genuine talents with real certificates and degrees. Even got no degree never mind, can be promoted also if they are found to be good. And best if they can impress their fellow professors that they are really good.
Shall Singapore extend another welcome to this “genius? Give him a pink IC and we will have a good catch, another talented new citizen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

In praise of non grads – What’s the agenda?

University degrees not necessary have been trumped around for a while with ministers talking about better prospects as hawkers and crane drivers and being more desirable. What’s the point of a degree when you cannot eat it or cannot get a job? After what was spoken at the NDR, the praising for non uni grads, particularly poly grads, took on more steam. It is like everything about university education is wrong and the future is in poly grads and non grads. There is no doubt that poly grads have an important role in the economy and some could do very well. They were the stars during the semi conductor era when Singapore was a manufacturing hub and many rose to become CEOs of multinationals.

Things have changed, jobs have changed, the employers have changed, govt policies have changed, and the new animal, foreigners, have dominated the employment scene as employers, recruitment agents and as the preferred sources of talents. We have seen many PMEs being booted out of their jobs in their primes and unable to find another job as the foreigners took over. Our local university grads are found to be either dumb, not smart enough or trained to unemployment or with unsuitable marketable skills.

And we have something like 6 universities and more joint universities instead of just the Singapore University and NTU. This could be just one of the reasons, over production of graduates. Like Douglas Chua said in the ST forum, education policy needs a rethink, ‘it has either been overdone, resulting in an oversupply of graduates, or its current benefits are not as relevant to our open, pragmatic economy’. This is a most surprising statement from a forumer.

What the hell is going on? The govt does not know what it was doing and messing up education again? On one hand, so many universities were set up and on the other hand saying there is an oversupply and we don’t really need graduates from the universities but poly grads or non grads?

I can think of another reason. Since our local graduates are not marketable or employable, and our citizens are good only in technical and lower management jobs, and only foreigners are good and preferred for top jobs, yes, it is only pragmatic to cut down on university education. We don’t need so many local graduates and universities. We only need to import all the talents that we need. I think this is a good policy. We can then either close down a few of the universities and save some money and land. Or perhaps these universities can be turned strictly into commercial enterprises, be self funding and self sustaining, with the highly paid foreign lecturers and professors being paid by the fees from foreign students. The scaling back is good and natural. We would be self sufficient in having local hawkers too, not dependent on PRC hawkers. And we can go back to the days of SU and NTU to provide the few grads we need.

Do I make any sense? Are we really going to go the non uni road, to produce more non uni grads and be dependent on foreign uni grads for our top jobs, management jobs?

What do you think? What is the new education policy? What are the employment opportunities for our average local talents, the Ah Bengs, Ahmads and Aruns?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Singapore Institute of Technology - SIT

SIT is the 5th public university set up in Singapore. It conducts 3 degree courses in information and communications technology, infrastructure engineering and accountancy. It also offers 28 other courses in partnership with the University of Glasgow and British University of Newcastle.

Its total intake for this year is 1,700 students, 200 more than last year. The university is gaining popularity with its 8 mth to a year intensive internship programmes with the industries.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Meritocrazy in a decadent city state

They say a fish rots from the head. When that happens, the fish does not think anymore and soon the rot will spread through the entire fish. And because of a rotted brain, the stench of rot would not even be noticed. There is no sensory organ to detect the smell of a rotting fish.

The dearth of talents and skilled professionals in this prosperous city state does not stop at the banking and finance industry or the IT industry. It is pervasive and starting right from the top to the semi skilled worker’s level. The absence of intellect affects all levels of the citizenry that the city state is now a glittering shell of its former self. Every level of its people would have to be replaced as there is nothing good left in them, or have already been replaced.

Reading an article this morning in the ST on the hollowing of the academia is just too depressing. This is the seat of the intellect of the nation, the hotbed for the gestation of ideas and ideals by the best academic brains. The rot is just as pervasive but to some, is a good thing. Let me quote a few numbers. 18 out of 25 faculty members in the NUS Political Science department are foreigners, or only 7 are Singaporeans. At the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 38 are locals (not sure how many are Singaporeans, but you can guess that it will be very small when they have to resort to use the term locals instead of Singaporeans) out of 82 faculty staff. In the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, 12 are locals out of 29 faculty staff. At NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, 21 of the 48 faculty are Singaporeans. Here they feel comfortable enough to say 21 are Singaporeans.

This sad state of affair is not missed by some of the Singaporean thinkers and academics. Some have raised their grievances to the ministers. Seah Kian Peng found this worrying and brought the matter up in parliament and ‘highlighted the fact that that fewer than half of the faculty in political science, communication and public policy – which he described as “some of the most important and context sensitive fields of endeavour in any country” – are Singaporeans.’ NMP Eugene Tan of SMU had raised the same issue six times in Parliament since 2002. Obviously nothing has been done or no action was taken, and the problem continues to grow. Is it a problem, or is it something desirable, planned by the establishment and so no action needed?

