Sunday, April 02, 2006

Catherine Lim's Musings; ICTs and local male PhD students; Options for knowledge's sake

Several blogworthy forum letters in Today (Apr 3).


Caterine Lim ...

My own precious darling

My true love I now declare

Please say those three words

That will make me walk on air!'

She was bored stiff and tired

But most ready to comply

'Go hang yourself!' she said

And left the nonplussed guy.


Stayers are loyal Singaporeans

But not those who up and quit

Quitters who seek new pastures

Have made an unworthy exit.

We practical Singaporeans know

Both decisions are really legit

We would not be stayers here

If our forefathers had not quit.


Add NS duties to the list of reasons. I have never donned a No. 4 after ORD, and I don't intend to. I had already given you 2.5 of the best years in my life. Don't expect me to sacrifice more. You ain't worth it.

ICT timing hinders postgrad students
Letter from Shaun Ho Pan-Wei

The aim to have a 50:50 local to foreign postgraduate student ratio — as with many acclaimed research institutions worldwide — is important if we are to stay competitive in Asia.

As a practice, undergraduates pursuing degree programmes in local universities have their yearly in-camp training (ICT) scheduled during their vacation months through the Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) unit scheme.

However, this is not so for local full-time postgraduate students. Local postgraduate students are not given the provision as they are no longer considered part of the IHL scheme.

To complicate matters, postgraduates (due to their exclusion from IHL units) have their yearly in-camp training scheduled for the middle of their semesters as the vacation periods have often been reserved for the call-up of NSMen in IHL units.

Chairman of A*Star Philip Yeo himself remarked that "PhD work is no joke. You have to devote five lonely years to it. Your only friends are your fellow sufferers".

Our local postgraduate population is joined by high-calibre talents from around the region in the pursuit of a higher degree, and competition is very keen. Policy changes are necessary if we are to encourage more local postgraduate students.


Pursuing your own dreams takes a lot of courage (and sacrifice) especially in Singapore. The lack of options in Sg-land for those interested in pursuing knowledge for knowledge's/career-changing sake is also glaring.

As for me, living in a college town would be ideal - a built-in intellectual community, and easy access to research libraries, to name just a few.

a degree too far to alter course?

Monday • April 3, 2006

Catharina Laporte

I met a woman on a ferry one weekend. While she cuddled her small daughter, we exchanged small talk of the "where are you from? what do you do?" kind.

I was surprised to discover that she harboured an intense dissatisfaction for her work. She told me that she had attended university in Australia and had probably chosen the wrong career.

Now she felt trapped in that choice — fated to a life as an accountant when she would really prefer to explore a more artistic or people-oriented career.

This saddened me greatly.

This woman was only in her late 20s or early 30s, obviously intelligent, yet at this young age felt bound by a decision she made 10 years ago.

Had this woman been 10 years older, perhaps we may have labelled her dissatisfaction with her career as a "mid-life crisis" — that crossroads in life when a person realises that half their life is over, and unless they make some radical changes, the next half is probably going to be exactly the same.

I hit that point in my life several years back. I realised that despite being on the cutting edge of technology, with an excellent salary, I hated my management position in the global corporate world.

At that time, we were living in America, so with the support of my husband, I went back to community college and started again — this time focusing on the humanities and social sciences.

In short, it took me more than 40 years to find my passion.

Seven months ago and two-thirds of the way towards my Bachelor's degree, my husband and I were transferred to Singapore. I was very excited to be relocating to a country where education is claimed to be one of the most prized and valued possessions.

Naively confident that I would be able to transfer my existing American credits to a university here in Singapore and complete my degree, I approached two of the local universities and most of the foreign ones with an offshore base here.

I hit a brick wall. Disappointed and left with only one apparent option, I enrolled in an online distance programme in an effort to complete my degree.

My circumstances are unique, but they highlight a problem for a significant percentage of both expatriate and local Singaporean residents.

Beyond community centres, workforce development and extension education programmes, where can a professional adult with a family and/or employer obligations — an adult who cannot commit himself to a defined time frame or a hefty sum — pursue a life-changing, degree-earning education, at their own pace?

The Ministry of Manpower recently reported that the highest unemployment rate was found among the over-40s. While many of these people may benefit from Government-subsidised retraining schemes, others of this group are most certainly professional people, stuck at a crossroads in their life, looking for a radical change of career.

The options for this later group would appear to be limited; the only adult degree-earning education I could find in Singapore was expensive and peppered with time constraints, course rigidity and intimidating prerequisites.

In today's world, and especially in Singapore, education should be flexible, available for all and structured for the real world. Perhaps if it were, my friend on the ferry would have the option to change the course of her life.

This article is contributed by a reader.

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