Friday, July 13, 2018

Dialectics on Education – idealism versus pragmatism, reality versus aspiration

Many pages of the media, many efforts and valuable manhours, and many heads have been put together to untie the Gordian knot of the Singapore education system. The reason for the change, the wanting to change, comes not because the education is flaw, foul or ineffective, but because of stress factor, because of the complaints by parents that their children are unable to cope. What are the statistics on the complaints, type of complaints, relevant or irrelevant, real or just fear, are not given.
 

So a massive exercise has been taken, by the people that may not know much about education, by people that may not know much about what life and living is all about, by people who knows not but pretending or thinking they know a lot.
 

Here are some takeaways from the things said and printed in the media and the contradictions or fictions that have been generated. The most important point raised, and out of a sense of wanting to provide a child with an all round education, to be a knows all of everything but knowing nothing, is this, to develop a whole child, whatever that means. And the present wisdom, a future of uncertainties and it is better to develop a child that can cope with future changes. Let me quote Indranee, a lawyer, not an educationist, not a parent bringing up children. “We now put a lot more emphasis on developing the whole child – not just their academic achievements….The ability to learn, unlearn and relearn will be the key.” And this motherhood statement, ‘Book knowledge alone is not enough, and the change caused by technology and other disruptive factors means that learning, has to continue well into adult life.’
 

I have several questions. How many children require all round development? How many children needs to be educated in the arts and sciences to become a knows all? How useful is a child with a well rounded education that he can use all these knowledge in his job? How many children are capable, with the intellect, to acquire a full rounded education other than being superficial and ended up becoming a good for nothing? In the real world, when everyone needs to get a job to feed himself, other than the super rich, is a general all round education going to be more useful than a specific education with specific skills, but very narrow in nature?
 

Why are Singaporeans, especially the PMETs losing out in the job market, unemployable, because they did not have specific skills needed in the job market? Why are foreigners, who did not benefit from our super all round education, coming from very basic education system, are beating our super talented Singaporeans, with super grades, in the job market? Why are ministers saying that there is no need for university education, all one needs is a skill in demand?
 

Are there contradictions between idealism and reality, between aspirations and the hard truth in life? While talking about educating children to become more flexible and adaptable, would these compromise the children in acquiring specific skills in demand? Funny, if every child is going to become a superman that can do everything, a wholly developed person, are they not going to become one stereo typed, wholly developed person? Assuming of course every child is a genius by nature and could benefit from such a complex and varied education, and without stress.
 

I am not an educationist or expert in education. These are some of my thoughts as a layman, someone who has no deep knowledge about education and I do not pretend to know the answers to how a child should be educated to the best of his ability, his gifted or not gifted talent. A child is not the same as every other child, each with his own special talents and non talents. Should it not be to develop a child according to the best of his natural endowment and according to what society and the new world expects from him? Not what the parents want them to be?
 

It will be a different matter if every child is born a genius and a sports talent and is gifted to do and excel in everything.
 

From comments in Parliament and the direction they are pointing it appears that they are being mislead by a small group of noisy and vociferous parents dictating how the education should be like for their not too bright or even dull children to be admitted to the best schools, play and be happy, without any pressure, no need exams, learn more study less, and end up with super grades in the end. Such things can only happen in third world countries and degree mills.
 

The children come in all shapes and sizes and not everyone is a perfect circle. One way to push them through perfect circles is to enlarge the circles. But they would come out in their original shapes and sizes. The only method to turn odd shapes into perfect circles, or cast iron into steel is through the crucible of fire.
A buffet of schools
 

What Singapore needs is a tough minister to offer to the parents a buffet of schools, from happy schools to tough competitive schools, to specialized schools that would turn out children according to the demand of the schools and their specialization. Play schools would turn out playboys and playgirls. Rich parents can afford these playboys and playgirls as they grow up to party their whole lives without worries, without stress, without having to work for a day.
 

Those who want their children to be engineers, scientists, doctors, and the hard disciplines have no choice but to work for it. There is no other way to master these tough disciplines except through degree mills and pariah school systems in third world countries. Is that what we want?
 

Stop fooling around with our education system and the lives of our young. No pain no gain. Oops, maybe we have magicians in Parliament that could really produce an Einstein who is also a great artist, a great football player without having to work for it. Just pull him out from the hat and viola, you have your superman!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Singapore universities - Stop wasting funds and resources on dubious international rankings

"SINGAPORE: An international panel of academic experts and industry leaders has recommended that Singapore should develop a holistic evaluation framework for its universities instead of being fixated on international rankings.

The three-day International Academic Advisory Panel (IAAP), which started on Wednesday (Jun 27), was themed The Role of Universities in Defining Singapore’s Future....

