Sunday, December 04, 2005

Singaporeans Smarter Than Malaysians?

Are Singaporean students smarther than their Malaysian counterparts?

When I take a look at the top universities in the world, Singapore students outnumber Malaysian students by far. When I was at Oxford (that's some 14 years back!), there was probably literally a handful of Malaysian undergraduates enrolling each year (I understand that there are more today). On the other hand, in my year, there are some 15-20 scholars from Singapore's top junior colleges. While the number of Malaysian undergraduates at Cambridge is significantly higher than that at Oxford, similarly, Singaporeans still outnumber Malaysians. When you look at the top US universities - whether Ivy League such as MIT or Harvard or top liberal arts colleges, once again, Singaporeans will outnumber Malaysians. [Readers, feel free to correct me if my perception is wrong]

Why is this so? There is no logical reason I can think of, to assume that student quality and talent in Malaysia should be less than that in Singapore. Even if the percentage of equivalent talent in Malaysia is lower given the differences in affluence between the 2 countries, the actual quantity of "top talent" should be higher simply due to Malaysia's 6-times larger student population!

So, are Singaporeans necessarily smarter than Malaysians? No way!

The difference is, the Singapore education system provides a formal guided structure to ensure that their top students receives top quality education from the top universities worldwide. In Malaysia, there is just a total absence of such formal guidance. Students today are largely guided by deceving marketing collaterals and advertisements, hearsay from family and and sometimes equally ignorant friends (which may or may not be accurate) and individual resourcefulness.

When I was doing my 'A' Levels in Singapore at one of the top junior colleges (JCs), I was constantly exposed to little events which highlighted the attractiveness of the top schools in the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US). These JCs will often run specials programmes and classes to prepare students for the necessary entry requirements and examinations to join the elite universities. Top students are identified and are individually counselled to ensure that they apply for universities which meet their needs and interests. In some cases, the JCs actually monitor the number of applications to each college or university to ensure the highest probability of acceptance (instead of say, everyone applying to one particular college).

My route to Oxford wasn't through one of these programmes, but I was strongly influenced by the information made available. I'm pretty certain that I would not have experienced such an environment in Malaysian national schools which encourage the exploration of opportunities at these top universities.

The Ministry of Education needs to seriously relook at where and how our talents are allocated to. Where are we actually sending our "scholars"? While we clearly have a more complex education system partly due to the number of students and the size of the country which makes it harder to manage, there's clearly more the Ministry can do to ensure the right set of information is propagated to the top Malaysian students so that they will make the best choice for their future.

However, to depend on our civil service to deliver prompt and quality actions to immediately remedy the situation is clearly wishful thinking. This point actually leads to another idea which I'm contemplating, which will create possibly a private sector initiative to make up for the shortfall of our Ministry's initiatives (or the lack of it). I will blog this "idea" of mine next.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that our examination results obviously does not reflect our students abilitites. 20 years ago we dont have that many distinctions. Our exams standards were at par with Cambridge O and A level. Some of my friends even go to Britain or Australia to do their AEB? exams because they felt it is more difficult to score in the exams here due to the sheer number of good students.

Today we have so many distinctions that we really cant find the top 2% that deserve a scholarship. Even via interview we cannot make out good students because they just cannot communicate.

Now a days so many schlorship are dished out to "not so" deserving students that they are not doing well in the prestigious U. So ... now we know Y fewer and fewer students will be in Oxford or Havard.

If I am to pay my own way I dont think that I am going to Oxford or Havard .. I am going to take it easy both in academic and financially.

clk said...

My personal opinion is if there is true meritocracy in awarding of pre-u and tertiary level scholarships based on merit alone in this country, we can certainly outnumber our cousin down south in terms of enrolment into Oxbridge, IvyLeagues and the other top London schools.

The fact is too many students do not even have an opportunity to apply into these schools due to financial constraints; not scholastic abilities or intelligence.....

Hence, numbers IMHO do not count!

Anonymous said...

Money $$$$ is the difference!

Singapore's agencies like MOE and A*STAR are actively promoting human talents by sourcing them among Singapore's citizens and PR, and paying for their education in any top universities.

Malaysia? Many Malays are sponsored by the government or other agencies to study in top universities. A small number of non-Malays got sponsored too. But the bulk of non-Malays, many who qualify to go to top universities, just don't have that kind of money to pay for their education in any top universities.

Want to sponsor quality Malaysian students to study in any top universities? Just go to Singapore and interview the numerous quality Malaysian students on Asean Scholarships in Junior Colleges.

Anonymous said...

There may be a more simple explanation: Funding. During my time and your time, the cost of a a top school education given the exchange rate at that time was about the cost of a link house in Malaysia. Today, the cost of attending one of those school is a few times more.

Given the Singaporeans now have more scholarships available now then then, financially, its a lot easier for Singaporeans to go then a Malaysian.

Frankly, being a graduate from two of the top 10 schools in the US, I worked it out and it would basically affect my own retirement if I had to fund both my children in those schools and I am actually wealthier than my parents was.

whatsunusual said...

I believe Spore has more scholarships available to its students for Oxbridge. I don't think cost is a factor as I know there are many Malaysians in LSE, Imperial College, UCL or other British univs. Fees in Oxrbidge are comparable to those in the top 10. In fact a Spore cousin told me that most Sporeans would not want to send their kids overseas as the cost/benefit is not there unless they qualify for the very top schools. Whereas in Malaysia, non-Malays have little choice for reasons we all know too well. That's why, as a parent, I'm out at my elbows as my son is now in his first year in Cambridge after 2 years of A levels in London. Getting into Oxbridge is easier if you can afford to put your children to schools in UK. There are schools there that prepare your kids for Oxbridge such as Westsminster, St. Paul, Winchester etc. In my son's school, St. Paul, almost half of the 120 odd sixth formers ended up in Oxbridge.

Anonymous said...

Are... which Malaysian Smarter than which Singaporean? Then ask why?

-- Old Man

average malaysian said...

