Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fee hikes in pre schools and also hikes for non citizens in schools

The cost of pre schools will go up next year in the two top preschools, the NTUC My First Skool and PAP Community Foundation or PCF. The hikes range from $28 in PCF and $34 in My First Skool for childcare and $14 and $48 for infant care respectively.  However, the upper limits of $720 and $1275 for pre school and childcare will still be in force. Industry average fees for the two categories of care are $900 and $1343 per month.

School fees for Singaporeans will remain unchanged but PRs and non citizens would have to pay more as the govt step up effort to differentiate citizens from PRs and foreigners.  Singapore citizens will pay $5 and $6 per month for primary and secondary school fees.

Children of PRs and non citizens will pay $550  per month for primary education and $800 for secondary education on top of a miscellaneous fee at $6.50 for primary, $10.00 for secondary and $13.50 for pre university students.

The school fees for govt schools are still very low compared to private international schools that charged between $25,000 to $40,000 annually.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why build universities?

Yes, why would govt and people build universities? To ask this question here is already a sign of strong misgivings and a sense of despair. It is so pathetic to have to ask such a question, but it must be asked. Would anyone expect me to list down the reasons here why govt and people built universities? Anyone who can read and understand this question would be most able to provide himself all the answers to it. The reasons for building a university are so fundamental and so basic that there should not be any need to raise it again. The very fact that it has to be raised is proof that something is seriously wrong with the universities and the important role and purpose for their existence.

If anyone still demands an answer, pay a visit to the Chinese High School in Bukit Timah. Read the carvings inscribed in stones at the entrance of the main building. Yes, they were set in stones like the Ten Commandments as if the pioneers knew that people down the ages would forget the purpose of building the school. The very reasons for building the Chinese High School are the same reasons why universities were built.

In 1958, hundreds of thousands of people marched to Jurong to witness the opening of Nantah, 南洋大学. Millionaires like Tan Lark Sye, 陈六使, donated $5m to build the university. This princely sum could be the equivalent of $5b today in purchasing power. The Chinese community, from the rich towkays to the dance hostesses and rickshaw pullers also answered the call for donation for the university. Why would every one of them think it important enough to want to contribute to this cause, to build a university?

The reasons for building Nantah were not different from the reasons to build the University of Singapore and the renamed Nanyang Technological University. There are now many new universities, many built for commercial reasons and did not share the common altruistic goals of Nantah and the University of Singapore, now NTU and NUS. The commercial universities can be excused for doing things differently as their purposes are slightly different with money making a key objective. The purpose of building universities like NUS and NTU may have changed to some degrees, but the fundamental and basic reasons for their reasons must not changed.

Have they changed? Some may be thinking that the universities existence is to be ranked highly by farcical ranking organizations and to gain frivolous honours for being ranked among the best. Is this the reason for the building of universities?

Again I would ask, what is the purpose of building universities? Have our universities lost their direction and purpose of existence? Universities are not like F1 or Garden by the Bay, some feel good stuff for the rich to have a little fun and fake importance. They have very important roles to play in the lives of the people and the well being of the country.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

NUS ranked 94th, NTU unranked in Reuters ranking of universities

The timing of this ranking by Reuters cannot come at a better time when some were drunk by the QS rankings believing that NUS and NTU were really top universities in the world. And Times Higher Education ranked NUS at 25th and NTU at 61st.  On the other hand the Academic Ranking of World Universities put NUS at 101 – 150 band and NTU at the 151 - 200 band. The differences in rankings were due to the factors used.

I would believe if there is a ranking based on gaming ranking systems, our universities would surely be ranked 1st and 2nd or some where up there at the very top. If the ranking is based on having the most modern infrastructure and modern equipment and facilities, NUS and NTU would rank ahead of the best in the UK and USA. The same too if the ranking is based on having the most foreign academic and administration staff in a local university.

But if the rankings would to be based on skill sets of graduates and employability of graduates, and the ability to produce top quality finance and banking professionals, NUS and NTU would rank somewhere in the 500s or 1000s. Hundreds of universities in India, China and the Philippines and other 3rd World universities would rank higher than NUS as their graduates are much sort after here with the right skill sets for employment. Maybe some degree mills would also rank higher as their graduates are also accepted without checking by some organizations, and probably with NUS and NTU graduates working under them and reporting to them. I said, probably, as I have no data to support this. Please feel free to disagree.

So what is so good about rankings? One thing, if there is a lack of substance, go for the superficial. As long as it looks good, sounds good, it is worth the money spent, event at the expense of getting rid of Singaporean academic core and sacrificing places that should go to our children but go to foreigners.

What do you think?

Friday, September 18, 2015

University rankings good but not the key objectives

Hsien Loong said this at the Nanyang Technology Institute’s reunion dinner, ‘The key performance indicators (KPIs) of universities in the Republic should not be about how high their rankings are, but how well they serve Singapore.’ This is like what is so good about high rankings if they did not serve the interest of Singapore and its people? And what are these interests, jobs, skill sets, building a Singaporean core in all fields and industries.

What if high rankings lead to a hollowing of the quality pool of Singaporean academics and university students? What is the point to providing so many good paying employments to foreigners at the expense of Singaporeans, of providing good university places to foreigners instead of to our children? A good comparison is the ranking of our media by foreigners. Never mind if we are ranked 146, a few notches from the bottom, if the media are serving national interests, the good of people and country.

