04 June 2006

Singapore is "World-Class" Again

As I've mentioned several times, Singapore has a habit of making claims to be world-class or world-best in this and that and this and that ... when it really isn't.

Some past examples are available here. And here's a new one to add to my collection:

ST June 4, 2006
Net furore as critics call it unrealistic and embarrassing, but there are fans too
By Jeremy Au Yong

THE National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School's new television commercial has become something of a hot item on the Internet - but not for the reasons NUS might have hoped.

The advertisement in question shows a student in suburban America (it was actually filmed in Woodlands) leafing through letters from University of Pennsylvania's Wharton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan and University of Chicago's business schools before squealing in delight at an acceptance letter from NUS.

A voice-over then confidently proclaims NUS as 'preferred around the world by tomorrow's elites' before the clip ends with the student's mother joking that the boys in Singapore are 'way too cute'.

The commercial has been a talking point and many of the comments are far from complimentary .......

Critics cite two complaints: first, that it is unrealistic for NUS to compare itself with the top 10 ranked business schools. And second, that the 'cute boys' remark was embarrassing.

Said teacher Sam Ong, 35: 'Why were they playing up the cute factor? We have so many selling points, why pick that one?'

Advertising veteran Mark Fong, creative director at ad agency Young and Rubicam, also took a dim view of the ad. 'I doubt that even a top 10 business school would dare use such an unapologetically proud positioning,' he said.

Current international rankings do not flatter the school.

In The Financial Times' MBA programme rankings - the gold standard in business education rankings - NUS came in 92nd this year, while Wharton, University of Chicago and Sloan came in at first, sixth and 10th respectively.


In a previous post, I had commented as follows on Singapore's culture of unfounded self-praise: "The danger of such apparently harmless (if vain) utterances of admiration is that this country may begin to delude itself, in some ways at least, into believing that it is something we are not." The Straits Times article now provides an example:

The school is also standing firmly by its campaign.

The dean, Mr Christopher Earley, who came up with the concept for the ad, said that a lot of the criticism was a product of Singaporean modesty.

'I think all too often people here are too hard on themselves. They don't realise what an incredibly good university we have here.

'Our best students are every bit as smart as the students in the top schools. I'm absolutely convinced it sends the right message.'
Mr Earley, rankings are rankings. If you're ranked 92nd, you're ranked 92nd, and that's a very long way from the 1st, 6th and 10th places.

Also, you might be correct to say that the best students in NUS are as smart as the average students in the top schools. But that in itself explains why NUS is a long way off, from the top 10. When your average students are as smart as the average students in the top schools, well, that's when NUS will be a top school itself.

All in all, another rather embarrassing episode for Singapore, as the following interviewee correctly points out:
Though most agree that NUS' ad would not sway someone's choice of university, they still think it was a bad idea.

Said Mr Ong: 'People who see it are going to scoff at the ad. Any discerning student will know to check university rankings first.'

An interesting coincidence - Singapore is also ranked world no. 92 for something else - soccer. Applying the logic of the NUS advertisement, our national soccer team should consider itself comparable or better than Brazil (world no. 1); Spain and the US (joint 5th place in the world); and England (world no. 10).

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"Singapore .... Errr, that's a province
in Southeast China, right?"

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am shocked to read that NUS has claimed itself to be the first choice among top universities.

There may be a group of students who choose NUS, but it is weird to generalise it and make it a video.

On the other hand, there may be a bigger group of Singaporeanstudents who choose top universities, even when being offered a place in NUS.

Perhaps a survey can be done to see how wide a margin this is.

jin said...

Frankly, who in their right minds would choose Wharton B-school over NUS? Warren Buffett, Kofi Annan, and Donald Trump are all alumni of Wharton.. Which famous alumni can NUS lay claim to? Goh Chok Tong ah?? hahaha

jin said...

Correction: I meant who in their right minds would choose NUS over Wharton B-school.

Janice said...

It is only an illusion that local universities believe that they are world-class. An interviewer from the newest local uni told me the school hires only elites and graduates from Ivy League schools, and of course I didn't fit the job. Such arrogance is abhorrent.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Janice, you might be interested to read this - something which says something about how "well" our local institutions succeed in identifying talent.

Anonymous said...

People should realise that telling the same lies over and over again doesn't really make them true.

Perhaps they should have kept that publicity video and use it when they are actually "up there" along with the others in future when the time has really come for it to actually be 'preferred around the world by tomorrow's elites'?

Elites! Sorry, in the real world Elites only go to Universities of the Ivy League kind. Trying to brainwash and fool children is it?

"the student's mother joking that the boys in Singapore are 'way too cute'."

Same "mother encourages daughter by commenting on the attributes of the male students" tactics used by a certain boys' school not too long ago to invite the foreign girls to join the local boys.

