The Tempinis diaries

March 9, 2009

The Downside About Studying in Singapore

Filed under: education — Tags: — toru @ 7:37 am

…the stress levels at the universities can become pretty intense.
Schools on alert for warning signs of strain

Their counsellorsand staff keep alookout for students with problems

Wednesday • March 4, 2009

Lin Yanqin

WHETHER :Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student David Hartanto Widjaja had felt weighed down by a glitch in his final-year project, or by the loss of his scholarship, his suicide after stabbing his: project supervisor had many abuzz about how stressed tertiary students here are — on occasion, to breaking point.

:As schools told :Today:, they have measures in place for students’ mental and emotional needs. These including counselling centres on campus, hotlines manned by students, and faculty members who look out for warning signs.:

March 7, 2009

The Language March: Opportunistic and Populist Move

Filed under: education — Tags: , , — toru @ 1:49 pm

This saddens me a great deal. The language march is, in my view, an opportunistic and populist move which will ultimately hurt Malaysia. Like it or not, English is the international language of commerce. As Gordon Brown said, “Globalisation is not an option, it is a fact.”

Language march: Tear gas fired
Malaysiakini Team | Mar 7, 09 3:05pm
Police came down hard on some 8,000 people taking part in a protest march from Masjid Negara to Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.

MCPXThey cordoned off the road leading to the palace, firing rounds of tear gas at the crowd as they approached the palace.

September 6, 2008

Why Choose USM over UM?

On further research and reflection, I am coming round to the view that the conferral of apex status on USM over UM is a mistake. I did an ISI Web of Knowledge search this morning using the all databases section. This database search includes the highly respected Web of Science database which contains high impact scientific journals. Here are my findings when I typed in the following terms under the “address” field:

1. “University of Malaya” – results – 1,679 hits

2. “Malaya” – results –  7,076 hits

3. “University Sains Malaysia” – results – 160 hits

4. “sains malaysia” – results – 4,010 hits

5. “science malaysia” – results – 1 hit

6. “National University of Singapore” – results – 10,278 hits

7. “Singapore” – results –  79,679 hits

8. “Nanyang Technological University” – results – 1,586 hits

9. “Nanyang” – 20,032

Based on this very simple and primitive search, my impression is that USM is currently very far behind UM in terms of international reputation and publication record. In academia, the crude maxim of “publish or perish” still rings true. A university’s rankings and reputation is only as good as its publications and research. Based on the figures, USM still has a long way from catching up with UM, let alone placing in the top 100 universities in five years time.

I should add a qualification that I could be wrong, of course.  If USM’s “hits” were more recent than UM, then this could indicate an up and coming institution (USM) as compared to one resting on its laurels (UM).

Now the interesting question is whether Khaled Nordin and his Ministry of Higher Education do a proper analysis of these figures before conferring apex status to USM?

June 18, 2008

Why Foundation Programmes are Usually a Bad Decision

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 2:58 pm

A commentator of this post, Chiyee, asked me for my views about giving up his or her A-levels course to take up a foundation programme instead.  My view is that taking any kind of foundation programme is usually a bad idea.  Why do I say this?  First, foundation programmes are not recognised by most leading universities.  That means if you take a particular foundation programme, you are locked into that particular college and degree programme.  You can also kiss the chances of getting into top US, UK, Singapore universities goodbye since they do not recognise these programmes.  Also, most universities that offer foundation programmes are not exactly very good universities.  You can read Tony and Kian Ming’s post here.   Second, foundation programmes do not offer flexibility.  For example, if you take a foundation programme in business, it is highly unlikely that you can switch to engineering, medicine, law, science etc in university.  In contrast, if you take a combination of biology, maths and chemistry in A-levels or STPM, you can take any of these courses in university.

So the upshot is:  never ever take a foundation programme unless you are absolutely, 100 % positive that you want to take a particular course at a particular university.  But then again at 16 years old – how can you ever be sure of something like this?  It would be far wiser to take A-levels or STPM.


The postcript to this post is this: it doesn’t mean you will do badly if you take a foundation programme.  I am sure there are many people who have done these programmes, gone on to do well in university and have forged successful careers.  I just think that it is not as flexible as STPM or A-levels.

