Friday, April 13, 2012

Singapore Lee ruling family's education system gets another beating

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You have heard of Singapore run by the Lee ruling family, trying to improve it's image by trying to attract the world's best university, Yale, to enter a joint venture with it's university.

A country whose courts willingly allow themselves to be used as tools to punish political detractors through libel actions, which controls the entire media as it is done in North Korea and where even a one man peaceful protest results in arrest and imprisonment should not be trying this with the most prestigious university in the USA, a democracy.

It appears Yale wants nothing to with a a country like Singapore. Instead of trying this with USA, I am sure Kim Jong An's Pyongyang University would be very willing. Singapore should go where they are appreciated.

Elizabeth Peiris puts it very well in her article.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Disbarred from practicing law in Lee's Singapore, imprisoned and refused entry to the island for criticizing Singapore's judiciary in this blog (see blogpost May 29, 2008 Singapore. Judge Belinda Ang's Kangaroo Court)
Actively practicing law in California and in good standing at the California Bar.
Member in good standing as a lawyer in England and Wales (Barrister).
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Singapore getting an ‘education’
April 12, 2012
The vision is to make this island-republic become Asia’s premier education and knowledge hub, a long cherished dream.

By Elizabeth Peiris

Singapore authorities are presumably getting an ‘education’! For weeks on end now the city-state has been embroiled in a tussle of sorts to snagging America’s leading university of Yale.

Authorities are envisioning a collaborative pact the Ivy League university and Singapore’s National University of Singapore (NUS) will ease the way to helping the republic realise its long standing quest of becoming Asia’s premier education and knowledge hub.

A pact with Yale though, already exists with NUS for medical exploration and joint study. But because of the somewhat ‘harmless’ nature of that agreement wherein there rarely is an issue of making public controversial findings, that arrangement passed without incident or hitch.

But the present arrangement NUS hopes to clinch is far from the incendiary world of consensual and collegial consent of joint studies and explorative findings.

Its essence is much about differing political and cultural values. In so far as the contextual reading of the subject matter is concerned, it actually pits one form of governance against another.

There really is no mistaking about what Yale’s credentials are apart from having produced some notable US leaders.

It has the largest endowment fund which is equal to the Gross Domestic Fund of some Third World nations. It also has one of the strictest admission criteria anywhere in the world.

“In fact it is one of the top two universities in the United States” says a US resident living in Singapore.

With such sterling credentials, it therefore is little wonder the NUS would want to team up with Yale as that will allow the latter to gain international heft to attract, retain and undertake seminal projects on its home turf and across Asia.

The cachet of Yale is so very vital for the NUS, because the city-state has always harped extensively on its credentials that it is a meritocracy.

Singapore not a talent meritocracy

But as Singapore is finding out, it is not always hunky-dory when it comes to snagging some of the world’s ‘best’. Because just as the world’s supposed best may themselves be musing, the stakes for them too could pretty high when they are seen negotiating with a nation not well known for its political liberalism or tolerance of opposing viewpoints.

In interviews with newspapers the city-state’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam views the tie-up as a ‘cancelling’ the shortfalls brought on by Singapore’s exam-smart meritocracy vis-à-vis America’s talent-led meritocracy.

Shanmugaratnam minced no words over to which system he was seeking first and foremost.

Without acknowledging outrightly he let it be known that Singapore’s system of education has not been at its sterling best as it had has commonly touted to be as. In short it was not delivering!

The mere fact the nation has to continually look beyond its shores for talent despite a very stressful and rigorous system second only to Japan – the latest being the former chief of Malaysian state-owned oil company, Petronas, Hassan Marican – is but an indication its education system is quite not what it was cracked up to be in terms of unleashing creativity, drive and entrepreneurship and leadership qualities; character traits the nation needs so very vitally out of its young populace to continually to stay ahead of other regional economies.

The on-going saga is proving to be something of a déjà vu for Singapore. Only some seven years ago the same argument now used by Yale University was also used by another prestigious university, Warwick in the United Kingdom.

Warwick’s concern was the stifling political environment in Singapore would make the city-state an inhospitable place to undertake unfettered research coupled with the latent fear of interference from the city-state’s political elite.

In a statement to foreign media outlets Warwick said, ”In the absence of a positive commitment from the academic community, [the university] resolves not to proceed with the plan for a second comprehensive campus of the University of Warwick, in Singapore”.

There is little by way of assertion to understand just how Yale itself may be feeling especially in light of the sentiments expressed by Warwick to foreign media outlets.

The university’s senate then in 2005 voted overwhelmingly to reject any move to Singapore as it argued it would threaten the Warwick ‘way of life’ when a Singaporean relocation is in the offing.

The question of academic freedom has understandably made many a foreign university leery of forming collaborative pacts with the city-state.

Since the early 1990s and the transformation of the private education industry through its private education council, that some in the city-state have been taking issue with it in the arbitrary way it awards licences for the recruitment of foreign students; Singapore has always aimed at becoming the premier nation of choice for learning, experimentation and eventually of cutting-edge discoveries the way the Swiss have always been.

A few foreign universities do maintain campuses in the city-state but none enjoy the Ivy-League ‘halo’ as Yale or Warwick does.

Maybe it is the turn of the city planners themselves to get some lessons – some hard lessons in life on what it needs to do to get the best in the world to come ashore.

Elizabeth Peiris is a Singapore-based freelance writer.

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