What I can say is, it is a result of this chain effect...

SINGAPORE HAS A BETTER GOVERNMENT... as a result...

More Singaporeans are richer...

More Singaporeans are ENGLISH educated...

Because of its education system, more Singaporeans are GLOBALLY competent...

Also more Singaporeans are aware that top universities does make a different in their working life later...

Some of the KIASU character contributed to this...

Are Singaporeans smarter than Malaysians? No. Have to ask who right?

I'd say the Singaporean GOVERNMENT is DEFINITELY smarter than the Malaysian GOVERNMENT!

amir livnet said...

Ha ha... Singapore govt is smart...

Smart enough to hang that aussie bloke Nguyễn Tường Vân

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nguyen_Tuong_Van

But I don't know about its people though....

T-Boy said...

Isn't it obvious?! It's those damn intellect suppresants the Illuminati puts in the water, DUH.

I mean, it's so obvious.

Details? Explanations? Sorry, can't help you, intellect suppresants making me want to watch Fear Factor reruns again.

budak celake said...

i still think SG gov smarter than Malaysian gov... and about the hanging of that vietnamese, i think the SG did the right thing...

Anonymous said...

malaysians and singaporeans are equally as smart. but singaporeans are given more opportunities, opportunities to receive good education. so they are good at scoring A's in school/college.

but in university, students are no longer spoon fed. it's their ability to think. from what i see, malaysians are just as smart as singaporeans if not smarter.

Anonymous said...

Well you have to admit in the long run, Singapore is winning in terms of human resources and wealth though.

Pur.Boy

Spy said...

if my sis didn't get a scholarship she'd still be stuck here in asia. thankfully, a government-owned organisation here is sponsoring her studies overseas. yes, we're malaysians, but malaysia didn't offer us the opportunity that singapore has.
if we didn't come over we'd be stuck in a tiny nondescript town in some unknown college doing a degree that won't be recognised outside of msia.

i'm currently studying in australia while my sis is in london. i'm proud to be a malaysian for sure, and it will always be the country i return to, but it was our neighbour that gave us a chance, not the nation of our birth.

Anonymous said...

critical thinking and the ability to express themselves. a lot of our students can't do that, even those at prestigious foreign universities. (comparing our students against the ang mo, not the singaporeans) that's the main problem affecting our students, they can't express what's in their mind. when asked a question especially by someone important (eg. prof), they would giggle, smile, give as short answer as possible. unlike the ang mo, though they know much less, they are more proficient in expressing themselves. 50% of the time, they are wrong anyway. but they appear smarter because they argue well and speak their mind.

i think the problems lies with too much spoon feeding in primary and secondary school level. this leaves little room for the students to think. here, i use the word 'too much'. spoon feeding by itself is neutral. the teacher just need to find the balance. certain subjects need more spoon feeding than others cause there is too much to learn. but importantly, the students must be encouraged to think for themselves and voice their opinion. once this is achieved, other positive changes will follow.

as to whether singaporeans are smarter, they are just given more opportunities. Malaysians have to be proactive in keeping our smart ones. these include the government and private sectors. cant rely everything on the government, it will be too slow.

Elizabeth said...

I would like to address some of the comments made by the previous commenters.

Top U.S. universities like Yale, Harvard, MIT and Princeton have extremely generous financial aid - in fact, Yale and Harvard have a similar policy where an admitted student whose parents earn less than $45 000 per annum (about RM 12 500? per month) AUTOMATICALLY gets a full ride at these two colleges (some other conditions have to be met as well, but this is true for a majority of cases). So money shouldn't be a problem when it comes to these universities.

I guess there is not enough awareness that such a financial aid policy exists....

And yes, I agree, Malaysia doesn't *groom* their students well enough - after all Singapore stream their students into top JCs.

Elanor said...

From all the responses, I guess most of us agreed that it is not a matter of innate intelligence that separate us from the Singaporeans, but rather the opportunities (or more appropriately, the lack thereof) given to us.

wong keat wai said...

I was a former UM graduate and I have worked in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Singapore. I found out that the process of learning has only begun after leaving university! Being in Singapore exposes me to all sorts of foreign corporate cultures which only can be found in a highly internationalized economy. Also, the Singaporean government has a very comprehensive programme in further trainning their graduates to meet "specific requirements" of the market place like sending you off to the US or Japan to work for another 2 years or so.

I must say that up to the A level, Singaporeans & Malaysians are about equal in quality for the labour market. Beyond that, Singaporeans excel over Malaysian graduates due to their superior education and practical exposure.

This is also why a graduate from NUS has no problem in finding jobs in the US whereas a UM graduate without the necessary practical working experiences in Singapore will find it difficult to do the same.

Anonymous said...

First we need to standardize the quality of our education and evaluation. Then only we can see the real quality of our student and education system.

Secondly the intake into our local U should be based purely on the results ond not based on quota, meaning the best student should be given priority first.

Anonymous said...

The system needs revamp, teachers trained to challenge students rather than spoon feeding them (we think when you can be spoon fed, why ask when the teacher is always right?). More over the current cultural climate prohibits personal opnions & subjects them to ridicule by judicial means. How are we to promote critical & analytical thinking when prejudicial politics get in the way all the time? Until real democracy is established & funding is sufficient within the education system,then only can we see any progress from the future that we have already stiffled. We can only hope & pray since our hands are aleady tied.

Anonymous said...

Ofcourse Malaysians are smarter than Singaporeans! We are so smart at making excuses for how we are consistently out-done in so many areas by our tiny southern neighbour with less than one-sixth of our population. Singaporeans must be VERY STUPID to be able to elect a SMART government...not like we SMART Malaysians who can't even choose a decent government from the wide selection of our VERY SMART fellow Malaysians who offer themselves to serve in political office. Yes, let's continue to churn out smart excuses for why we are behind Singapore in education, economic development, technology etc etc....

