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?