June 17, 2008

Foreign Students: Raising the Bar

Filed under: education, singapore, studying in Singapore — Tags: , , — toru @ 1:59 pm

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (“NTU”) recently won an Asian debating contest. The interesting thing is that the debaters from the winning NTU team were all Indian nationals. While there is the perennial debate raging in Singapore about the necessity of foreign talent in Singapore and how they marginalize the locals, the undeniable fact is that these foreign students in Singaporean universities do, in general, raise the bar and competition for local students.


They’re Asia’s best debaters

Loh Chee Kong
WITH three teams in the semi-finals this year, there was no better chance for a Singapore university to be crowned Asia’s king of varsity debate after an eight-year hiatus.

And so it proved, with a classic David versus Goliath battle no less: The team from Nanyang Technological University — comprising relatively inexperienced debaters — stunned seven-time regional champions, the Philippines’ Ateneo de Manila University, in the 4th Asian Universities Debating Championship (AUDC) two weeks ago.

Squad captain Madhav Janakiraman, 20, who was part of the three-member team in the finals, said: “We were quite nervous. We knew we were the underdogs. But we prepared very strategically, trying to assess what the other team’s weaknesses were and how to take them on.”


June 16, 2008

Studying in Taiwan

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:15 pm

An interesting story below on studying in Taiwan. This could be an option for students who have strong Chinese capabilities. It might be difficult to get a job back in Malaysia with a Taiwanese degree. But if a graduate has a strong technical degree such as Engineering, I don’t foresee much difficulty in getting a job in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong or Singapore.


Sunday April 15, 2007

Good place to network


Looking for a place where you can learn and grow at an affordable price? Check out Taiwan.

AS a student in Taiwan, one of the things that struck Teoh Seok Ai most was the openness of its society.

“I was surprised when I heard my classmates speak so openly about the political situation in Taiwan. I had not expected to see young people so passionate about politics in their country,” says Teoh, who studied psychology in the central part of Chia-yi County in Taiwan five years ago.

“They are not afraid to bring up an issue if they have valid reasons for doing so. It could be about anything, from accommodation to the university’s facilities or lecturers,” she adds.

The international students of Yuan Ze University in Taoyuan county seen here are among the 13,000 studying in Taiwan. – Pic courtesy of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia


NYU Opening a Campus in Abu Dhabi

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 2:07 am

Apart from education initiatives like Kaust in Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Education City, UAE seems to be also shaking up the Middle Eastern education sector in a big way.  NYU is opening a campus in Abu Dhabi.  See their website here.  If Malaysia doesn’t buck up, it is going to lag far behind these Middle Eastern countries.

June 13, 2008

A Recent Restatement of Singapore’s Education Policy

Filed under: education, singapore — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:18 pm

The new Education Minister, Ng Eng Hen, set out Singapore’s education policy in a speech recently. His full speech can be found here. I have excerpted the parts on Universities below. In a nutshell, it seems that Singapore’s plan is diversification of institutions, research collaboration with reputable foreign universities and developing extensive global exchange programmes for local undergraduate students. All very sound and sensible moves.

The Malaysian Education Ministry and Vice Chancellors of universities in Malaysia should study some of these initiatives carefully with a view to emulating them.



27We have three publicly funded local universities: the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU). NUS and NTU have established themselves as world-class research universities, ranked amongst the top 100 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings in 2007. SMU, though young, has quickly established a reputation for producing high-quality graduates who are confident, street-smart and articulate.

28To add value to their students, our universities must maintain high standards of admission and performance. They must also act as strategic engines for Singapore’s long term economic advancement. Thus, our universities have developed programmes to nurture and groom top talents.

29Take for example, NTU’s C N Yang Scholars Programme. This is an undergraduate programme designed for top science and engineering students. C N Yang Scholars are assigned faculty mentors who guide their entire academic programme. The programme provides a strong and broad foundation in the basics of science and mathematics, and empowers students to delve deeper into any discipline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to develop an interest in forefront research.

30There is also the University Scholars Programme (USP) in NUS. Graduates from this programme participate in interdisciplinary modules on a range of topics, from Human Relations and Ethics, and the Environment. Part of the programme involves student interaction with top universities around the world, such as Waseda University in Japan.