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who attended the discussions, shared with the media on Friday that a new assessment model was needed, considering the differentiated university landscape in Singapore.
"At the minimum, it has to reflect our three major emphases. One, the value of education; two, how we are doing in terms of lifelong learning; and three, research, and not just research in terms of publications and patents but how it translates into impact - whether it's in improving lives or creating jobs.
"I think we need a much more holistic view of a very complex function that universities are now performing," he said...." Channel News Asia

After wasting so many years of resources and pubic funds to provide more jobs for foreigners and university places and scholarships to foreigners to score in controversial western designed ranking systems, it is high time that the unthinking be kicked in the butt and think about the fundamental reasons for university education. Our university should not, never, be a job provider for foreigners and neither should it be using public funds to educate other countries' young at the expense of our very own academics and the children of our citizens.

The craze for high rankings in dubious international ranking systems at best is to provide lucrative jobs to foreigners against our national interests in developing our very own academic talent.  We become job providers for the unemployed academics of other countries. We also provide university education to foreigners instead of our children. This is another way of selling out the country to foreigners.

Just take a look at the universities and see the number of foreign academics replacing our own academics and the number of foreign students on paid scholarship, taking the places that should go to our own children is disgusting.  This is a betrayal of our own people. Period.

So what if you are ranked highly when it does not benefit our own citizens, when the universities look like some foreign land, invaded, occupied and colonised by foreigners.

Monday, April 16, 2018

What went wrong with getting a degree in Singapore

“TODAY highlighted employment discrimination against private university graduates. Only 47.4 percent of the current batch of private university graduates secured full-time jobs six months after graduation, compared to 60.1 percent from the last batch.

Everybody knows the Big Three: National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University. There’re three newer ones–Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore Institute of Technology, Singapore University of Technology and Design–who enjoy the prestige of being placed under the ambit of the Ministry of Education. Being Singaporean and government-approved, their degrees are recognized everywhere you go in this tiny island.
 

Other schools — Kaplan, Singapore Institute of Management, PSB, INSEAD, James Cook University –don’t enjoy the same cachet. Some aren’t even known at all. But when the rest of your life is staring at you and all you see is a wasteland of bills and broken dreams, you pick the best option you can find and roll with it....
 

Reality kicked in soon after. I had just over twenty people in my classes at Kaplan. A grand total of two people, over two years, were job-seekers....
Eight Years of Silence
 

I’ve sent out dozens, hundreds of resumes. Every month, every week, every day, I applied for job after job after job, hoping that someone would notice. Until then, I crunched numbers and copied clauses, wrote story after story, and picked up whatever freelance job and short-term contract job I could find.
 

I did this for eight years.
 

In eight years, I received nothing.
 

Less than one percent of my applications made it to the interview stage. None of them went anywhere. The other ninety-nine-odd percent was greeted with silence....
The Singapore Dream is dead to me. But I’m not going to give up, and I will not surrender my own dream.”
 

Benjamin Cheah

Benjamin Cheah wrote the above in an article published in the TRE to highlight the plight of Singaporean graduates trying to get a job in Singapore, a little island that could provide 2m jobs to foreigners. He is warning Singaporeans not to anyhow apply to join a not fully recognised university or schools and waste time and money for a degree that would not land one a job.
 

What Benjamin forgot to explain is the ease in which the foreigners are able to get jobs in Singapore with funny degrees from schools or universities worse than those he listed above operating in Singapore. Other than the job market being under the control of foreigners, ie foreigner owned employment agencies, they could also decide who they want when they are employed in Singapore companies or organisations in management positions. The HR dept would be held at ransom when these foreigners insist on hiring only foreigners and rubbished all the Singaporean applicants. They just said Singaporeans are not good enough. Period.
 

Other than this abuse that has been going on without anyone daring to do something about it or talk about it, the other thing of course is to get the same kind of funny degrees like the foreigners to get employed in Singapore. But I am only joking. When the whole hiring process is controlled by foreigners and the daft in charge did not know what is happening or powerless to do otherwise, Singaporeans would not be able to get a job in his homeland. Foreigners are favoured and given more chances for employment under the nose of daft Singaporean management.
 

This is how pathetic Singaporeans have become, losing out to foreigners in their own country for employment unfairly, cheated. Can you believe that? They don’t even know that they are losing their country to the foreigners. The foreigners are taking over their country.
 

PS. Only the 'stupidity has no cure' people would allow a no condition open economy with legs open so wide for everyone to screw. Trump would not do that. The only time these 'stupidity has no cure' type would put up conditions and barriers is when their own interests are affected. Otherwise you die your business.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Singapore NTU to End a Decade of Shame?