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans are considered better than Malaysians because of the training they are exposed to at the undergraduate level. They have faculty members from different parts of the world. Thus, they exercise higher level of thinking using evaluation and logical analysis in applying knowledge into their work.
In Malaysia, college education is diluted. I cannot imagine feeding students at college level by printing them notes.. I have always been taking notes since I was in college. In graduate school, I have to do the same. Don't expect any instructor to manja students for this will cause the downfall. Malaysian college students should wake up and start using critical thinking in all aspects.
The quality of education in private colleges in Malaysia is diluted. Students cannot even write papers properly. For IT students, they cannot produce comprehensive projects. There has to be a revamp in private colleges. Can Tony and Kian Ming look into this seriously??

Anonymous said...

My impression is that the percentage of "smart" people is similiar across all nations. So a larger population should give you more "smart" people. Except, how do you define "smart"?

Does being able to score 100% at exams qualify you to be smart? Or able to do research at extreme high levels qualify you? Make no mistake, both are not the same. You can mug all your life to score in exams, but you cannot mug in uncharted territories to produce research results and technologies.

Of course, another hypothesis is the amount of "smart" people is not the same across races. And Cambridge (or was it Oxford?) has proven it with statistical research. Let's not get on this touchy subject here though.

No, you cannot train people to be "smart", they must be borned smart to be able to progress in this new technological area.

In this definition, yes, Singaporeans are smarter. Just look at the quality and quantity of research we (our top academia?) are producing.

Anonymous said...

"I'd say the Singaporean GOVERNMENT is DEFINITELY smarter than the Malaysian GOVERNMENT!"

The type of citizens elect the same type of Government. Sadly, it is the most telling sign of comparing us against the Singaporeans in "smartness" too.

Have an objective mind, and let us all be smarter now.

Anonymous said...

[but in university, students are no longer spoon fed. it's their ability to think. from what i see, malaysians are just as smart as singaporeans if not smarter.]

I now work in UK. Graduated from London. Your statement is wrong. Singaporeans are not any more stupid than Malaysians, neither are Malaysians any smarter than Singaporeans. Why? Which University you comparing? Singapore Universities?

The most smart Singaporeans get sent overseas on scholarships, we Malaysians are taken into their Universities to fill up the void and compete with their second or third tier talents, and we do not always win. What does that say of the "smart" factor between us?

I think we Malaysians and them Singaporeans have to stop this silly comparison and work together before USA discard us (as in BOTH Malaysia and Singapore) for Africa as strategic allies in oil and global partners against rising China. And looking at the way Malaysian Government is treating the Malaysian Chinese, you think China will love us?

Anonymous said...

Singaporean just have their eyes that grow on top of their head. Only University that is oxbridge or MIT, stanford class is view as tier 1.
Tier 2 Uni will be like their local Universities and Uni like Uni of Melb
Tier 3 are those that offer Distance Learning in SG or those that hundreds of singaporean go to each yr.
Tier 4, those unheard of in some Ulu parts of USA, Canada, Finland, Germany, Sweden etc.

Anonymous said...

I think people are smart in many different ways. Some people who are book smart may not necessary be street smart. I find that the latter is more useful in life after graduating a decade ago.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans
Stupid - or smart?
One view from Taiwan: They're good collectively, but individually they're lost. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Apr 23, 2006

SINGAPOREANS are affluent, educated, but are they really survival smart?
In a world of harsher living, this question that never dies has again grabbed the public focus here with a general election less than two weeks away.

At the core of the debate: Without natural resources, the Singaporean increasingly has to depend on his own guile, not only a good education, to survive; has he got it?

It’s not a new debate. In the past decade, the Education Ministry has changed the education system to teach independent thinking and entrepreneurship to correct some fundamental defects in the average worker.

The average Singaporean is good at academic studies and works hard, but falls short on individual initiative and streetwise qualities, relying too much on the government for help.

Revisiting the debate is controversial Taiwan lawmaker Li Ao, who recently ranked Singaporeans rather lower in natural intelligence to the people in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Taiwanese are scoundrels, but lovable, Hong Kong people are craftier, (Chinese mainlanders are unfathomable) and Singaporeans are stupider,” he said, adding that it is partially due to genetics.

The original migrants who came here from China were of “poor stock”.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once told Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping that the ethnic Chinese in Singapore were descendants of illiterate coolies and farmers from southern Fujian.

This had made them less able than the people of Hong Kong or Taiwan, whose ancestors were mainly businessman or technocrats.

Singaporeans could function well only as a group, not as individuals, Li told a Chinese newspaper. They would never be non-conformist or stand out above the crowd.

“If you ask me, other than Lee Kuan Yew, his son Hsien Loong, politicians aside, I can only think of a cute girl, (pop star) Stephanie Sun, there aren’t many other outstanding people. The impression that I get (of normal Singaporeans) is stupid”.

Singapore’s system, Li said, stemmed from the ancient Chinese political philosophy of legalism, which emphasised on the rule of law.

“Singaporeans do not break rules, but they also do not stand out,” he said in Mandarin.

He said Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to build a British-style democracy but because the people were not up to scratch, they only knew how to toe the line.

His report card on Singapore has shaken up the people at a time when election fever is rising, indirectly touching on a campaign issue – government control on society.

Predictably, Singaporeans have reacted angrily to the terms “stupid” and “poor genes”, dismissing them as a popularity stunt that takes no account of their successful, modern achievements.

This “genetic weakness” doesn’t aptly describe today’s diverse, more mature and worldly-wise generation.

But some critics say there is some truth in what Li said, but insist that the fault lies not in genes, but in years of political and social conditioning by a top-down government.

One writer however, said: “A better word to describe the Singaporean is naïve, which comes about because of a paternalistic and rather efficient government.

"Everything is so structured and laid-out that the people do not need to fight for a living, blunting their ability to compete. They’re lulled into thinking the outside world also behave like Singapore.”

Businessmen from Taiwan and Hong Kong are more alert to opportunities, as well as cheats, compared to even the capable Singaporeans, whose preoccupation is getting a high salary.

They know where to take the short cuts when faced with a problem; Singaporeans will just sit and wait for better days.