Its all just a failing strategy to invite more female angmoh oversea students and angmoh lecturers to the local university mix, so that the international student body ratio would look good, so that their university ranking(#18) would in turn look "good" too.

Its like the uncivilised and unlearned no-class cave Singaporeans want to act and fake high-class but cannot be high-class. Just refinely-rude local-discriminating asian snobs who suck up to "talented" angmohs, bo class lah!

hugewhaleshark said...

Rankings aside, I think the ad sucks. There's the mention of chewing gum. Can you get more stereotypical? And frankly is there a point?

As for the bit about the boys. I mean seriously. Do you expect a potential candidate looking to blow a six-figure sum on a degree to say "Hey this school has a sense of humour. Sounds like a good place to bet the farm on." Please, lah.

Anonymous said...

A good reputable university is judged based on how good the alumni is. Top universities actually have Nobel laureates and many famous prize winners in their alumni. If other universities with the lack of distinguished alumni want to act "top" but is actually "bottom", I say just zip it and throw it in the trash can!

*The Lunatic Fringe* said...

Some questions to ponder:

1) Who commissioned the ads?
2) Why choose American theme?
3) How much did it cost?
4) Who pays (Govt/Endowment income/Donations/Fees from Students)?

visceral said...

I think this ad would be apt
-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2AZBwYG3bI

Anonymous said...

NUS could potentially do a lot better than its current rank of #92...

... but only if the Singapore government sent ALL their PSC scholars to local universities for their undergraduate studies before sponsoring them for a one/two year Masters degree program in some top overseas uni.

this way, the country saves a huge amount of money, plus these scholars will have their roots firmly planted in Singapore..

Anonymous said...

of course, the overseas master degree is conditional on those scholars being able to accepted into the top program after their undergraduate studies, and that incentive will push them to study really hard..

with that in place, at least NUS will then be able to claim that "xxx% of their graduates proceed for postgraduate studies in top US universities"...

stan said...

hahha, i like the soccer analogy.. seeing as the 2010 goal is already in the bin, it's pretty hilarious that NUS dares to compete with top biz schools..
i am actually quite ashamed of the advert.. they are doing the same thing..using foreign talent to boost rankings.. it's the same with every other aspect, sports and all.. you only get laughed at la..
u do not attempt to put yourself on equal footing with the likes of Ronaldinho when you cant even match the kids in his hometown..

Anonymous said...

I think something is left out in this discussion. The quality of the teaching staff isn't world class either.

anyway, in the competition for talent, it seems the unis and government have money a plenty to throw at it, but no novel ideas or indigenious quality to build on. It seems all they do is renovate, put up new buildings and hire foreigners. Local incumbents are unceremoniously pushed aside no matter how good they are.

Anthony said...

I think the ad is targeting the right audience.

After all, if the ad works, and a person -does- choose NUS over Wharton, I say we deserve them!

Anonymous said...

I'm an alumni of California State University Long Beach (CSULB), Long Beach, CA. CSULB is not even considered an Ivy league school and we don't even bragged about some of our famous students, namely, Steven Spielberg, yes, the Steven Spielberg of Jaws, Indiana Jones, etc. is an alumni of CSULB. He had attended CSULB in the 1960's but dropped out during his senior year when he got an offer to make films for Universal Studios. And as we know, the rest is history. Mr. Spielberg inspite of his fame and successes (he sure got lots of honorary degrees from the ivy league universities in the nation)decided that he wanted to finish this unfinished business of completing his undergradute education. He was a few units shy of getting his Bachelors. He recently graduated with his Bachelor degree in Film arts in 2003 or 2004 (I don't remembered which year, but it was the buzz during graduation in June here in Long Beach) from CSULB. Richard and Karen Carpenter of the famed musical duo The Carpenters in the 1970's were also students of CSULB.

There are world class universities here in the US that don't even bragged about how good they are. Those students who seek a world class education already knows which are the world class universities.

Anonymous said...

The ludicrity (sic) of the ad is that common sense must dictate 1) its ineffectiveness, 2) its adsurdity, 3) that people with definitely poke fun of it.

That it's still been done must be that either they don't have a fucking clue or they have super thick skin.

Then again, it might have been a brilliant SMU prank, hehehe. Nothing's fair in business after all. =)

Anonymous said...

anthony - I like your sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

This is a true Singaporeans who speaks up for Singaporeans! He fights for fellow Singaporeans and speaks the truth!

Say no to Anality! You have a Choice!

See this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGnNhfk4QHo&search=Worker%27s%20party%20

sngck said...

-'Our best students are every bit as smart as the students in the top schools. I'm absolutely convinced it sends the right message.'

-Applying the logic of the NUS advertisement, our national soccer team should consider itself comparable or better than Brazil (world no. 1); Spain and the US (joint 5th place in the world); and England (world no. 10).


HAHAHAHAHA. Our best Singaporean players are as good as Ronaldinho, Raul and Rooney???

Shameless.

Mezzo said...