Singapore NTU to End a Decade of Shame?
In 2008, an external, profit-making, foreign, non-academic organization adjudged and condemned NTU to pariah status, after she have nurtured thousands of Singaporeans (and non-Singaporeans) and transform them into top-class engineering, science, business, social science and other professional graduates in great demand by renowned global corporations, and who have decisively contributed to Singapore’s economic and social development journey from 3rd World to 1st World. 
To satisfy the World University Rankers’ preference for foreign students and faculty members, NTU embarked on a systematic purge of local Professors, never mind that many are tenured, have accomplished internationally, and have served the University with distinction, and denied admission to many qualified Singaporeans by increasing foreign students admission, and forcing those from better income families to seek admissions to, ironically, top Universities overseas.
Some laws are also possibly broken with regard to the constitutional protection of Singaporean Professors from age discrimination, but no one in authority really cares enough to intervene in the irrational, mindless and bloody frenzy of the cultural revolution which spares nothing for the sake of meeting the Criteria of what the United Nations’ UNESCO has already adjudged to be a Bogus Ranking Standard of Dubious Excellence, in order to obtain a Brand of Questionable Authenticity.
A few hundred Singaporean Professors were purged from 2007 to beyond 2010. And more than 6,500 Singaporean students, or about 1,700-1,900 annually, were denied NTU admission through an arbitrary cut-off point into various 3-year and 4-year Undergraduate Programs from 2009-2013 for their places to be allocated to preferred foreign students.
Finally by 2014, NTU was ranked as the Top Youngest University in the World by QS Ranker, and ranking just 39th Worldwide.  Indeed, what a “climb” from 77th in 2008!  By 2013, foreign students made up 28% of the total undergraduate population from just 5% less than a decade earlier.  By the end of the cultural revolutionary purge of Singaporean Professors and staff in 2010, NTU proudly announced that Singapore Professors, including new Singapore citizens, formed ONLY 44% of the faculty with 56% of NTU faculty being foreigners from 56 countries worldwide including Singapore Permanent Residents. Never mind the fact that most Universities in the World actually have a majority of local Professors, even in the top Universities.
Given the dodgy nature of World University Rankings and their questionable deliberate fabrication of unreliably unscientific methodologies, NTU victories to their top ranks are in essence as pyrrhic as winning a beauty contest; the mere appearance of uncertain meaningless quality.   Indeed, what a wasteful use of time, management and financial resources!
Never in the history of Singapore has so many Singaporeans been forced to become collateral sacrifices in return for nothing of any value to our nation or the world. 
We should stop participating in the essentially beauty contests of the fraudulent World Universities Rankings, so as to stop lending them our credibility by endorsing bogus standards of dubious quality excellence.
Come 2018, would NTU’s Decade of Shame end with a new NTU President?  In 2018, a new era must begin in Singapore Universities with Professor Subra Suresh as NTU President. The first step should be to cease reliance on and pursuit of a bogus standard of questionable excellence. We must return to authentic impact as the measure of excellence for our premier institutions of higher learning.

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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lim Swee Say – Job mismatch a serious problem

In an article in the Today paper on 11 Oct titled ‘Govt paints dire picture of mismatch between jobs and skills’, ‘…Lim Swee Say cautioned that the low jobs growth could persist and Singapore faces the prospect of rising unemployment if it does not minimize the job skills mismatch and strive for quality economic growth. With the number of locals seeking work far outstripping the number of jobs added by “many things” last year, Mr Lim stressed the need to “maximise the connectivity between job opportunities and job seekers.”’

What is the problem? Mismatch of job and job seekers? Why mismatch? Aren’t the job seekers the products of world best universities, top, top universities? Why got mismatch? Whose fault is it if top, top universities produced graduates that could not match the job opportunities in the market?

Why are the products from Indian universities got no problem with job mismatch? Should not the MPs raise this question in Parliament? Should not the MP recommend the closing down of our world best universities that are producing graduates that could not fit into the market, mismatch? Should not the MPs recommend that we send our young to be educated in Indian universities so that they would not be mismatched and be employable in our job market?

Who is at fault? Who is in charge and responsible for producing graduates that are needed in the market? No is one responsible? No one responsible for our world best university education with world best fees and ended up mismatched?

What is happening? Just shout job mismatch and no not my problem any more. Surely someone must answer to this fiasco. So much money wasted and so much time wasted and our young graduates at a lost, mismatch after spending all those years in the world’s best universities run by the best foreigners money can buy? Should someone be held responsible for ruining the lives of our young graduates, for ruining the hopes of their parents?