Under the Lee Kuan Yew leadership, the collective good comes before the individual, so the republic’s success is a “collective creation”, Li added.

The individual is often lost on his own. It has led some critics to ask whether the Singaporean has an original viewpoint of his own beyond what the government says.

“I won’t say we are stupid. We are just not daring and street-smart,” commented a Singaporean studying abroad.

In his university, other Asian students would walk up to the microphone and talk about some cause, not the Singaporeans, he said.

Li Ao is not alone in his views. Singaporean columnist Wong Lung Hsiang said it reflected what he heard in China that “Taiwanese are shameless, Hong Kongers are heartless, Singaporeans are ignorant”.

In Greater China, law-abiding Singaporeans have long been seen as gullible.

In a commentary in November last year, Wong advised Singaporeans to treasure their own system at home, “but when you are away, you should know how to adapt to others”.

What Chinese Singaporeans have inherited from their grandparents is peasant culture, explained “peasant judge” online.

“Peasants don’t care for much else except a bowl of rice on the table, a roof over their heads, and the chance to go out to the rice fields to do the daily back-breaking chores day in day out.”

Politics, too, is affected. Almost everyone goes to the polls with his rice-bowl in mind.

It occupies the citizen’s mind a lot more than his counterparts in other countries, who are more passionate about issues like justice and equality.

“Just imagine, well-informed Singaporeans advocating a one-party rule, saying it is good for the future. If this is not stupidity, what is?’ asked redbean.

This could be a recipe for future trouble should a foreign predator one day use this character weakness to take over the country.

All he needs to do to retain the people’s compliance is by keeping their stomach full and their mind empty.

(This first appeared in The Sunday Star, Apr 23, 2006).

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans
Stupid - or smart?
One view from Taiwan: They're good collectively, but individually they're lost. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Apr 23, 2006

SINGAPOREANS are affluent, educated, but are they really survival smart?
In a world of harsher living, this question that never dies has again grabbed the public focus here with a general election less than two weeks away.

At the core of the debate: Without natural resources, the Singaporean increasingly has to depend on his own guile, not only a good education, to survive; has he got it?

It’s not a new debate. In the past decade, the Education Ministry has changed the education system to teach independent thinking and entrepreneurship to correct some fundamental defects in the average worker.

The average Singaporean is good at academic studies and works hard, but falls short on individual initiative and streetwise qualities, relying too much on the government for help.

Revisiting the debate is controversial Taiwan lawmaker Li Ao, who recently ranked Singaporeans rather lower in natural intelligence to the people in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“Taiwanese are scoundrels, but lovable, Hong Kong people are craftier, (Chinese mainlanders are unfathomable) and Singaporeans are stupider,” he said, adding that it is partially due to genetics.

The original migrants who came here from China were of “poor stock”.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once told Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping that the ethnic Chinese in Singapore were descendants of illiterate coolies and farmers from southern Fujian.

This had made them less able than the people of Hong Kong or Taiwan, whose ancestors were mainly businessman or technocrats.

Singaporeans could function well only as a group, not as individuals, Li told a Chinese newspaper. They would never be non-conformist or stand out above the crowd.

“If you ask me, other than Lee Kuan Yew, his son Hsien Loong, politicians aside, I can only think of a cute girl, (pop star) Stephanie Sun, there aren’t many other outstanding people. The impression that I get (of normal Singaporeans) is stupid”.

Singapore’s system, Li said, stemmed from the ancient Chinese political philosophy of legalism, which emphasised on the rule of law.

“Singaporeans do not break rules, but they also do not stand out,” he said in Mandarin.

He said Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to build a British-style democracy but because the people were not up to scratch, they only knew how to toe the line.

His report card on Singapore has shaken up the people at a time when election fever is rising, indirectly touching on a campaign issue – government control on society.

Predictably, Singaporeans have reacted angrily to the terms “stupid” and “poor genes”, dismissing them as a popularity stunt that takes no account of their successful, modern achievements.

This “genetic weakness” doesn’t aptly describe today’s diverse, more mature and worldly-wise generation.

But some critics say there is some truth in what Li said, but insist that the fault lies not in genes, but in years of political and social conditioning by a top-down government.

One writer however, said: “A better word to describe the Singaporean is naïve, which comes about because of a paternalistic and rather efficient government.

"Everything is so structured and laid-out that the people do not need to fight for a living, blunting their ability to compete. They’re lulled into thinking the outside world also behave like Singapore.”

Businessmen from Taiwan and Hong Kong are more alert to opportunities, as well as cheats, compared to even the capable Singaporeans, whose preoccupation is getting a high salary.

They know where to take the short cuts when faced with a problem; Singaporeans will just sit and wait for better days.

Under the Lee Kuan Yew leadership, the collective good comes before the individual, so the republic’s success is a “collective creation”, Li added.

The individual is often lost on his own. It has led some critics to ask whether the Singaporean has an original viewpoint of his own beyond what the government says.

“I won’t say we are stupid. We are just not daring and street-smart,” commented a Singaporean studying abroad.

In his university, other Asian students would walk up to the microphone and talk about some cause, not the Singaporeans, he said.

Li Ao is not alone in his views. Singaporean columnist Wong Lung Hsiang said it reflected what he heard in China that “Taiwanese are shameless, Hong Kongers are heartless, Singaporeans are ignorant”.

In Greater China, law-abiding Singaporeans have long been seen as gullible.

In a commentary in November last year, Wong advised Singaporeans to treasure their own system at home, “but when you are away, you should know how to adapt to others”.

What Chinese Singaporeans have inherited from their grandparents is peasant culture, explained “peasant judge” online.

“Peasants don’t care for much else except a bowl of rice on the table, a roof over their heads, and the chance to go out to the rice fields to do the daily back-breaking chores day in day out.”

Politics, too, is affected. Almost everyone goes to the polls with his rice-bowl in mind.

It occupies the citizen’s mind a lot more than his counterparts in other countries, who are more passionate about issues like justice and equality.

