The Tempinis diaries

December 20, 2007

Hostels for Asean Scholars

Filed under: education — Tags: , — toru @ 8:32 am

Bobby Ong has a pretty informative post on hostels for Asean scholars here.

November 2, 2007

Twinning degrees vs. Singaporean Universities

Filed under: studying in Singapore — Tags: — toru @ 1:54 pm

This is a continuation of my blog posts on studying in Singapore that can be found at the following links and

I have noticed in recent years how fewer and fewer Malaysians come to Singapore to further their education.  In fact, I am told that the largest group of foreign students in tertiary institutions in Singapore are now from China and not from Malaysia.  This was initially quite surprising to me.  The reason why fewer and fewer Malaysians come to Singapore these days is a combination of several factors.  The first is costs.  As the Singapore dollar has strengthened over the years as compared to the Ringgit, it has become more expensive to study in Singapore.  However, in terms of value for money, I still do think that Singapore is an excellent choice.  I have talked in my previous blog posts about how one can get tuition fee loans and work in Singapore as a student.

I speculate that the other major reason for the dwindling Malaysian students in Singapore is the abundance of twinning programmes in Malaysia.  My hunch is this: Malaysian students prefer to pursue such twinning programmes i.e. two years in a Malaysian private college and their final year abroad in a UK or Australian university.  Overall, this might work out to be a cheaper option as compared to Singapore.  In my opinion, I believe that this option while cheaper, works out to be a false economy.  Let me explain why.

Many of the universities that offer  twinning programmes in Malaysia are not exactly world-class institutions.  Tony and Kian Ming have done an excellent study here  and I will not rehearse the points that they have made.  While any exercise in the ranking of universities ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, one should note that rankings of NUS and NTU are usually way above these institutions.  If I am not mistaken, NUS is consistently ranked in the top 20 and NTU the top 50 universities in the world.  The question a student should ask himself or herself before embarking on an undergraduate degree is this:  how would my future employers view my degree?  While NUS/NTU/SMU is no Harvard or Oxbridge, I believe that more doors would open for a fresh NUS/NTU/SMU graduate than someone coming from a third tier English or Australian university.

 A couple of other factors also tilt the scales in favour of Singaporean universities.  If you study in a NUS and NTU (SMU has no campus because it is a city university), you get to enjoy a full campus life.  The facilities are far more superior than anything provided by Malaysian private colleges or third tier English/Australian universities (which are usually situated in very out of the way places and very poorly funded).   To me the clinching factor is this: once you get your degree, it is very difficult to get a work permit in England and Australia (things might be different in Scotland) unless you are very bright or very lucky.  Therefore, the possibility of working in those countries to get work experience is pretty slim.  In Singapore, the goverment wants you to work in the country.  You can get your work permit in a single day.  In fact, they will send Permanent Residency application papers to you before you graduate.  Therefore, you can stay on in this little island and chalk up valuable work experience.

Nothing I have said above is meant to disparage students who graduated from twinning programmes.  In fact, I started on one before I was accepted by a Singaporean university.  I always believe that if you are good you will always be good no matter which university you attend.  For example, my cousin who did a twinning degree with RMIT rose to the position of a regional manager of a MNC in Malaysia. 

October 28, 2007

Studying in Singapore

Filed under: studying in Singapore — Tags: — toru @ 6:44 am

This is a continuation of my previous blogpost on furthering one’s education in Singapore after SPM or STPM.  There are a lot of reasons why some students in Malaysia have a lot of hesitation in furthering their studies in Singapore.  In fact, I was quite apprehensive of coming to Singapore after my SPM as well.  After scoring quite well in SPM, I chose not to apply for the ASEAN Scholarship and did the STPM instead.  In retrospect, that was a big mistake.  Doing well in SPM is not a guarantee to doing well in STPM.  The standards between both exams are quite different and having good teachers mattered a lot.  In contrast, the teachers in Singapore’s Junior Colleges are , I am told, really good.  Anyway, here is a FAQ for those people who are considering on furthering their education in Singapore.  As usual, I would be happy to provide any assistance in the comments box below.


1.  I don’t want to study in Singapore because Singaporeans are kiasu.

This is the stereotypical perception of Singaporeans.  Yes – it is true there are a lot of Singaporeans who are kiasu and look down on Malaysians.  They would say things like, “Oh, are you fresh from Malaysia?”.  Statements like this make one feel like fish from the daily catch or refugees fresh off the boat.   But to say all Singaporeans are kiasu is unfair and a simplistic generalisation.  I have met many kind people here in Singapore.  In every country, there are nice people and annoying people.  The trick is not to let the annoying ones bring you down and to make friends with the nice people.  Anyway, after a few years, most Singaporeans cannot distinguish between Malaysians and Singaporeans. 

2. Singapore is a pressure cooker environment.

Again, this is somewhat true.  You are constantly surrounded by very bright and talented people in Singapore.  This might be a rude shock to Malaysian students at first.  We, who are used to being top of the heap in our little schools in Segamat or Petaling Jaya, will suddenly find ourselves relegated to the third or fourth class in school.  It’s like the big fish from the small pond who is now suddenly the small fish in the big pond.   For some students, this is a total shock that they can’t recover from. 

The way to deal with this is to have a sense of perspective.  The island’s talent is concentrated in a few schools.  On top of the pre-existing local talent, there are a lot of brilliant students from China and India as well.  So, don’t freak out if you are no longer the first boy or first girl in your class.  You are now out of your kampung and competing globally.  To do well you not only have to be better than your next door neighbour but that boy/girl from China or India.  But take heart too that you don’t have to be the very best.  The local universities are big enough to accommodate thousands of people.  And best of all they don’t have a quota system!  So if you take it all in perspective, you won’t feel so pressurised.

On reflection, I suspect the pressure cooker environment is worse in Malaysia.  In Malaysia to even stand a chance of getting into a good course, it’s 5 As or bust.  Of course, 5 As nowadays are also no guarantee.   I remember I was so stressed about getting good grades all the time during the two years of Form Six. 

3.  I want to study medicine/law/pharmacy and it is really difficult to get into these courses in Singapore. It is better to stay in Malaysia so that I can apply to both Malaysian and Singaporean universities.

I guess this is a valid reason.  It is pretty difficult to get into these courses in Singapore.  But certainly not impossible.  Many Malaysians have done it before.  Also, I believe that the medical, law and pharmacy faculties in Singapore are head and shoulders above their Malaysian counterparts.  And there is no guarantee that one would do well enough to get into the Malaysian universities for these courses.  Even 5 As students get sent to weird places and courses nowadays. 

 If you aim to do engineering/sciences, then definitely come to Singapore.   The engineering and science faculties in the local universities are huge and excellent.

4.  I want to stay in Malaysia to work.

You can always come back to Malaysia after university.  All the Singaporean government requires you to do (if you take the tuition fee grant) is to work in Singapore for three years for any (private or public) company.  It is the Singaporean government’s plan to retain talent in the country (sure beats the Malaysian’s governments policies of driving away non-Bumiputra talent).  Anyway, three years is a short time and you will get invaluable training in a country like Singapore.

5. Studying in Singapore is expensive

 See posting here.

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