The NUS business school can't be that good - after all, it hired Mr Christopher Earley...

The irony is that the famous "NUS is ranked 18th" line is because of its social sciences and arts. The social sciences and arts were actually ranked around 10th in the world! This is the same Faculty of Arts that gets the short end of the stick when it comes to funding. Our engineering, sciences, business schools are actually pulling the ranking down.

The business school needs to take the same tack the FAS took: exploit our status as the regional hub, and the best university in which to study Asia.

(oh, and the girl in the add was butt ugly. So much for marketing.)

Anonymous said...

They commission an ad that seems to be targeted at foreigners. Does this FT Earley person knows his audience or not? How much does the ad cost? NUS and NTU in my opinion are out of touch with the needs of their students and the reality they operate in. More and more they are behaving like businesses rather than an institutions of higher learning.

This is the reason why those invitations to join the alumni they keep sending me end up in the dustbin.

Anonymous said...

My husband, a Cornellian, nearly fell off his chair when he read an ST article about NUS being ranked higher than Cornell and Princeton!

His question to me was Cornell's founding principle was "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study" (Ezra Cornell. Pray tell what's NUS's one was?

I was too busy wiping away my tears of amusement and disbelief at the article to reply him. :)

ak said...

NUS is just like the PAP gov't. They think they're better than they really are.. And how many of our ministers and scholars actually graduated from NUS?

klimmer said...

Goh Chok Tong went to Brown.

Anonymous said...

and you say the garmen has no sense of humour ...

... WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ... ROTFLOL !!!

Anonymous said...

Latest News: PAP shows its undemocratic powers again! PAP all bullshit about "inclusive Society" PAP gives foreigners the rights to demostrate in two months time in IMF but dun even allow these "losers" to open their mouths! Singaporeans are WORSE than foreigners, just like this commercial!

SDP activists charged for speaking in public without permit
5 Jun 06

Police have charged Dr Chee Soon Juan, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, and Mr Yap Keng Ho under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (PEMA).

Dr Chee and Mr Yap are charged with eight counts of “making an address in a public place” while Mr Ambalam is charged with one. The three men were selling the SDP's The New Democrat in the run up to the elections in May.

The three are required to appear in Court No. 26 at the Subordinate Court on 20 June 2006 to enter their pleas.

This is another way the PAP prevents the opposition from directly and effectively communicating with the people. In so doing it denies the Singapore Democrats access to the people. This allows the PAP to continue its monopoly on what the public reads and hears, which in turn allows the ruling party to shape politics and the opposition according to its own agenda.

The SDP is determined to break the PAP's stranglehold on free speech and peaceful assembly in Singapore, and will continue to challenge unjust laws like the PEMA. If Singapore is going to enjoy democracy and if Singaporeans are going to have a meaningful say in how this country is run, unjust and unconstitutional laws like the PEMA must be abolished or amended.

The Singapore Democrats call on Singaporeans who seek justice and democracy to actively work with the SDP to rid this country of the one-party system and its ban on freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

regarding your following point...

"Also, you might be correct to say that the best students in NUS are as smart as the average students in the top schools."

I think you need to control for the different quality in intake (ie, compare NUS with the other top schools in terms of value-addedness).

From that perspective, it might be correct to compare the best students in NUS with the average students at MIT (since the best NUS students would have been able to get into most top schools, if they have the money). The correct yardstick is to see how these two groups of people fare after graduation.

Melbgrad said...

OK, so did the ad actually show that the girl also was accepted in the other schools? I don't think so. We only saw the envelopes of the other schools but was only shown the NUS letter.

So perhaps those other letters from the other schools were REJECTION letters and only NUS accepted her which is the reason why she is SO happy about studying at NUS and coming to Singapore! LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

NUS should be ashamed to claim such a title for herself. IT is really a disgraced. Which person in the right mind would have chosen a ranked 92 uni over the other top uni. This really crap .
Maybe all those letters she got are rejects !!! LOL .

Well this tell us something about the quality of NUS business school...School for the rejects !!

woodchuck said...

Just to add to the football analogy, Germany wins their first game 4-2 and their press calls for careful optimisim.

A Singapore official gives the first red card of the tournament, and we have two days of coverage on the referee, as though he's just won the world cup for us.

Talk about being desperate for success....

Anonymous said...

Education in Local Unis?

I think our people who have gone through education in local universities can vouch to the uninspiring academic style, not to mention confusing graduation credit requirements that changes every year, that have left many students doing an extra semester as a result.

And of course, incomprehensible lecturers with deep accents and poor command of english.

Need I say more?

Anonymous said...

Education in Local Unis?

I think our people who have gone through education in local universities can vouch to the uninspiring academic style, not to mention confusing graduation credit requirements that changes every year, that have left many students doing an extra semester as a result.

And of course, incomprehensible lecturers with deep accents and poor command of english.

Need I say more?