Category Archives: General

Skills, Varsity Rankings, Degrees and Wastepaper!

The 2019 list of global university rankings from Times Higher Education is out and the National University of Singapore has slid only a notch – from 22 last year to 23 now. Tsinghua University has moved to the 22nd place (eight slots higher from last year’s list) which makes it Asia’s number 1 university.

This is where the NUS has lost lustre as it can no longer pride itself as the region’s leader in education. Singapore will still be pleased as it has only lost the mantle to a university in China, given its affinity for the red giant.

The slide may become an annual fixture as the Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Mr Ong Ye Kung (who has a degree from the London School of Economics and an MBA from another institution in Europe) had recently advised Singaporeans not to be fixated about degrees. He even thought a future Prime Minister without a degree was a distinct possibility.

That is Singapore’s style of dealing with any demand for more places in Singapore universities for locals.

Interestingly, Tsinghua has a student population of more than 47,000, with only less than 8% of them being from overseas (3,472). In other words, it caters to a largely local population as 92% of its students are from China.

Foreigners Outnumber Locals: In contrast, NUS has a strength of around 38, 000 students with more than 28% of the slots being consumed by foreigners. My understanding is that if we break it down into STEM and non-STEM UG courses, foreign students will account for an overwhelming majority of them.

I don’t understand what the minister has been implying by saying skills are more important than degrees. Shouldn’t he and the Government be initiating steps to ensure more Singaporeans get into varsity courses with focus on skills that are in demand in a smart Nation?

When a degree in a non-STEM discipline is weighed against one in STEM, it requires no rocket science expertise to see the former will have less market value, affecting their job prospects.

So, why are more Singaporeans pursuing degrees with a diminishing value? What is the Government doing about it? Bringing in more foreign workers to meet their goal of a seven-million population?

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Asiad: Indian Long Jumper Nowhere Near Yohanan’s 1974 Leap!

At the 1974 Asian Games, India’s T C Yohanan won the Long Jump Gold with a record-breaking leap of 8.07 metres.

Today, at the Asian Games in Jakarta, India’s Sreeshankar finished fifth, managing a jump of just 7.9 metres.

India continues to struggle to match performances achieved more than four decades ago despite dramatically improved training facilities and exposure.

Cricket-obsessed India has a very, very long way to go to make its presence felt in world sports.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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ST Special: Highlighting Dangers of Drinking and Offering Beer Promotions

Research over the last several years has been consistently concluding that there is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol consumption. So, it is no surprise that a new study conducted by an American institute has found that even an occasional glass of wine or beer increases the risk of health problems and dying.

This has been reported in The Straits Times today. The message: Not just binge drinking, even an occasional glass of beer can kill!

What I found amusing is that the newspaper had a few other reports that appeared to advocate drinking – one with offers of discounts to BeerFest Asia in Singapore for readers of The Straits Times. Another big report splashed a few images to highlight local beers brewing at BeerFest.

What is of comfort to me is that I am a teetotaller. However, The Straits Times never ceases to amuse me.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Bigg Boss Tamil: Evils in the Name of Tasks!

#BiggBossTamil2 – All the evils destroying society – molestation, vulgarity, crude language, anti-Tamil sentiment, religious fanaticism, majoritarianism, hate, violence and what not – Kamal’s show has everything! Only rape and murder are missing.

Intruding into every home, every night and holding audiences to ransom (or is it in a thrall?) for 90 minutes in the name of family entertainment, that’s a heavy dose of what people do not need!

Vijay TV is a curse only silly Tamilians can condone.

And to think this show is helmed by a CM wannabe!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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What a Mess Europe Has Become!

An IS victim ran into her tormentor in Germany recently and inaction against the culprit forced her to go back to Iraq.

Now, as this BBC report shows, she is awaiting clearance for a move to Australia.

Europe has been a mess the last few years not just because it has been welcoming those fleeing countries ridden by IS terror but also because militants are able to sneak in.

Worse, the benefactors dictate the terms under which they will live in the countries that have embraced them – refusing handshakes, for instance!

Muslim couple denied Swiss citizenship over no handshake

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Insult to Singapore Flag, Plain Insanity

Foreign residents in any country cannot be faulted for remaining steadfast in their loyalty to their country of origin. At the same time, it is insanity if they insult the national flag of their host country just to show how much they love their motherland.

It is unfortunate that a Permanent Resident in Singapore chose to celebrate India’s Independence Day this week by posting in Facebook an image showing Singapore’s flag being ripped apart to reveal the Indian tricolour.

Singapore flag insult 2

Any argument to the effect that it was an innocuous post may be contentious. There is no question, though, that it was inappropriate.

Foreigners in Singapore are here to earn and scoot, not to demonstrate their love for the host country. What should be a matter of concern is if they begin to get toxic with their attitude and foment trouble in a country where there is racial and religious harmony.

Non-Resident Indians living the world over are among the biggest supporters of the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi known for its religious fanaticism and politics of hate with terror-prone proclivities.

Singapore is not immune to the trend, with some of its ministers and citizens drawn to the Indian government like never before. It could be for religious, political or business reasons.

Any politics of convenience, with short-term gains in view, will be too short-sighted a strategy that may lead to undesirable consequences.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Vajpayee: A Stout Hindu Who Did Not Succumb to Majoritarianism

In the death of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee today, India has lost the last of its Nehruvian leaders and the BJP its only statesman ever.

His heydays were when I thought the BJP could become a lasting alternative to the Congress.

When he became India’s Prime Minister in 1996, I had already completed two years in Singapore. But I was still an Indian citizen and was confident he would make a huge difference and transform the country’s polity.

When Advani Plotted His Own Downfall: Alas, that was not to be as his hardline deputy LK Advani brought down the Bahri Masjid and plotted his own downfall by standing with Narendra Modi even when Mr Vajpayee wanted the then Gujarat Chief Minister’s ouster following the 2002 carnage.

Therein lay Mr Vajpayee’s biggest failing – a lack of resoluteness in enforcing his will. Despite representing a party with an extreme ideology, Vajpayee remained always benevolent, striving to remove hostilities for religious harmony with an elusive vision.

Missing His Towering Influence: Still, it is a pity India missed his gentle, yet towering, influence during the last four years with the current Modi-led establishment dismantling every institution that was sacrosanct to the country.

He considered none as enemies, not even Pakistan. His warmth towards Pakistan was met with backstabbing in the form of Kargil, reminding us of how Nehru’s overtures towards China left him crestfallen with the 1962 war.

I did not like it when he spoke in Hindi at the United Nations despite his proficiency in English. Hindi does not and will not represent India in its entirety.

Yet, as I listen to his speeches in Hindi that are being aired as a tribute to his literary prowess, I cannot help being mesmerised by it even if Hindi is like German to me.

There can never be another Vajpayee in India, a staunch Hindu who refused to succumb to majoritarianism. May his soul Rest In Peace!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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