Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In Pursuit of Degrees...

The Sunday Star two weeks ago had a very well written commentary piece with regards to the pursuit of education and degrees. These are definitely words to remember for anyone intending to take education for what it should be instead of the "corrupted" version many in our society take it for.

On education fairs and marketing hype:
Education fairs and college open houses are in season and it is hard sometimes to distinguish a real deal from a sales pitch.
Of Degrees & Employment:
Tertiary education is no longer the preserve of the select few. There are many options available at home and abroad. The majority of those seeking a degree are mindful of the vocational pursuits available to them once they graduate.

But, as recent trends have shown, a degree is not necessarily a passport to a better job. With a bigger pool to choose from, employers can be more selective. Soft skills become a premium. A first class honours without the all-round skills will definitely not put you at the top of the career shortlist.
On Critical Thinking & other soft skills:
Interact with your lecturers. Challenge their viewpoints. Broaden your horizons. Throw in all the extra-curricular activities and you will be able to hone those skills that are very much in demand in the real world.
On Parents:
... parents must encourage their children to make full use of their potential and take on their pursuit of education with renewed zeal. Otherwise, all they will have after this journey is nothing more than a piece of paper.
Take heed.


Anonymous said...

Interact with your lecturers. Challenge their viewpoints. Broaden your horizons.

In Malaysia? Forget it. Not in the technical subjects. Your lecturer will most probably reply "Go look at your notes." She probably won't answer your questions or clarify your understanding, but may actually try to 'sabo' you by reducing your marks in any way possible.

This is Asia, where the teachers are the king!
Don't even answer questions, use PowerPoint slides all day, don't be transparent, don't do your work... that's the order of the day for them... and this is at a PRIVATE college... I wonder how much more screwed up the gov't. institutions are.

jason cheah said...

I disagree with Anonymous(14:05am).

I went to a private college and had lecturers who welcome interaction. Also, there are other lecturers who aren't that receptive.

Students learn quickly that challenging questions or impolite ones are unproductive. Preparation certainly helps.

Good questions always demands good answers. That is with the assumption that the lecturer knows his stuff.

By all means, the Socratic method is a good ways of learn.

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, only way local college make money is reduce somewhere... so u hv room filled with pc, but nvr knoe whether pc is all working or tech. support is fast...

or u hv lousy lecturer - u can't sit in class until fees paid, so no knowledge of lecturer skill - so either wy u gt screw ::furious::

After all, poor ppl r desperate, take whatevr line they get.

Some more raise fees, for what? Quality not improve ::furious::

Anonymous said...

When everyone is in need of money, bluffing also have to do lah in order to survive... facts of life. No ethics one lah! Sad but true.

The government ought to enforce have some basic guidelines the minimum standard of setting up an institution. Maybe rate the institution by giving them stars and make them publish their rating at the main entrance, just like the hotel rating. The gov shall review the standards each year. With this, students and parents will be aware if they are entering a 5 star or no star institution. Nah... this is bullshit.. it will never happen in malaysia.

If the economy grows in proportion with the birthrate of graduates. That will ensure good job for everyone. Supply and demand factor. If we are booming, diploma also can get a good job. Hope degree holders don't be too choosy lor 'coz now the employers are choosy.

Anonymous said...

I hope more people go into bio-technology field. That's one of the national direction. We will be in short of skilled local resources if younger generation don't see this now.

Tony can you write something about the education path, career path and opportunities in this area?

Nee Sern said...

Anon@5.14am made a general sweeping statement that isn't entirely true.

I have personally challenged many of my lecturers whom I thought were merely spewing out garbage from their powerpoint slides. I have got good arguments and discussions going, and it has certainly helped me shed the mentality that "the teacher is king".

Now in my workplace, my superior encourages critical thinking, challenging norms and taking up new roles, learning new skills and technologies. Boss is also not king.

This is the world today!

lyl said...

Dear anon @11:39:01 AM ,

Biotechnology is a forlorn field in bolehland. Look at biovalley. Until today only 2 workers - the CEO and the Chairman.

Look at the Biopolis across the Causeway though. It started later than us but if im not mistaken, i rememebr reading an article about it generating about S$10 billion in revenue last year. It was part of the Singapore government's plans to diversify the economy and finding more sources of income. They estimate it to become a S$100 billion business in a few years time.

That's one of the national direction ...

personally thinking our biotechnology plans will not take off. My cousin who went to the UK to study this field came back here in hopes of looking for a job. Alas, none were available ... so ? Now shes working at Singapore. ^^

The government doesnt show any commitment in this "megaproject". Even the few sites
, 2, hasnt been updated for more than a month ( the former) and years (the latter).

