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, . 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.