“Just imagine, well-informed Singaporeans advocating a one-party rule, saying it is good for the future. If this is not stupidity, what is?’ asked redbean.

This could be a recipe for future trouble should a foreign predator one day use this character weakness to take over the country.

All he needs to do to retain the people’s compliance is by keeping their stomach full and their mind empty.

(This first appeared in The Sunday Star, Apr 23, 2006).

Anonymous said...

I believe there could be a few factors:
1. Malaysians are more exposed to Australia by the vast twinning programs with the universities there. This provides a cheaper route.
2. In addition, the currency exchange for these unis (eg. in Aus) are lower.
3. Some students actually go to Singapore. Hence, Malaysians do go abroad as well. Singapore being an option.

Finally, it doesn't matter if we have more students in Oxford, Cambridge, etc. More importantly is that our mindset should be open. And of course, studying overseas or working overseas may actually help :)

semuaboleh said...

better or KIASUer?

Anonymous said...

The issue isn't merely about funding...and yes, I agree, there's much more to that. I dare say it all boils down to the weaknesses of our Malaysian Education System.

As a student in one of the public universities in Malaysia, I've much to comment about way education is implemented in our part of the world. At the rate we are taught in universities, even in public universities in for the matter, it isn't a surprise that our very best talents who fail to get the scholarships they deserve, often get sidelined, flushed out the drainage of our faulty education system.

And one of the saddest issues I often encounter is the fact that many of our University students do not have the basic competency in English. All to often I see students-my friends who can hardly string a proper sentence in English verbally, while their written work is littered with gross errors that are just all too horrendous to mention.

I'm not only talking about the average uni student alone, I've known a majority of the English teachers-to-be (TESL undergrads)in my university who fit into that category. It's so terrible to the extent that they refuse to speak to me in English for fear I'll correct their errors! Aren't we doing a disservice to the future generation by churning out teachers who may not know the difference between 'broom' and 'sweep'?

As for the development of thinking skills among university students, much work is needed in the area. I've lecturers who set questions that merely require memorisation of facts from a given coursebook or their notes. Yes, we have notes, nicely printed and photostated notes and all we need to do is to read and memorise, memorise, memorise.And when we fail to write out answers that contain the keywords found in the notes, althoughs the idea is basically the same, we are penalised for it!

There are lecturers who try to hone students' thinking skills by giving difficult assignments and tests based on solid application of the facts we've learnt and critical & creative thinking, but the numbers pale in comparison. So what a few of my coursemates often do is to stick like a leech to a few of the good students for assignments, then depend on the diligent ones to do all the hard work. And these leeches are usually the ones who often fail in exams but will still end up 'passing' the course.

And how are we as students supposed to learn to express our views, when we have so-called lecturers who are hardly able to express their own views or teach, for that matter?Just think!

Let's just HOPE that what I've observed and encountered were merely isolated cases, and not a widespread 'phenomenon' throughout all universities in Malaysia.

Jap Grad 16 yrs ago said...

I read with interest these postings. I graduated from Japan 16 yrs ago, on fully sponsored scholarship with no bonds..offered by Japanese Ministry of Educ, though our JPA has a hand in the selection.
Our Singaporean counterpart who were also offered these Japanese scholarships via their govt were bonded for 7 years. And they HATED it so much because theirs is the only one among all other recipient countries that imposed bond.
So, indeed Singaporean GOVT is SMARTER ! Well actually, they were better off in the end because the GOVT provided real opportunities that launched them into promising careers.

Now, as a manager with hiring responsibilities, each time I interview a local graduate, I am often left desolute with the poor English proficiency, immaturity and inability to express oneself properly .. even in one's mother tongue. Reading the postings here help me understand why. It is a very sad state of the country's youth development ( NS another horrifying program ) and I dread to think what would become of my own schoolgoing children 10 years later.

Anonymous said...

If Malaysians are smarter than Singaporeans, then how come the average Singaporean makes more money for living than the average Malaysian? Something must be not right here!

Anonymous said...

Well Singaporeans must be much smarter with money than Malaysians!

khaishin said...

Hmm..

Due to this topic, I'm in the opinion that Malaysian and Singaporean are actually equally smart.
Yet, Malaysians are lack of oppurtunities to study abroad.
Malaysian government is really treat the Malays better than us.
Chinese, Indians get result with flying colours but we can't even get the scholarship and the requirement of our university is quite special, it doesn't depends on your result, but it is depending on your clan, your name , your religion and sometimes it is depending on your luck also.! Special and creative is it?

I would say Singaporean and Malaysian are equally smart because:

I have a cousin, which is older than me for 1 year.
When she is still studying in Malaysia, her result was worst than me and she doesn't know anything about computer.
At that time, she is the students of the last class in my primary school while I'm in the 1st class.
My English was far better than her although i was younger than her.

Yet, after she went to singapore when she was primary 3, she changed. She can speak fluently in English and her vocabs were better than me after she went there for half a year.

Just half a year, can you imagine this? The education system of Singapore can totally change a peron!
She starts to learn knowlwdges about computers and others..

So, the things i could only say is , the differences of education system between Singapore and Malaysia made us have a large range.

I really hope that our Gov can realise this and improve our education system though i think it is a really long way to go.

Bless for all the Malaysian students. All of you are smart enough and will not lose to the singaporean.

the observer said...

yea, I do agree if education wise Singapore might be better than Malaysia. They need to work hard and study hard where Singapore dont have natural resources as we have. therefore they need to come out with various ideas and those have intelectual mind to be more competitive. if u say about Singapore is more intelligent than we are, im strongly disagree. i think both have strong character on developing the country.
For example, we have formula 1 racing 9 years beyond and Singapore just thinking of doing it.Lately Lee Kuan Yew had increased the salary of government sector to encourage those young talent to work with government so that government can have fresh ideas and good policies to run the country. The smart guy will look for better salary and better living while the government lose those are talented. so I dont think Singapore is beyond better than Malaysian.. It is too subjective

Shao Nian said...