As according to this
BioValley will provide the initial assets, a unified strategic plan, and management through the early stages of development to serve as the centerpiece of Malaysia's entry as a global competitor and center of excellence in biotechnology.

So... does the name Malaysia pop up when anyone thinks about biotechnology?

Mr. Anon, i think if you're realllly interested in this field, seek for greener pastures. There isnt even any grass here.

Anonymous said...

jason cheah said...
I disagree with Anonymous(14:05am).

I went to a private college and had lecturers who welcome interaction. Also, there are other lecturers who aren't that receptive.

My experience is quite different from yours.
You seem to have attended quite a fine college - do you mind revealing its name, and what course you took while you were there?

Anonymous said...



Sunday October 31, 2004 (

Singapore's bold move into the biomedical sciences industry five years ago is paying off handsomely, with several of the world's top scientists and pharmaceutical firms setting up base in the city-state.

Companies have invested millions of dollars in laboratories carrying out leading-edge research at the Biopolis, a futuristic, seven-building complex linked by skybridges located in the southwestern part of the island.

Officially opened last year, the 500-million-Singapore-dollar (301 million US) government-built complex is a symbol of Singapore's ambition to become among the world's leading centres for biomedical research.

Scientists working at the Biopolis include Scotland's Alan Colman, one of those who cloned Dolly the Sheep, and David Lane, a top British cancer researcher who now heads the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis in July opened a 122-million-US dollar research centre at the high-tech complex dedicated to finding vaccines for tropical diseases.

All of Singapore's five public biomedical research institutes are also housed at the Biopolis, a move which officials say would facilitate greater interaction with the private sector researchers.

"This is really a dedicated biomedical sciences research complex," Beh Swan Gin, director for biomedical sciences at Singapore's Economic Development Board, told AFP.

"What is unique about it is that by locating all the public research institutes here, it can provide a scientific anchor. It acts like a magnet so that all the companies will want to locate here."

Colman, now the chief scientific officer of stem cell therapy firm ES Cell International, agreed the set-up of a centralised location like the Biopolis was the ideal way for Singapore to overcome its lack of resources in the science sector.

"It's great in Singapore in the sense that because it is a small place, it lacks critical mass in many areas," Colman told AFP.

"When I say critical mass, I mean a large enough body of people in any speciality to make a big splash... one way of actually maximising the benefit of the people it has got here is to bring them all to the same area of the town."
Amid growing regional competition in its key electronics exports, Singapore moved to develop biomedical sciences as a new growth area in the all-important manufacturing sector.

"It's really part of the process of diversifying our economy and it's to make sure that we continue to add high growth areas to move into," Beh said.

"Like any good portfolio managers, you want to make sure you have some high growth sectors and then some cash cows and things like that. So the biomedical sciences was really an effort to grow another pillar to support our industrial sector."
After five years of hard work, Singapore now has a thriving biomedical sciences industry boasting an international team of top-notch scientists and heavyweight pharmaceutical firms.

Officials predict output from the biomedical sciences industry could be worth 12 billion (RM27 billion) dollars by the end of this year, up from 11.3 billion dollars in 2003, and one year ahead of the original schedule to achieve the target.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Vivian Balakrishnan has described the industry's growth as "exceptional."

"Our target is to reach 12 billion dollars (abt RM27 billion)in manufacturing output by next year. In fact, it appears to be moving even faster than expected and we would probably reach this target by the end of this year," he said.

Amid a debate over ethical standards, Singapore in September passed legislation allowing stem cell research aimed at finding cures for diseases like diabetes and strokes.

The legislation, however, bans human cloning in a bid to deter rogue scientists, with those found flouting the law facing a 100,000 Singapore dollar fine and up to 10 years in jail.
Further details:

(a). A look at Singapore’s Biopolis (click at the printer logo for more details or use the downward scroll bar)

(b). Biomedical in Singapore:

(c) Top scientists and researchers at Biopolis

(1)Bioinformatics Institute (est. 2001)
Number of staff: 150
Research areas include: computational
biology, structural and functional
genomics, medical informatics

(2)Bioprocessing Technology Institute
(est. 1990)
Number of staff: 150
Research areas include: proteomics,
DNA and peptide technology, gene
expression, protein characterisation

(3)Genome Institute of Singapore
(est. 2000)
Number of staff: 300
Research areas include: comparative
genomics, cell biology and physiology,
molecular pharmacology, highthroughput
sequencing and genotyping

(4)Institute of Bioengineering and
Nanotechnology (est. 2002)
Number of staff: 300
Research areas include: tissue
and cell engineering, biomedical
imaging, biomaterials and
scaffolds, medical devices,

(5)Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
(est. 1987)
Number of staff: 500
Research areas include: apoptosis,
infectious diseases, signal
transduction, cell cycle control,
cell structure and function

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
jason cheah said...
I disagree with Anonymous(14:05am).