He then reiterated the importance of university KPIs as: "Rather, the KPI should be how well the universities serve Singapore. Whether they are academically and intellectually rigorous and vibrant, yet develop an authentic Singaporean character. Whether they give Singaporeans a good education, not just academically but holistically, building skill sets relevant to the economy so that people can get good jobs and fulfil their aspirations….’

It is sad that the Prime Minister had to say this to remind our supposedly very intelligent academics in the academia not to waste money on superficial rankings, on providing good jobs to foreigners and hollowing our academic talent and resources. Isn’t this a crime against the people? Using public funds to feed foreigners and replacing our own academics in the universities? Get your priorities right!

Would Tharman stand up and say ‘Cheap, we have no local talents in the universities and we need 30 years to get it right again like not Singaporean bankers and finance talents?’ Shit, I shouldn’t use the word ‘local’. It should be ‘Singaporeans’ and not meant to include PRs. We need to grow our own timber if we are going to survive as a people who called ourselves Singaporeans and this island home. If not, yes, we would be just a hotel for foreigners and we become the prostitutes servicing them and saying thank you to them for patronising us, and we pay them for it.

Is this not what Hsien Loong meant when he said, and I quote: “(While) at the same time, imbuing in students and alumni a sense of loyalty and belonging to Singapore, a sense of purpose in their lives, so that people are rooted here - with networks, friends and family - and want to give back to Singapore." You don’t expect foreigners to sink roots here and be one of us, to give back to Singapore when they are here for the good time and waiting to make their pile to return home. A few foreigners would be good, but we can’t expect too many to stay, and it is also no good if we have to depend on foreign talents to stay. This is an easy way out to increase our talent pool but would discourage the growing of our own talents. And what is there then for our own people if this is the case?

Don’t give me that globalisation and borderless shit. Treason is the word for these naive terminologies. The quitters and nomads like to use them to rubbish the citizen’s right in their own countries.  If not careful, and still blindly going down the road of bringing in more foreigners, one day the daft Sinkies would be like the refugees marching to Europe, people without a place called home, kicked out from their countries they once called home.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NUS and NTU better than Yale and Cornell Universities

According to the latest Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, NUS and NTU ranked above Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and King’s College of London. NUS is not only the top university in Asia but ranked 12th in the world.  NTU is ranked 13th.  What a great achievement! Beida, Xinhua, Tokyo, Waseda, Hongkong, move aside. We have the best universities in the whole world. There is no need to go to the US or UK to get quality education. No need to waste money going to lowly ranked universities in Australia and the rest of the world.  That is, if you believe the ranking equates to quality of universities and quality of its output, ie students.

The criteria for the rankings are academic and employer reputations, student to faculty ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio and also research excellence. How would these criteria affect or benefit the students? Academic and employer reputations, presumably the graduates are highly sough after by employers. Is that so? We only know that our junks did not have the right skill sets and are often rejected by employers that preferred to hire from the 3rd World unranked universities. Fake degrees and degree mills also better, or can do.

Student to faculty ratio, presumably a smaller ratio would mean closer and personal attention on the students and can be translated to better grades. Enrol Ah Meng and check if better student to faculty ratio would make Ah Meng smarter. Citations per faculty and research excellence would mean better academics and thus benefit the students and their quality. Use the Ah Meng to confirm if this is also true. International faculty ratio and international student ratio, both imply that with more foreign faces, the universities are better. So just pump in more 3rd world lecturers and students also can. How would these improve the quality of the graduates, more international friends, can relate and socialize with foreigners better, easier to integrate with them? EQ is important, what about grades?

What the rankings said is that we are world best. When we were not world best, we need to borrow international names, pay them, bring the whole faculties here, to say we have world best universities. Now we can do the reverse, the universities of the world would want to have joint campuses with us, bring our whole faculties to their countries and pay them good rupiahs, rupees and renminbis. Maybe can get Japanese Yen also.  There will be many joint campuses in other countries with the NUS/NTU brand and our lecturers would be in demand. We can send all our foreign lecturers to these countries and hire more foreign lecturers to replace them. What about Singaporean lecturers? What is that?

My recommendation, there is no need to send our students to the universities. The employers would still not hire them. Maybe in 30 years time. So a better recommendation would be to send them to the unranked universities in the 3rd World. That is where the employers find all their good employees. Not in our world class top universities.

Why so funny? Paying for such good reputation but no market value, no demand. If the high rankings would lead to a situation where the employers are queuing up to snatch all the graduates from our top universities then it would make sense. To be real, to be able to get employed, it is better to go to universities in the 3rd World and sign up with employment agencies from the 3rd World given a licence to operate here. They are the game changer. They will get the applicants the right jobs, not the piece of paper from our top universities. They still cannot produce the right graduates with the right skill sets for the job market.

Maybe the Quacquarelli Symonds System may want to add a new criteria, the universities must produce graduates with the right skill sets for the job market. If their graduates are not wanted by the employers, did not have the right skill sets, give them a big F.

What do you think? Are we wasting public money for the wrong things, for a superficial branding without substance?

PS. Watch MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, we are going to over take you. We will bring in more foreign faculty staff and foreign students to improve our rankings further. And watch out students, the fees will increase with the improvement in quality, I mean rankings.