Its quite obvious that government play a huge role in this. Singaporean government is way better than Malaysian government, no doubt about it. Yes and i agree that its not because they are smarter than us. But how they perceive education beats us.

Anonymous said...

I like to comment about the results on why so many students score so many A's in Malaysia by some out here.
Actually the SPM result every year seem to be very poor. Let see the statistics.

Only 1000 students score all 1A in all subjects out of 400,000 candidates every year in SPM and this amount to 0.2%. The news papers all the while publishing news on this 1000 who score 1A and make to seem all SPM scoring 1A's all 1A's. All be make to think like fools.

Over 30,000 candidates score all F9's in all subjcets every year and nothing is be mention about it.

So. don't be misleading by news paper reporting...Newspaper then to report on all good students every day..but negelect to mention the failures............

Ministers, professors and the public at large seems to be fool by our newspaper reporting...

Please do some calculation ..........

Anonymous said...

This WSJ article does a good job of explaining why Raffles JC in Singapore sends more students to the Ivy League than nearly any other secondary school in the world: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB108379707388803277-IZjgYNilaN3mpuuaoGGcKuDm4.html

4freedom said...

Personally i think this is quite a ridiculous question. How can you measure the intellectual capacity or psychometric abilities of a nation vs another nation? You have to acknowledge the other variables that come into play. E.g. finance, sponsors, luck etc. And besides just because there are slightly more singaporean students in certain top universities, than malay students, one cannot conclude or state (not even hypothetically) that singaporeans are smarter than malays. If u think you're right than US students are smarter than singaporeans, than english students smarter than singa, and canada, and australia etc. you see how ridiculous this is.

Intelligence is not measured by the institution that your in, but rather the psychological and mental capabilities that you can manifest from your mental capacity.

the perception of singaporeans being smarter than malays is an oversimplification. Anyone who attempts to disapprove me is either a non-critical thinker, or someone who oversimplifies.

I think by comparing intelligence between two very close nation (based on an oversimplified calculation with poor judgement), it reflects the way you think, the attitude you give and ultimately your very own intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Smart but stressful country.
Quantity vs quality.
How smart is that?

We can't measure 'smartness' base on that solely.

p/s: Whats wrong with number 2..??
Qoute from Morrie Schwartz

Anonymous said...

i think as malaysia have a bigger number of citizens, malaysia do have a higher number in academics and good achievers. to judge better country solely based on the numbers of students study in top universities, it is unacceptable and vague.

Anonymous said...

Who said Malaysian students are not smart? I know of a Malaysian student who scored very good results for the following:
1.1- 10A's in SPM, 2002;
1.2- 3A's in Cambridge A level, 2003;
1.3- Best student in Diploma in Law, 2006 at KDU, PJ;
1.4- 1st class honours in LLB, 2007 from Aberytwyths, Wales, UK;
1.5- Best Law Graduate in Wales, 2007;
1.6- First & Watts Prize for Audit & Assurance paper, Dec. 2007 ICAEW exam.

Marsha said...

We need to remember that alot of Malaysians that started out their education in Singapore, eventually became Singaporeans (most of them anyway). Therefore, it is pointless to argue who is smarter.

It is more important on how each person actually takes notice of on how the government perceive education to be and whether the government wants to create a system whereby all citizens of the country, regardless of race and other form of discrimination, being able to receive the proper education and no child is being left behind (got that from the American education website).

We are not helping our children to attain their potential with the constant bombardment of examinations. What happened to the Physical Education class - that actually lets the children play outside? What happened to the art classes that not only taughts us the techniques of drawing and painting but also helps us to be creative in our work as well as instilling the sense of appreciation of arts?

Anonymous said...

I have a son aged 3 years old. If I have the choice, I will send him to Singapore U instead of Malaysia U simply because the par level of malaysia education is still far behind from international standard. Still remember MU ranking in 2007 ?

For me, as long as chinese, the IQ is about the same.

dr siva said...

There are a number of methods that can be employed to test the assumption that Singaporeans are smarter than Malaysians.

To avoid confusion the simplest task is to obtain random average IQ scores from cohorts of two countries.

The trick here is to select people in similar proportions from all communities and also all demographics.

In the famous US "Bell curve" paper the authors demonstrated that Afro-Americans had a lower IQ than other Americans (Asians had the highest!). However the paper was flawed in that the bulk of afro-americans slected in the survey were from poorer sections of the society, many to able to read and write properly as they never finished school.

Had the study been repeated using the same income bracket i.e. IQ of people earning $100,000 per year I suspect the Africans would have identical IQ's.

The same applies in Malaysia and Singapore. If you compare apples with apples you should find the intellegence is the same. No point in comparing Singaporean professionals with Malay kampong people as the results will be terribly skewed.

Left Foot said...

So many people are correct. The percentage of smart people should be roughly the same in Singapore and our beloved Malaysia.

Since we have 6 times more population, we should have 6 times numerically in smart people produced in Malaysia.

But since it is by percentage, we also have 6 times more that idiots Singapore has.

Anonymous said...

Common sense says, you are as smart as your most stupid citizen.

We have 6 times more clever people than Singapore, but they have migrated to Australia, US, UK, Canada, Singapore.

We have 6 times more idiots than Singapore. And they are still in our backyards and Kampungs. Yes I agree, we are more stupid than Singapore.

Cibaikia said...

Let me put it this way,there is no apparent evidence showing any nation smarter than another,but you can prove how this perception comes in first place,and in Malaysia,we have to bear this humiliation because we live in a very unfair world,leaded by stupid politicians with no definite loyalty to this nation itself but the wealths of this land,yes..another word is corruption and loopholes.
Its true Singaporeans doing very well in every field so far,back in days we are the ''tuan'' of singapore,we simply greater in the picture.Time and tides,thats the point.
Brilliant Malaysians being deserted and left alone in overseas to pursuit what they want,thats why this nation do have handful brilliants ,but this nation had owed them too much.
Look at the recent case.5As STPM couldnt admitted to UM mbbs course,what joke is that?
Aint first degree brain required for such hectic and mind blowing job,should idiots instead put in the place and considered first?no,apparently..Ans NUS act fast and brilliant,draining her into NUS,making another pseudo-Singaporean genius in making..whose fault is this?whose the one who still living in fog of mediocracy?think..we are better,we greater in all aspects,but if these fall into wrong hand,we are no better than zimbawee..

