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It’s Auseinandersetzung Time! January 16, 2007

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.

Time for another Auseinandersetzung with a letter sent to the States Times.

So someone wrote in saying that certain American universities accept entrance with an ‘O’ Levels cert. As such, this reader says, it’s time to re-think the JC syllabus, because the ‘A’ Levels are effectively made useless with this move.

Let’s see…

I think it’ll be difficult to phase out the GCE ‘A’ Levels, given that many institutions (like the integrated programme schools for example) have phased out the ‘O’ levels. They don’t want their students to graduate ‘ordinary’ but ‘advanced.’ Heh. Well, okay, first things first.

The author of the letter is right in saying that in the Singaporean context, a GCE ‘A’ Level is practically useless. It is only a way to get into university. That is very true. The GCE ‘A’ Levels are not recognised by most employers because they are very…theoriebezogen? That’s to say, it’s a lot of theoretical knowledge with little practical knowledge. That’s why poly graduates can go out and find a job without going to university. But then again, in the social context of most Asian countries (and this affects the employers too,) university is seen as the only way to make it good (or even reasonably comfortable) life, so the GCE ‘A’ Levels are still considered to be the top qualification.

I mean, dear Author, i think at some point of life you must have thought of ‘O’ Level graduates as having no definite future before them right? In Singapore no future lah. But now can go to a atas US university…got future already!

I think that you can’t get rid of the ‘A’s that easily because in Singapore the ‘A’s carry a certain social prestige (read: university education) and it clicks well with most parents’ impressions that their sons/daughters will be studying at a university soon and have a good future in the future. GCE ‘O’ Levels? Practically, yes, they can go on to a university education, but for a certain period of time, there will be a social stigma attached to them because people always think of them as underqualified. I mean, what would you feel?

‘As a first-year undergraduate, I find that most of the material covered during the first year is actually JC work. It is akin to a revision, only that the material is covered quite in depth. I see no problem with our students heading straight to university after their O Levels.’

It’s true that most of the material covered in first year is ‘A’ Level material. So, in a sense, you are lucky. Have you thought about the overseas students? They have to come over with an educational background which may not be the equivalent of the GCE ‘A’ Levels (surprise, surprise! There’s a WORLD outside Singapore. Jeez.) and they have to pick up what they don’t have.

Conversely, the repercussions of doing away with the ‘A’ Levels is that a lot of opportunities for overseas education will disappear. Look, you narrow minded maggot, students need the ‘A’ Levels to apply for entrance to a UK university. The ‘A’ Levels are equivalent to the German Reifezeugnis, which allows someone to study at a german university. If you think these institutions are going to change their entrance requirements because we’re changing, then surprise, surprise again!

What’s more, have you checked out what’s going on at SIM? Which US university is this? Have you even heard of it? I’m not saying that brand-naming is important. But you should check the quality of education there before jumping to such conclusions. But then again, you may be right. Because once you get your degree, it’s all gleichgültig anyway. So in that manner of thinking, perhaps you are right.

But then again, it’s only an American university. It’s not ALL American universities. That would already be cause for concern: is this particular university reducing its standards to up its profile?

I have a rather odd view of having a broad access to tertiary education, because i tend to find myself in two worlds…Heh…Okay, so it makes sure i have free education in Germany. Well and good. But in a small country like Singapore which is very human-resource based, institutions like SIM and all, in giving degree courses from ‘recognised overseas institutes’ with the comfort of studying in Singapore (the so-called Fernstudium), what’s going to happen when everyone has a university degree and finds themselves at square one? Actually, it’s happened. (The Test-Tube Washers.) Larger countries can afford to have such a system, even making education a basic human right, because there will always be others to form the base.

Yes, it is highly ELITIST. But i think this view of elitism can never be purged from any country – look, elitism in larger countries consists of not everyone having a chance to study at a university. However, i believe that most people who are willing to work CAN find jobs, simply because there is a demand. But what does elitism in a small country like Singapore look like?

I fancy it’s some people (like a certain Wee) getting a good comfy job because Daddy was a minister of parliament (albeit disgraced.) After all, when the playing field is levelled again, it’s back to the good ol’ days of dog-eat-dog, because, since humans are our only resource (yes, uncomfortable revelation: we are treated as mineral resources!) and everyone has a university degree, the limited demand, which can only cater to so much, becomes saturated. So there’s going to be a lot of string-pulling, and all, because jobs are of such value now. Either that, or better qualify yourself. Get a Master’s, man.

Anyway, to come back to topic. ‘A’ Levels or no ‘A’ Levels? I think that it’s here to stay. Our Dear First-Year Student should ask him/herself these questions:

  1. Has he/she studied at an overseas university? Can he/she confirm that university syllabus is just ‘akin to revision’?
  2. Has he/she encountered foreign students who find themselves having problems because their educational background was not the ‘A’ Levels? (In spite of this statement – i’m just describing the many difficulties foreign students can and will face overseas – i still think more NUS/NTU scholarships should go to Singaporeans. Quit the ‘foreign talent’ thang already!)
  3. What has ‘irrelevance’ got to do with Uni education? ‘A’ Level subjects are about OPENING CHOICES FOR UNIVERSITY. What a dumbfuck person! I mean, SURE, if you were like hell-bent on studying a particular subject, then of course it may appear to be ‘irrelevant.’ But i’m sure the majority of people were undecided when it came to choosing their university subjects. Some even study something which are totally different from what they did for their ‘A’s. Irrelevance has a new meaning for them – so the ‘A’s are also an opportunity for YOU to find out what YOU can study and what YOU probably cannot.
  4. Continuing from 3, haven’t you heard of the word interdisciplinary?
  5. How big is your world? I hope it’s not 640 square kilometres big, with the west end known as Tuas and the east one Changi.


1. jj - January 17, 2007

hmm… more skorlersheep for singaporeans would be a good start… sometimes i feel like a foreign student in my own faculty.

2. nedstark - January 17, 2007

Heh, another fella who probably thinks EDucation is just about getting into uni. the problem with singaporeans is that they see education as a pathway to getting A and not as a means of enriching ones mind.

Anyway my so called “treatise” on singapore has fianlly been done…think its crap but anyway its done…

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