singapore education

I'm a student studying Engineering in NTU. Here's something that happened just a few days before our exams about 2 months ago.

I was looking at one of the tutorial questions given by our professor. I didn't agree with his solution because it appeared to be missing something, so I went to ask several of my peers about it.

All of them agreed that my proposed solution seemed to be correct. Yet all of them just told me to follow the professor's solution.

"Just follow the professor's solution, it's definitely correct."
"I don't know, but just follow the professor's solution if you want to be on the safe side."
"He's the professor leh, his answer should be correct."
"The professor should know the answer since he set the question."
"Come on you're just a student while he's the professor, he should know better than you."

All their replies honestly shocked the hell out of me. We aren't just primary or secondary school kids anymore, we are university students who are supposedly studying at one of the top universities in the entire Asia. We are supposed to have the ability to understand what we are studying and be able to question it. Yet everyone I spoke to appears to be no better than a sheep, simply blindly following whatever they are fed with.

And when I spoke to my Malaysian friend about it, this is what he told me. "In all my years studying in this university, this is what I learnt. It doesn't pay to be smart. You don't get your marks from questioning the answers, you get it from memorizing them even if they are wrong."

In the end I went to see my professor about the question, and he agreed that my solution was correct. However he would accept both answers anyway because the other solution was the one that was taught.

Now I went to clarify with my lecturer because I simply couldn't bring myself to write down a solution in the final examination while believing that it was incorrect. Obviously this wasn't the same case with my peers. They didn't care whether or not the answer was correct or wrong, they simply wanted the marks.

Another incident which shocked me was when I asked my peers for the answer to another question. All of them were quick to give me the correct answer within seconds. However when I asked them "Why?", none of them could reply me.

"Errrrrr, the answer is just like that lor."

So I showed them a diagram from the lecture slides and explained that based on the diagram, we should actually be given a different answer. They debated it for a minute or two among each other before finally coming to their conclusion.

"Aiya, just stick to the original answer lah, it's confirm correct."

Again I saw the professor for this module and he explained that the provided answer is correct, but he agreed with me that the diagram was misleading and he would change it for future syllabuses.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I was wrong in this case. After all you don't learn from keeping your mouth shut. But it was clear from this case that none of my friends actually understood the concept behind the question, and all they did was memorize the answers from the previous years.

It's pretty clear through the actions of my peers that the Singaporean Education system is largely a failure. Even at the university level, many of the students do not actually understand the concepts which are taught. Instead they only continue to memorize the answer and simply regurgitate it back during the examinations. Nobody thinks about it, nobody questions it. Almost everyone here is just a sheep who blindly accepts what is taught to them.

Should we really be proud that we are churning our university level graduates who cannot think?