Anonymous said...

I'm a Malaysian but I'm not proud of the education system we have. I'm studying down south right now. And digest this: I took 3 days to study for the BM SPM paper (for practical purposes) and got A1. I think we have a SERIOUS case of grade inflation.

Anonymous said...

This is great! Do you know this issue is being debated (for almost 3 years now) till the cows come home. Meanwhile a lot of muddy and murky water has flowed under the Malaysian bridge, and the cows are dying!

Anonymous said...

It's absolutely fascinating to read this blog. What has not been said is the fact that every country struggles with the challenge of educating its young citizens. Both US and UK face problems with their respective educational systems. The discussion. so far, has focused on juxtapositioning elite colleges to Malaysia and Singapore colleges. Do note that such colleges remain the reserve of less than 5% of the American and British population. No studies have shown differences in the innate intelligence of different races. That said, intelligence comes in various forms and there is a tendency to value certain types of intelligence more than others. If so, we should be more concerned with promoting all forms of talent instead of relying on academic excellence as the sole criterion for success. There is very little evidence to support the view that the road to success has to be paved with top grades, which only measure one form of intelligence. It is far more valuable for a country to foster critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

Well obviously duh Malaysians are pea-brained creatures who still have kampung-mentality.. even some of the uneducated people in Singapore will be smarter than Malaysians..trust me


MALAYSIA BODOH

Anonymous said...

I personally believe the Singaporean higher educations are better than the Malaysian higher educations. NUS's collaboration with MIT, Municht Univ is one of a fine example.

However, Malaysian government has by far improved the Malaysian education in the past 20 years. Many have told you, but I'll say it again, it is not easy for a bigger nation like you. (I'm neither Malaysian nor Singaporean, by the way).

I have no clue however, in comparing the elementary, junior high, and high school levels between the two countries. But in my personal opinion, yes, Malaysia still needs to do a lot of homework in competing with Singapore. In addition to that, these lower level education is very crucial, as it provides the very foundation of critical thinking within common citizens.

Shannon said...

Here is the simple answer to this post:

1. So many Malaysian kids are under exposed to enrolment procedures and existence of financial aid. They also have subpar guidance in terms of application procedures- most students still do not know how to apply for an Ivy due to the required SATs, academic transcripts etc. Some simply do not try, others put in applications below their potential level because of lack of guidance.

2. A large percentage of Malaysian parents are just not willing to spend large amounts on their childrens' education- over here the average family has 3 children, some have 11. In Singapore, it's almost always 1 child. Hence, in Singapore, parents lavish their time and effort tending to their children in "flower pots" ensuring their every move, their every school, their every exam brings them closer to an Ivy or Oxbridge. In Malaysia, getting into an Ivy or Oxbridge is less of a cultural goal. As a result, most Malaysian have more modest, short-reaching goals. They tend to think " My goal is 10 A1s for SPM and 4 As for STPM" and almost never "My goal economics at Harvard and then an investment banker at Goldman Sachs."

In reality, Malaysians if given a little more guidance population would thrive just as well if not better. Why do I say better? Because Malaysians are less spoon fed as Singaporeans. The Singaporeans appear in MASSES at top universities. Why? Their parents, teachers, schools, education system, EVERYONE groomed them for it. It is their national obesession. While Malaysians appear in smaller numbers at top unis, ultimately the very best of the Malaysian crop tend to climb higher than the top Singaporean in the bunch.

A friend of mine graduated with a double first in law from Cambridge. She ranked 5 out of 327 students in the entire law faculty- no Singaporean ranked in the top 10. She went on to Harvard for her masters. Next year, she will enter Cambridge for her PHD as a Gates scholar. Another aquaintance graduated of mine was one of about 5 students to graduate magna cum laude majoring in economics from Harvard. No Singaporean econs major there graduated Magna cum laude.

An SGPEAN on the run... said...

This is such a stupid qn.
I am a Singaporean...waiting for O Level results...and right now I am searching if I can escape from the education system in SGP...main reason...I can't stand it.
We(singaporeans) maybe smarter in facts but not so much in life skills and general knowledge...and most of us our social skills are just rock bottom...most of my friends don't even know that Africa has many countries in it...they thought that Africa itself is a country...
The SGP government...well...do you want to know how they get the money???Taxes many many taxes...so many that most experts suggest that Singaporeans only can retire at the age of 65+++years old...
Where is the life ppl???And here I am a 16 yr old chid running away from that kind of future...I dun wanna work 24 07 just to live (I am a Singaporean staying in Malaysia...I know the difference more than anyone else)SINGAPOREANS ARE NOT SMARTER THAN MALAYSIANS THEY ARE EQUAL BUT SINGAPOREANS ARE MORE LIKE ROBOTS AND TOO SRAIGHT WITH NO OPEN-MINDEDNESS
AND yes I am talking about myself as well...which is why I am venturing abroad...=)

I also saw someone writing about the money factor...whoever said that Singaporeans are smarter than Malaysians just because Singaporeans earn more money...I think that peson is being illogical...
The standard of living in SGP in so much higher than in MAS what do you expect of course their pay would be higher..........

Malaysian Observer from Aboard said...

to the observer [9/18/2007 10:12:00 PM]...

MY gov spent billions of $$$$$ to build a F1 facility in Sepang (and continue to spend millions to maintain the facility) to host the F1 Race, while SG gov spent fraction of that $$$$$ MY gov spent on F1 Facility to host the F1 Race on their existing streets.

