Wednesday, June 14, 2017

QS ranking downright shady and unethical

Would anyone not under the influence of drugs believe that NUS and NTU are better universities than Princeton, Cornell or Yale? Well, some Singaporeans are gloating over this great achievement by the two local universities, no ill intent in my statement as one is my alma mater. I should be proud that my alma mater is better than top Ivy League universities in the US. Soon many top American universities would be asking for joint NUS degrees to boost up their reputation instead of Singapore begging to host joint Singapore American university degrees here.

 
Some of the Singaporeans that were so impressed with the rankings are the uninformed or ill informed uncles in the kopitiams and aunties in the wet market. I heard them chirping about it with great excitement, and I can understand, given their exposure and lack of understanding on the QS criteria for judging.


Ok, maybe on face value, maybe the top American universities are living on their past glories while NUS and NTU are what they are today by today's standard. The good American universities were good in the past but no longer. Time has changed. For the well informed, the comments are different and some are outright cynical of the outcome with good reasons. Below are some comments taken from the onlinecitizen.


'On Thursday (8 June), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) was named Asia’s top university in the 2018 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, surpassing the National University of Singapore (NUS).

 
NTU is also ranked 11th in the world, ranking above other notable institutions such as Princeton University, Cornell University and Yale University, and two positions above its previous 13th spot.

 
Below is a response written by John Ouserhout on question-and-answer site, Quora on the question of "How accurate are the 2018 QS rankings? They seem to rank Nanyang Tech higher than Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and Berkeley."

 

Ouserhout's response in full

First impressions suggest it is almost laughably inaccurate. UC Berkeley at #27? This is the same university that is affiliated with 91 Nobel Laureates, 13 Fields Medals, 23 Turing Awards and 16 elements of the Periodic Table. The rest of the ranking seems similarly strange as well; NUS and NTU ranked right alongside or higher than Princeton, Cornell, Yale, Columbia and Johns Hopkins?

 
(Haha, this Ouserhout does not know of the many great Nobel laureates hiding in the Singapore universities or akan datang, ie coming soon, going to happen).

 
Is it just my Anglo-American bias speaking? I know these universities have made rapid strides in funding and encouraging cutting edge research, so perhaps it’s inevitable that they’ve caught up and surpassed the more well known Ivy League universities. That is obviously partly the case, but after digging around for a bit, there seems to be a whole host of articles about the flawed methodology and downright shady practices of the QS organisation.

 
Some of the flaw methodology include counting more foreign students and faculty as good without any relations to academic merits. More foreigners mean more points. How silly.

 
And 50% of the points come from surveys from Academics and Employers. Look, there are hundreds of good American universities and only 2 or 3 good Singapore universities. In the latter, all the scores would go to these 2 or 3 universities while in the US the scores would be thinly spread. See the flaw? Which university would the Employers hired from? In the US they could hire from hundreds of universities but only 2/3 in Singapore.

 
Ouserhout went on with many other flaws in the methodology. Below are a few more.

 
Secondly, QS’s business model is really shady:

  • A dubious Star ranking system, where universities pay to be evaluated. (Conflicts of interest anyone?)
  • ‘Branding Opportunities’ for $80,000 with QS Showcase
  • A highly lucrative ‘consultancy service’ to help universities rise up the rankings

In short, ranking systems might have their flaws, but this one is downright shady and unethical.

No need to say anything more, just let the daft to gloat over this mirage as a badge of honour.  I don’t blame the uncles in the kopitiams or the aunties in the wet market. I understand where they are coming from. Would any reputable academics bother to question the allegation by Ouserhout that the ranking system 'is downright shady and unethical'?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

4 JCs to be merged, ie disappeared, redundant

Many people are aghast at the merging of 4 JCs all of a sudden. Many are still in a state of shock with mouths still unable to close, jaws locked, muscle cramped. How could this kind of things happen in this so well planned little city when every piece of stone, every single plant is carefully planted after very well conceived thoughts by our very able and proactive govt that is always looking ahead for problems? 

To make things more bizarre is the opening of Enoia (not sure if I get the spelling right) JC just a year ago and now closed shop. Anyone worry about the money wasted? We are not talking of closing of one JC but 4 JCs. Did anyone see this coming? Why, suddenly Rip Van Winkle woke up and found that there is not enough enrolment for JC classes and 4 JCs are redundant, with excess capacity that may turn out to look like ghost colleges, JCs without students?

When the MOE was split to be helmed by two full ministers, everyone would not be wrong to think that this education job is expanding, growing so big and one minister would not be able to cope with the workload. How is this closing of 4 JCs related to the need for two ministers in MOE? If there are not enough students for JCs, would it also mean that more secondary and primary schools would also be facing the same problem and more would also have to be closed or merged? Read somewhere that 28 secondary schools would also be merged.

What happened to all the students that are supposed to fill up the JC places and also the primary and secondary schools? They did not build all these schools without planning, without knowing how many students are coming on board. Did the students disappear overnight like MH370? How can, the Population Dept and MOE must have been tracking the numbers and know exactly how many students were there and how many schools and JCs would be needed. Why like dat one?

I thought about this problem very seriously and came out with a few possible answers. I am not going to blame on twits that could not plan or did not know what was happening and how many students were there that need to go to school but the twits did not know. My first thought is that the thousands of scholarships to foreign students, paid by our tax payers in the billions, must have been frozen. This could be a possibility and could explain why suddenly there is no student or not enough students overnight. Overseas students can come in or not come in like turning on/off a tap.