I went to a private college and had lecturers who welcome interaction. Also, there are other lecturers who aren't that receptive.

My experience is quite different from yours.
You seem to have attended quite a fine college - do you mind revealing its name, and what course you took while you were there?

Anonymous said...

I think the keyword from the above message is critical mass..

I learned the importance of critical mass, when I watched
Appolo 13 many years ago.

In one scene, when Tom Hank conveys his position in space to
the control center in Houston. There are numbers of scientists
that quickly calculate the energy required to get his shuttle back to earth...

See, a sucessful space program required many support staffs..

So as many other areas..

We really need people...and fine people, I mean..

But our bureaucrats in the immigration dept seem to be ignorant to this...

That's why, our Brain Gain program never get any hit at all... Of all the numbers of medical expert whom applied to come back, all but one chose to remain..

We need clear goals, concerted effort, real action, and certainly talented people to push thrust forward our bio-tech dreams..

Today, we pay the price of our past actions under NEP --
pushing our people away and away..

So..what we want do from now ?? Ask AAB ?

Are we serious in implementing our goals?

Show us the actions!

I mean quick actions!

and above all,
show us the sincerity !

Anonymous said...

hmm.. "that 1 person that chose to remain" is no longer here already btw. :D

Malaysia boleh!

jason cheah said...

Anonymous@3.28pm, please forgive me for the confusion. There were pretty lousy lecturers who avoided any interaction at my college.

Instead of revealing the name of the college, I shall instead pay tribute to my lecturers that answered our questions and enlightened us further: Mr Koong(best math), Ms Chua, Ms Lam, and Mr Eddy.

As Tiara advocates, the responsibility to learn lies entirely with the student. There may be more bad lecturers than good ones in colleges. Still, they can't be made to be an excuse for the lack of learning.

Anonymous said...

It is meaningless if you cannot publicly name an institution which you praise so highly.
It is nothing but bubbles in the air and pies in the sky.
And by the way, what course are you talking about here?

jason cheah said...

I'm curious, what is the meaning to our discussion?

Anonymous said...

If you are willing to praise a college so highly, I'm wondering why you are so reluctant to reveal its name.
Praise without an object of praise is most probably meaningless.
Common surnames are equally meaningless.

jason cheah said...

My comment: "I had good lecturers as well as bad ones" was not meant to be a praise or critic for my ex-college.

Interesting how you came to that conclusion...

Anonymous said...

It is clear that you are now backpedaling because you are in a position where you can no longer sustain your argument, about the wonderful quality of local colleges and local lecturers, by giving some specific examples.
The conclusion of our discussion seems to be that there are wonderful colleges, but you cannot give any examples.
And that there are wonderful lecturers, and you also cannot give any examples.
Please don't take this personally, as this is meant to be an objective conclusion.
It is clear it is not necessary for me to continue any further with this discussion.

chenchow said...

In terms of building up soft skills, I would say that if one has the initiative, there are many ways to deal with it. It is about adapting to the situation. While I may not have much experience in this, I would argue that it is about us who can determine what kind of experience we want.

I'm sure there are some lecturers who would be happy to answer your questions on technical aspects. If not, there are tons of resources online for you to explore. I have a good friend, who is studying in NUS, but she just spent all her time watching webcasts from universities like MIT, Berkeley etc. That's how she gets the education from both parts of the world.

And in terms of building up soft skills, my suggestion would be for those of you to try organize events, involve in activities, including a number of outside activities. Those exposure would help you a great deal. It is we, who choose what kind of experience we want to get. We can choose to harp that IPTAs, IPTSs and private colleges are not good, but in the end, it is we that can make the most out of the situation.

All the best~!

Anonymous said...

"I have a good friend, who is studying in NUS, but she just spent all her time watching webcasts from universities like MIT, Berkeley etc. That's how she gets the education from both parts of the world."

This is very interesting and may be useful to me. Do you know what subjects she is studying and the URLs of those webcasts?

Is it possible to get this information so that I can check this out?

lyl said...

Anon at 01:03:24 AM,

MIT has this system called Open Course Ware. I myself has spent some time watchin them. :)

As for Berkeley, Im not sure about it. But I know Harvard's Summer School has some courses of last year's classes on the web... about statistics and some others. :)

jason cheah said...

Berkeley's webcast link is here :)