I say SG gov is smarter :-)

That being said, given same opportunity, both Malaysian and Singaporean will show that they are equally smart. How else explain SG gov regularly recruits malaysians to study, work and live in singapore (Another point proves that SG gov is smarter that MY gov) if we (malaysians) are not as smart as them??

Anonymous said...

most of my friends don't even know that Africa has many countries in it...they thought that Africa itself is a country...

Just a comment: THEN AGAIN HOW MANY STUPID KAMPUNG MALAYSIANS DONT EVEN KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN UK AND US??? haha come on lahh

mocs said...

It should be the system...my guess is singapore is better at grooming talents towards an outward education (UK, US).

Anonymous said...

Saya menjadi tenaga pengajar hampir 30 tahun di IPTA tetapi pujian selalu diterima daripada penilai luar tentang universiti di Malaysia. Bila pelajar Malaysia ke luar negara ada di antara mereka mendapat kedudukan yang baik daripada pelajar tempatan. ia bergantung kepada keupayaan individu jika mereka tidak malas. Kadangkala kita mengukur dari perspektif orang lain, kita dianggap negara ketiga kerana kita jadi pak turut apa yang Profesor MIT kata tentang sesuatu ilmu dan tidak mahu mewujudkan school of thought kita sendiri. Sebab itu bila orang China, Jepun dan Korea berhijrah ke Amerika menjadi tenaga pengajar di sana teori mereka diterima hanya kerana mereka sekarang profesor di universiti di US. Di Malaysia timbul stereotaip pelajar Singapura lebih baik, sesama pelajar Malaysia pula pelajar China lebih baik. Dengan pengalaman 30 tahun di IPTA, tanpa melakukan diskriminasi, tidak dinafikan ada satu atau dua pelajar bukan Melayu (Cina) yang dianggap mencapai tahap kelas pertama sama sahaja bilangan dengan pelajar Melayu. Pelajar yang lain sama sahaja keupayaannya, walhal yang masuk mempunyai kelayakan yang sama. Pendapat saya, pelajar paling lemah dalam IPTA ialah pelajar berketurunan India. Sesetengah pelajar banyak mengampu untuk mendapat markah yang tinggi. seorang pelajar di universiti saya selalu mendapat A dalam beberapa matapelajaran tetapi hanya mendapat B+ dalam subjek Matematik, sanggup memecah bilik pensyarah melalui siling dan mengubah markah tetapi berjaya di tahan pengawal keselamatan, akhirnya membunuh diri pada tahun 1990. Cuma perlu saya berpesan jangan perasan diri lebih hebat dari orang lain dan cuba tunjuk lagak, walhal pada hakikatnya hanya segelintir sahaja yang cemerlang. Pandangan saya berdasarkan bukti selama 30 tahun tanpa melakukan diskriminasi tetapi tak taulah kalau anda sendiri jika pergi ke Oxford atau Cambridge menjadi pelajar yang cemerlang.

FUCK CHINESE!!! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thedivinekiss said...

An interesting post. Nevertheless, is it fair to judge intelligence based on enrolments to these universities? I am sorry, but that is truly an idiotic thing to do. A person must be intelligent, a genius if you wish to refer them as such, to be enrolled to Oxbridge and other Ivy League universities. I applaud their success - however to be trapped in this 'bubble' of snobbery is truly their loss.

So are Singaporeans smarter than Malaysians? - is a very stupid question coming from an Oxford graduate such as yourself.

Anonymous said...

Frankly speak, I'm personally work and experience education scheme in Singapore. Their method of teaching is very difference compare to what we have locally. They more teach the ways how to analyze, brain-storm and even actively encourage students to ask more questions. Even through the question seem silly and stupid, but it does trigger another point of view, thoughts and new ideas on the subject teach.
What I trully find it interesting is that the ways they teach Mathematic is well different and efficent until President Obama himself does praise Singaporean teaching Math method and hope US able to use Singaporean method to practise in their own 'GIANT" United Stated education system.

One question I would like to ask those politician & super rich man, why do you MUST paid huge amount of USD$ and send your son/daugther to private international schools? Why not local school? Then send them to oversea college/university? The answer is simple, oversea school or university provide good methods of teaching with good education exposure and recognition. Why oversea university is better than Malaysia? Why can't we adopt to similar education system as Western countries if it better than ours?

I'm not here to said Singaporean is better than Malaysian. It just that the way Singaporean teach, system, government is well far look sighted compare to current Malaysian education system. We need to change to adapt changing world, if NOT in next generation, our Malaysian son will be totally left out from this new Knowledge world.

One things I most scare is.. teaching English language is very important in this world. Either u all agree or not.. this is the fact. Without mastering English you definitely cannot go anyway if oppurtunity does arise but you are not qualify to grab it.

One things I would like to highlighted here is.. change the current education system we have... Thinks globally as outside Malaysia..there are a lot of oppurtunities. The question is.. Are you ready to grab it or not?

CHANGE BEFORE IT TOO LATE. Wake up Malaysian especially those politician in education ministry.

Malaysia Classifieds said...

Its very simple, we can't compare Malaysia with Singapore because we're different. We're big country and they're very tiny country, so they can produce more quality people because they can afford it, but we can't because we have national policies (or Politicians) to protect.

Anonymous said...

It is very true that Malaysia's education system level is very low .I've noticed that there used to be an English and Malay Medium previously but is no longer available because of Mahatir cancelling it ,moving all those whom are studying in the English Medium to the Malay Medium because there weren't many in the Malay Medium.

For that information ,there were many of those who were in the English Medium and they were having good grades when they were studying every subject in English language .But due to the sudden change ,a big difference was made as alot of students started to get even worst grades than previously which is still what we currently having now .

I don't really understand why are we learning about "Sejarah" so detailed of every single thing .We are wanting to get a bright future and history has nothing to do with it but act as a mere distraction in students studies .

Chong Kong Hui said...

I have two daugthers, 3 and 4 years old.

Do I have to worry about their education? I can't afford to send them to private school.

I may not able to send them to oversea "top" university without jeopardize my retirement.

So.....