According to reporter Andrea Ong, the seed of this transformation or hollowing out in the academia seemed to have started in 1996 when, ‘then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong challenged the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University to build “the Boston of the East” and be dubbed the “Harvard and MIT of Asia”. The two universities could achieve this by drawing in “the best and brightest” from Asia and around the world, he said.’

Though Chok Tong did not ask the universities to bring lock, stock and barrel from Harvard and MIT, ie buying and bringing all the academic staff here, and replacing all the dull Sinkie students with the best and brightest in the world, the people who executed this ‘dream team’ apparently went ahead to replace the Sinkie academics and students with foreigners. Buying an international football team to compete in the world cup is an isolated fetish craze that would go away with maturity and with minimum negative impact on the country, maybe a few billion dollar lesser, but to replace the seat of learning and the academia with foreign faculty staff and students are simply shallow. But till today, with the problem growing and no concrete steps taken to reverse the trend, it seems that the lunatics have won and are having a field day to transform our universities into the Harvard and MIT and Sin City becoming the Boston of the East.

Those who are still left with a little grey matter are shaking their heads at this silliness but no one is going to do anything about it. We will have our own Harvard and MIT soon, and the faculty staff will be from the real Harvard and MIT, and the students would not be children of daft Sinkies but the brightest and the best from the whole world. We are succeeding, surely and steadily.

Where would the Sinkies go? How would the Sinkies fit in?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Singapore students top the world in PISA

In a test conducted by Programme for International Students Assessment in 2012, Singapore students, and I repeat, Singapore students, beat the rest of the world to come up tops, not only in rote learning but also in creative thinking. Amazing isn’t it? 

After a decade of wearing the no talent tag, when they are deemed to be more stupid and useless than fake talents from the 3rd World, our students are world beaters. And those 3rd World countries where we drew our talents from were not even mentioned or appeared in the top rankings. Among those rated closer to Singapore are South Korea, Japan, Macau, HongKong, Shanghai, Taiwan, Canada, Australia and Finland. No wonder we are seeing the rise of Asia.

These students that topped the PISA test are likely to be strait A students for their O and A level examinations. And they are likely to be admitted to local universities and will also do very well. They will also be able to find employments quite easily and will be quickly promoted to middle management in the future.

But they will not be good enough to be at top management level. They will mostly be replaced by the fake talents from the 3rd World that they beat with hands down. Then they will add to the statistics of the unemployed or underemployed PMEs. And many will end up as their own bosses, driving taxis to pick up the foreign fake talents and hoping for some tips if they are lucky. If they are unlucky they will end up as punching bags to these foreign talents for their amusements.

Some of these who refused to accept their fate will try desperately to submit their resumes to the employment agencies operated by foreigners but would be told that they lacked the skill sets and experience needed for their clients. These foreign employment agencies would prefer to recruit their talents or fake talents from the 3rd World to fill up positions in this world class city.

One caveat, this is likely to be the picture if conditions remain like what it is now. Things may change in 10 or 20 years when all the free trade agreements are signed and foreigners flooded this city looking for jobs and our world beaters would count themselves lucky if they could even find employment in the first place.

Andreas Schleicher, Special Adviser to the OECD Secretary General on Education Policy and Deputy Director for Education and Skills has this to say, ‘It shows that today’s 15 year olds in Singapore are quick learners, highly inquisitive, able to solve unstructured problems in unfamiliar contexts and highly skilled in generating new insights by observing, exploring and interacting with complex situations.’ What he meant is that our students are not blind muggers but really talented and creative. But would those asses listen to him? I bet not. The asses will still be singing praise for foreign talents and recruiting fake talents and bring them in plane loads to replace these local talents in top jobs, middle jobs and eventually all jobs except taxi drivers.

Can these bright Singapore students look forward to a great career in the future? What do you think?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quality of university education going up

I posted this chart in Mar last year.


Universities fees were raised in concert last year. And they are doing it again this year, in concert again. Is there anything wrong when merchants acted together to raise prices, like the price of a cup of kopi in the kopitiams? My apologies, universities are not merchants.

This time they cited higher costs of talents, supplies and services and the expectations of students and the fee hikes are to defray these costs. So our students must be the best in the world by now with the frequent hikes to improve the quality of university education. Why are the employers still running to 3rd World countries to employ their talents and our graduates are found to lack the skills and talents needed? Or is it that the quality of our universities has always been sub par and we are still playing catching up with the 3rd World universities?

The fee hikes are in the region of 2.6% to 7.9% for NUS, 2.5% to 5% for NTU, 2% for SMU and 4% for SUTD. In monetary terms the increases range from $200, $850 and $1150 in NUS. The increase for PRs and international students will be higher. As an example, in SUTD, Singaporeans will pay 4% more while PRs 12% and international students by 16%. Polytechnic fees also go up with this hike.

