Singapore scholars criticise US focus

五月 3, 2002

Singapore has set itself the target of becoming a "Harvard of the East" and is wooing interNational University business schools, especially those in the US. But the move has caused disenchantment among some academics.

Deputy prime minister Tony Tan Keng Yam said his government wanted to attract "at least ten world-class universities to Singapore within ten years".

As a result, graduate student numbers in the two main universities - National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University - increased by more than 130 per cent from 1995 to 2000.

Critics said they regarded the policy as little more than a blanket Americanisation of education in Singapore, which will be to its detriment in the long term. They said that as well as attracting some heavyweight names and schools from across the Pacific, the revolution had also sparked an exodus of talent, with more than 100 academics leaving the NUS in 2000.

The reluctance to speak out against officialdom in Singapore means few academics will talk publicly about this. But the former dean of the business administration faculty at the NUS, Wee Chow Hou, was quoted in the local newspaper Today as saying: "I understand it's very painful to change but the process of change could have been handled better. It's just that the new administration is more Americanised and the American style is one about quick fixes."

A former visiting professor and external examiner, who would not be named, said the fabric of the university was being eroded by the policy and such an effect could spread to other education institutions if the Americanisation continued.

"In 2000 alone NUS lost 107 academics, some of them very senior people. I and a number of former colleagues have grown concerned at the recent Americanisation changes at NUS and I know that morale is at an all-time low," he said.

"Some academics going for jobs there are asked - no matter what their extensive international experience might be - specifically for American referees and evidence of publication in the US."

Leila Thayalan, NUS's head of corporate communication, said that, with nearly 2,000 faculty members, staff turnover was high. She also said American qualifications were not always requested.

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