The Tempinis diaries

March 23, 2008

Engineering Courses in Singapore

Filed under: education, singapore — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:25 am

If you have excellent STPM results and you are contemplating a degree in engineering in Singapore, please do apply to the Engineering Faculty at NUS or College of Engineering at NTU.

March 21, 2008

Application Deadlines of Singapore Universities for STPM students

Filed under: education, singapore — Tags: , , , , — toru @ 9:26 am

The deadlines for applications to Singapore Universities are drawing close.  For STPM holders with good results, please put in an application.  You never know where UPU will send you e.g. some unknown university in Trengganu.  For an overview of studying in Singapore, you can read my post here.  

NUS is 28 March 2008.  Apply here

NTU is 31 March 2008

 SMU is 8 April 2008

March 16, 2008

The Problem of Top Students in Malaysia and Low Expectations

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , , , , — toru @ 6:42 am

 I always enjoy reading stories like the one below about bright young people doing well in exams.  What I don’t enjoy is the inevitable follow up story about the same bright young people being denied a place in the local varsities or a scholarship by the government due to the unfair NEP.  It breaks my heart but I am sure this year will be no different.

One thing that concerns me is the problem of low expectations among top students in Malaysia.  Often, students with excellent SPM or STPM results will be content with pursuing an engineering degree with UPM or Universiti Tenaga Malaysia or some unknown institution in Malaysia.  This leaves me extremely puzzled.  Why shortchange yourself?  For SPM students, I think some students want a short cut and an assured place in a university.  This to me is myopic and short-sighted.  True you are assured a place in the university but look at it this way:  you are stuck with a lousy degree for the rest of your life.  I have often said that a good degree doesn’t mean you will do well in life but a lousy degree may keep many doors shut at the beginning of your career.  Many international firms simply will not hire you if you come from an unknown institution.  So my advice to SPM students, do your A-Levels or STPM and don’t try to get into a third-rate university.  It is simply not worth it.  A case of the old adage: penny wise, pound foolish.  If your results are good, try the ASEAN scholarship.  In the meantime, try to improve your written and spoken English.

For top STPM students, please do apply to Singapore universities if you can afford it.  Why sell yourself short?  Singapore universities are head and shoulders above Malaysian universities.  Although I believe that any methodology on university rankings may be disputed, the difference in positions between Malaysian and Singapore universities are too stark to be ignored.  Also, if you are considering doing a twinning programme with a third rate overseas institution, do consider applying to Singapore universities.  You will have to fight very hard to get anywhere if you come from let’s say University of Central England.  Again, why sell yourself short just because you want an overseas experience?  You can get an overseas experience by going on exchange with a partner institution while you are studying in Singapore.

And to Nimisha who was mentioned in the article below:  apply to NUS.  Lin Hui – please apply to NUS, NTU or SMU.  I hope you get a scholarship to achieve your dreams.  But if not, I hope not to read about your sob story on how you are denied a university place or scholarship in the months to come.


18 who did it their way

KONG WAN YEE, the youngest of three girls, was brought up single-handedly by her mother, Yam Kee Tin. Her father had died when she was just seven months old.

On Tuesday, Wan Yee did mum proud by scoring 5As in her Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) examination.

Wan Yee (left) getting a congratulatory hug from her proud mum.

In addition to that, the former SMK Katholik, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, student emerged as one of the 18 top STPM scorers in the country.

At the results announcement ceremony held on Tuesday by the Malaysian Examinations Council in Kuala Lumpur, Wan Yee said: “I didn’t expect it. After some of my papers, I felt sad because I had made some careless mistakes.”

Wan Yee, who took General Paper, Mathematics T, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, had her own method of studying for each subject.

“For example, in Biology, I’d read a chapter once and then restructure the whole chapter to make it easier to study the next time around.

“For Maths and Physics, it was all about practice. Concepts are also very important in physics.”


March 2, 2008

NUS’ University Town

Filed under: education — Tags: , — toru @ 10:49 am
It seems that the facilities at NUS are set to be getting better with the Youth Olympics.  Sadly, I don’t think there are any major improvements in Malaysian universities.
University Town will give NUS students a ‘holistic experience’: PM Lee

Mr Lee, who was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of University Town, said he looks forward to students and staff living, learning, working and socialising under the same roof. — PHOTOS: NUS

The National University of Singapore’s University Town, a new development that boasts NUS’ first residential colleges, will offer students a ‘holistic and unique learning experience’ and create ‘an active intellectual community’.This, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is a step up from NUS’ current dormitory halls because the six residential colleges and two graduate residences will be organised for student learning ‘in an integrated and multi-disciplinary setting’.

Drawing a parallel with similar systems in world-renowned universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton and Yale, Mr Lee, who was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of University Town, said he looks forward to students and staff living, learning, working and socialising under the same roof.

With each college headed by a Master and supported by a team of faculty staff, he added: “Each college will have the flexibility to chart its future direction and evolve its own distinctive characteristics… They will offer opportunities for social, cultural and recreational activities to deliver a more rounded learning experience.”


Actuarial Science in Singapore universities

Filed under: education — Tags: , , — toru @ 9:03 am

For some strange reason, a lot of Malaysian students are interested in being an actuarial scientist.  I think that there is a rumour (since I was a student many years ago) going around that you can earn a lot of money being an actuarist.  

Anyway, Singapore universities do have programmes in actuarial science.    NUS’ joint programme with ANU is found here.  More information on NTU’s programme is found here.  SMU also offers a second major in actuarial science.  See here and here.  The Singapore Actuarist Society’s Resources website is found here.