Singaporeans are so lucky that the universities are upgrading their teaching quality every year with higher fees to buy better talents to teach them. At the rate it is going, all the top academic talents in the world will be bought by our universities and our graduates will be the best in the whole world that money can buy.

I only hope that this is true. I only hope that the employers stop rushing to 3rd World countries to employ their graduates and complain that our graduates are not good enough. I hope to see one or two of our local graduates be found fit to be the CEO of a local or foreign bank.

What to believe? You tell me lah.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The future is bright for Sinkies

Try reading the titles of the two articles below to get a grasp of the direction and the opportunities available for young Sinkies.

‘PM Lee assures young Singaporeans future is bright opportunities are plentiful –’ and ‘Singapore government looking to encourage young Singaporeans to become carpenters with training and “rebranding”’. 

This is no joking matter, serious. It was reported from as far as China and by and I quote, ‘The NTUC, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the Singapore Furniture Industries Council also jointly launched a 3.5 million dollar program to train 180 carpenters in the next two years. The funding will cover their training and salary subsidies for employers. They are also considering efforts to rebrand carpenters as creative craftsmen to woo the young people.’

With the launch of this scheme they might bring in Chinese carpenters, oops I mean creative craftsmen masters, to train our young in creative carpentry. And this is not the first time ministers are talking about retraining our young. Some have been encouraged to become hawkers and crane drivers. Some have been encouraged not to pursue a tertiary education.

I wonder who Lucas Film are recruiting if young Sinkies are not encouraged to do tertiary education or IT related staff but to be hawkers and carpenters. I am too used to call a carpenter a carpenter and still have difficulties calling them creative craftsmen. There may be a rebranding of our hawkers to something like Tropical Alfesco Chef. Sounds great right? Hope it will be attractive enough to lure our young into making hawking a career.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Singapore Maths in Latin America

A few years back we heard that our Maths teaching syllabus for primary schools were so good that some American schools have started to adopt it into their systems and were very happy with the results. Today it is reported that Latin American schools are also happily adopting our Maths syllabus in their schools in Chile, Columbia and Panama.

Are these countries so out of touch with the real world? At the rate things are going, Singapore will be adopting Indian School syllabus to replace our syllabus. The Indians are producing many bright finance professionals to head big MNC banks and even Singapore banks. Their engineers and IT professionals are also in demand in the West and also in Singapore. This must have a lot to do with the way they are teaching their Maths.

Knowing that Singapore will always rush to whichever country that is producing good results, the way the Indians are teaching their Maths must soon be receiving serious attentions. Somehow our syllabi are not producing the kind of results that we want and many of our graduates are not good enough for anything except to drive taxis. The Sinkies are even discouraged to pursue tertiary education and to spend their energy in highly lucrative professions like hawkers and crane drivers. No university degrees needed.

As change and changing teaching methodology and syllabus are the new constants in Singapore, do not be alarmed if someone would suggest switching to Indian Maths. Some academic has already sang great praises on India’s low cost engineering. This may be introduced sooner in the university than Indian Maths to our schools.

Singapore is progressing rapidly from 1st World to Out of this World. Today India is in vogue and Indians are in great demand in Singapore. India used to mesmerize the Europeans with its mystics. Today is it mesmerizing Singapore in everything. Singapore is investing in very big ways in India and it will be no surprise if Singapore becomes the Number One foreign investor in India. And there is the CECA as testimony to the great admiration we have for the quality of India’s graduates and professionals.

Monday, February 03, 2014

MOE thinking frugal

Front page news in the ST, ‘Funding cuts of top independent schools in Spore’. The MOE is cutting funds to the top 6 independent schools and on top of that it is telling them to moderate fund raising activities for campus upgrading. The schools have been told to switch classroom ventilation from air conditioners to fans.

This is definitely a costing cutting measure. The question is why? Not enough funds or curbing on excessive expenditure on perks and luxuries? Many parents see this as a good move, to stop schools from going wild with money and what money can buy for comfort and the non essentials.

While the MOE is cutting such funding, presumably to curb waste, hopefully the savings would not be diverted to provide more scholarships and assistance to foreign students here. And hopefully there will also be substantive cuts on funding for foreign students and divert the money saved to assist the children of citizens. I said children of citizens, not children of locals. Must make this doubly clear.

So, what’s up MOE?

PS. I must acknowledge that we have the finest and most modern infrastructure for our schools. Not very sure about the software, which so far has proven to be quite shitty as we are producing duds that cannot compete with 3rd World talents who comfortably came here to replace our local talents from our education system in top jobs. What kind of shit is happening? Don’t ask me for answers.