IN THE reports, 'New varsity's focus: Design and technology for innovation' last Friday, and 'An MIT for Singapore' on Wednesday, Singapore's fourth university, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SU), states that it too wants to be a top local university which will attract the brightest in Singapore and regionally.
Singapore's three other universities - the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) - have a similar aim as well.
NUS and NTU are already among the most respected regionally, and in the world too. SMU, once accredited, can be expected to achieve the same and its stringent admission criteria only lets in the best, as do those of NUS and NTU. But if all four universities only recruit the best and the brightest, where do the 'not so bright' go? Traditionally, they enrol in private schools where fees are not subsidised and are often regarded as second class compared to the big three. Alternatively, they must go abroad to obtain a degree.
It is unsurprising that many who are accepted abroad were rejected by Singapore universities, which shows the difference in educational focus between local universities and those in the West.
Education should not aim only to develop the brightest but also help those who are less clever realise their potential.
In the West, while all universities claim to be good in their respective disciplines, not all will claim to attract only the brightest. The best universities will always be at the top. But many universities in Australia and Britain cater to lesser lights who nevertheless qualify for a place.
In the West, many universities accept students on the basis of work experience and not just academic performance.
Often, these students perform well and graduate with a degree. They know they cannot compete with the brightest but they still deserve a chance for a university educaion and to be recognised.
In Singapore, the education system seems skewed towards catering to the cream of the crop.
While it is important to allow the smart ones to shine, it is equally vital to help less brilliant Singaporeans develop their latent academic talent.
So, where do the 'not so bright' go?
This article was first published in The Straits Times.