May 21, 2008

Tough Treatment for Malaysian Varsities

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:24 pm

For all the spilt ink on how to improve Malaysian universities, the initiatives that ought to be undertaken are quite obvious.  The challenge is whether there is the political will to implement these initiatives and whether the universities can find a good man or woman to carry out these moves firmly yet being sensitive to the local culture of the universities.  The story on NUS below presents an excellent case study for Malaysian universities.  Malaysians should get over their pride and learn from Singapore. 

Also, politicians should try not to interfere with the day to day running of universities.  They should appoint a good man or woman and leave him or her alone for a few years.   Ideally, a Vice Chancellor should stay for at least six years.  It takes 3 – 4 years for a batch of students to graduate.  For any initiatives to bear fruit, we have to be patient and let the Vice Chancellor do his or her work.  Shih Choon Fong of NUS stayed as the President for 8 years.

In summary, these initiatives are:

(a) abolish (or lessen) the quota system for recruitment of staff and student;

(b) make publications in international refereed journals the key performance indicator for staff;

(c) benchmark pay to publications and research output.  This will make it possible to pay younger research active staff more over their less productive colleagues;

(d) make the pay more competitive internationally with respect to research active staff;

(e) sign meaningful research collaboration and student exchange programmes with respected universities;

(f) hire internationally.  The best person should be recruited for the job regardless of race and nationality.  To do this, the pay has to be competitive internationally;

(g) hire faculty with strong PhDs.  Pre-existing staff should be sent to respected universities for their PhDs; and

(h) implement a tenure and professorial system whereby external referees from respected institutions would have a significant input on the quality of the research of the candidate.  The quality of research should be the determinative factor in awarding tenure or professorship.


How tough treatment made NUS one of best


May 23, 2005

THERE was a time at the National University of Singapore when the name Shih Choon Fong was bad news.


May 20, 2008

Why Rafiah Salim Should Stay

Kian Ming has a post in Education Malaysia re-iterating their (Tony and Kian Ming’s) position that Rafiah Salim should be removed as the VC of University of Malaya. I believe that this is a such a wrong and populist position that I feel compelled to reply.

First, Rafiah Salim has been reported to be implementing many sensible moves in improving the university. These steps include (a) making annual publications in two peer-reviewed journals a key performance index for lecturers; (b) consulting external dons in matters of promotion; and (c) the signing of student exchange agreements. Rome was not build overnight. Tony Pua is being completely unfair to blame Rafiah Salim for the continued decline of University of Malaya’s ranking. Rather than taking a knee-jerk reaction (e.g. recruiting graduate students from the Middle East to improve the foreign student ratio), Rafiah Salim seems to have the courage and wisdom of taking the bull by the horns in the unheadline grabbing task of trying to promote a research culture in the university.

Second, Khaled “Save Sufiah Yusof” Nordin’s move of extending Rafiah Salim’s contract by only six months puts her and the university in an invidious position. This effectively creates a ‘lame duck’ Vice Chancellor. Matters are on hold. Nothing will get done. See story below from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Third, Kian Ming’s gripe against Rafiah Salim’s qualifications is again unfair. It is true that she does not (save for an Honorary PhD) have a PhD. But you have to consider what discipline she is in and what generation she is from. Rafiah Salim is a lawyer and many lawyers in her generation even in Oxbridge do not have PhDs. In fact, in many US Law Schools where law is a postgraduate degree – PhDs are not a pre-requisite for faculty members. I am sure Kian Ming will agree with me that a PhD is not evidence of leadership abilities. I have met enough dumb people with PhDs to last me a life time. While a PhD is an absolute must for new faculty hires especially in science and the social sciences, Rafiah Salim should not be faulted for not having a PhD. As the Vice Chancellor she is an administrator whose most important quality is leadership ability. Thus far, I think she has shown remarkable leadership abilities. Also, Kian Ming’s comparison with the Harvard President is totally unwarranted. University of Malaya is not Harvard and will never be Harvard. To benchmark University of Malaya to Harvard is just so wrongheaded I do not even know where to begin.


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