This looks like an extremely quantitative programme.  So unless you are a maths whiz, you better not take this course.

November 11, 2007

THES University Rankings: Why am I not surprised?

Filed under: education — Tags: , , , — toru @ 6:55 am

The annual silly season is here!  The Times Higher Education Supplement Rankings has just been released.  Universities which moved up the rankings are gleefully trumpeting their positions and institutions which plummeted are in damage control mode.  Vice Chancellors and Presidents of universities ought to be mindful not to get carried away in gloating about their improved positions.  One who lives by rankings will eventually die by rankings.  Recall the ill fated UM Vice Chancellor of UM who proudly put up billboards all over campus when UM was ranked in the top 100 of the THES rankings only to see UM drop to oblivion in the following year’s rankings (see ). 

This year NUS dropped from 18 to 33 whereas Malaysian universities continued their nose dive (UM (246), UKM (289) and USM(307)).  While any rankings of universities ought to be taken with a huge pinch of salt (the rankings seem to be too UK centric), my own sense is that the rankings of the Singaporean and Malaysian universities are about right this time.  NUS was probably ranked too high in the past and its perfectly respectable position of 33 in the world seems to reflect its proper standing in the world.  The decline in rankings for Malaysian universities also accurately reflects the sorry state of higher education in Malaysia. I remember as an undergraduate and postgraduate student, I would hardly ever come across any articles published in international journals by Malaysian academics.  Those that I did stumble upon were usually quite poorly written.  Like it or not, universities nowadays are judged by their research output.  If a university is not producing internationally respected research work, it is inevitable that its reputation will suffer.

What then is the problem with Malaysian universities?  As I see it, the problem is both a systemic problem and a funding issue.  The systemic problem is that universities in Malaysia are not run in a meritocratic fashion both in terms of recruitment and promotion of faculty members and student admissions.  It is no secret in Malaysia that Bumiputras get preferential treatment as faculty members and admission as students.   In the long term, this model makes Malaysian universities uncompetitive internationally.  World class universities need to be run in a meritocratic fashion.  You need to hire and promote the best person for the job regardless of race and nationality and you need to admit the most qualified students.  Otherwise people will leave and the institution will suffer.  And they have.  Just take a look at NUS.  NUS hires the best person for the job regardless of nationality.  It was reported that 52 % of their faculty members are non-Singaporeans.  It is no wonder that NUS has progressed so far as compared to their Malaysian counterparts.  NUS taps into the global talent market whereas Malaysia is not even able to tap into the best of their local talent pool.

For a university to succeed, it is important to create an environment where the production of good quality research is valued.  You should have a system where you give out tenure and make people professors because they produce research that your university is proud of.  You should not promote people because of their race or the fact that they politic well or become deans or vice deans.  Research is hard work.  If people know they can get promoted by other means other than doing research, they will. Quite apart from the problem of not practising meritocracy, there are a lot of other systemic problems in Malaysian universities.  Malaysian universities have terrible infra-structure (old buildings / hostels / terrible accommodation for visiting staff etc) as compared to American and Singapore universities.  One should not underestimate the importance of these factors.  Take the point of providing proper accommodation for visiting staff.  If you have no respectable and comfortable premises for your visiting guests, who will want to come to your university to teach for a semester or two?  Such visiting guests are important.  Eminent visitors expose students to world class faculty members and they energise local faculty members.  One becomes better by working with someone who is a leader in the field.  Another example of the systemic problem which exists is that it is next to impossible to get a working permit for a foreign spouse in Malaysia.  How then does Malaysia expect to recruit international faculty members who have spouses who might want to work?  It is quite unreasonable to expect their spouses to just sit at home and take care of their kids.   

Apart from the systemic problem, there is also the funding issue.  I think the Vice Chancellor of UM is right in saying that UM cannot compete globally because it is too poorly funded (RM 400 million as opposed to NUS’ S$ 1.2 billion).  If a university is poorly funded, how can that university afford: (a) to buy the latest lab equipment; (b) to stock up on a good library;  and (c) to hire good people?  I am told that the starting pay for academics in Malaysia is quite paltry.  How then can Malaysian universities hire the top student in each cohort to become their faculty member?  And why would any internationally respected academic want to come to Malaysia to work for such paltry salary?  But I do agree with Tony and Kian Ming (see here ) that the solution does not lie in just throwing money at the universities.  If the systemic problem of not hiring the best person for the job is not resolved, money will not solve the problem.

Can anything be done to arrest the decline of Malaysian universities?  I really don’t know.  The Bumiputra system is so entrenched in the country that anytime one questions it, we will have some nut case waving a Kris at the UMNO general assembly screaming blue murder.  It seems that Malaysia has reached some sort of cross road on this issue.  One is to change.  Run the top universities in the country like UM and UKM on a purely meritocratic system.  Hire the best people for the job.  And recruit the best students for these universities.  Perhaps, the other universities can still continue to practice Bumiputra-ism but at least there will still be the hope of pockets of excellence in the country.  This is a bitter political pill to swallow.  But I believe that it is worth going down this route.  The decline of Malaysian universities will eventually hurt Bumiputras.  So what if you get more Bumiputras in UM or UKM, if all you get is a mediocre education that is not internationally competitive.  The second option is just to accept status quo.  Do nothing.  But accept that Malaysian universities will keep on going down.  And don’t act so surprised every year when the rankings come out.

I have to end this post with the following observation that I have made in previous posts.  Nothing I have said here is meant to disparage alumni or students of Malaysian universities.  As I have written before, if you are good it doesn’t really matter too much where you went to university (although it does help open quite a few doors at the beginning of your career). 

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