Another possible answer, many are going to India to have their education to make sure that they could get a decent job here after graduating from the Indian universities. Why not, all the talents here are from India and Indian universities, the professionals, the academics, the IT experts and what nots, are all from India. Their education system is world best, proven and endorsed by Singapore. So many students must have jumped ship and enrolled in Indian JCs and subsequently planning to go on to Indian universities.

Another possible reason, many may have taken the advice of our ministers that there is no need for a good degree that cannot be eaten. What is the point of a degree when one aspires to be a taxi driver or a hawker? So the parents and students are now wiser and stopped enrolling into JCs here and waste precious money or forcing their parents to sell their homes to finance their education abroad.

Maybe there are other reasons for the sudden disappearance of JC students, but these are the dumb reasons that I am able to think of for this fiasco or shall I call it miracle, another planned miracle that is uniquely Singapore? Is it so difficult to know how many students are out there that need places in schools and JCs? Would big data help?

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

97 marks out of 100 not good enough

A student scoring 97/100 for Chinese is considered not good enough, not qualified to take Higher Chinese? This was what happened in St Hilda Primary School.  Remember the media report, 99% passed O level with 1 pass?

Let me quote a few paragraphs posted in an article in the statestimesreview.

Speaking in Parliament today (Feb 6) representing the Ministry of Education, PAP MP Low Yen Ling defended a primary school that deemed students scoring 97/100 for Chinese language not qualified enough for Higher Chinese.

“We acknowledge St. Hilda’s good intentions in making sure students who want to take Higher Chinese are well-suited and also ready to take on the subject because it also entails extra curricular time and a heavier study load for the child.”

...Some of the students scored a near-perfect score of 97 out of 100 marks for the Chinese language but were still rejected nonetheless.

However, the primary school succumbed to public criticisms and opened an additional class to accommodate students who wish to take up Higher Chinese. PAP MP Low Yen Ling confirmed the knee-jerk reaction in Parliament:”

Why 97 marks not good enough? Then what is good enough? 100 marks? If 97 marks are not good enough, I think anyone getting 97 marks will get a A*,  what are the implications on the marking system? Are they saying that A* are not really good enough when everyone has the impression that A* is like distinction? How are the teachers going to tell parents that their children with 97 marks are NOT GOOD enough? How are the children going to face their parents and how are parents going to receive this ‘bad’ news, that their children scoring 97 marks, good enough for a celebration to most parents but really not good enough?

If all the students scoring 97 marks in their subjects are not good enough, what about those scoring 70 marks, 50 marks? Is this a way to tell the parents and children that the 97 marks are a farce, that the grading system is a farce? How on earth could anyone tell a child that 97 marks are not good enough?

What is going on? Is this an indication of something not very right in our education system or in the grading system? Is this the reason why our Singaporean graduates with their straight As are not wanted, not really good, not good enough because.....?

Is there something seriously wrong being revealed unintentionally by this case? What is the truth? Is this the reason why third world students and their funny grades are preferred to be better than the grades obtained in our supposedly world class schools and education system? Is this the reason why third world degrees are better than our degrees? The implications are very serious.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

NUS ranks the top 4th in the world

This is posted in the statestimesreview, ‘Singapore’s government university, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been ranked by Times Higher Education at fourth position for having the most international presence in the world. Ranked by anonymous “international scholars”, the survey ranked NUS by the number of international students it accepts, international staffs it hires and international publications made. It is understood that NUS’s rule of reserving a minimum of 20% of its places for foreigners as a major factor behind the survey’s strong standing.’

Is this something to be excited about, something to be proud of, something silly to be craving for? More foreign students means lesser places for our children and more parents have to empty their saving banks or sell their homes to send their children overseas. More foreign staff means lesser Singaporeans are employed and in the long run the emptying of Singaporeans in the academia. Are these good for Singapore and Singaporeans?

Why is the govt spending so much money on foreign students, many on scholarship and big money to pay the foreign academic staff? Is public money being applied responsibly and in the best and efficient way to benefit Singaporeans? Is Singapore turning itself into a Santa Claus to foreign students and foreign academic staff?

What is more important, educating our own students, ensuring that Singaporeans become eminent academics or feeding the foreigners and educating the foreigners?

In a modern cosmopolitan city in the 21st Century when transportation and communication are so convenient, is there a need to have so many foreigners here just to expose our students to foreigners as if they are living in little remote villages and never seen or knew a foreigner before? So there is this compulsion to bring foreigners here to integrate will our hillbillies or kampong kids or they will become ignorant of foreigners and their cultures and thinking?

What should be the priority for spending taxpayers’ money?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Honest dishonesty at work

I saw this runner on the TV screen. ’99.9% O level students passed at least one subject’. Wow, what a great achievement. Our education system or the teachers have done well, very well. Or is it the students have done exceptionally well? 99.9%  passed! Wait a minute, passed at least one subject? What does this mean? Passed one subject also passed? I have left school for so long and I know that in my time passing one subject is as good to repeat in Sec 4. Passing 3 subjects also considered failed in my time. You need to pass at least 4 or 5 subjects and with some decent grades to pass and get a Grade 3. Now passed one subject can already, passed?

I am out of touch. Is this the reason why the employers have no faith in our education system when passing one subject is considered passed and something to rejoice, to shout about? What is the truth? Would the student with one or two passes go home and announce to papa and mama, ‘I passed, one subject’ and get rewarded?

The statement is very honest or very dishonest or honest dishonest? Ok, there was another banner that stated something like 84.3% passed at least 5 subjects. Though we must not embarrass or discourage those that did not do well, but we must be honest with them, that one pass does not qualify to pass the whole examination. Or maybe nowadays there is no such thing as pass or fail an examination. Just count the number of passes good enough. What a merry world of semantics and make beliefs. Yes, say the right things and hear the good stuff.