In reply to what is probably the dumbest argument I’ve seen yet (excluding YouTube comments)

I’m usually not one to insult people over their opinions, seeing as I’m all for free speech and people voicing their thoughts. But sometimes you just come across something that is so ridiculous you forget about respecting others’ opinions and start writing an article to insult it. And in the process you also write an extremely long title for your article because you have no idea how to shorten a sentence while still fitting “dumbest argument” and “reply” in it.

So firstly, I quote the argument which appears in today’s Today paper, or just the issue of Today on 28th August 2012, which you can find online here.
Six varsities more harm than good?
From Jeraldine Phneah Jia Lin
Aug 28, 2012

I attended the National Day Rally and was shocked that, with the two additional universities, the yearly intake of full-time students by 2020 will go up by 3,000, on top of increasing numbers in existing local universities.

As an undergraduate, I urge the Education Ministry to reconsider the decision, which would create a more competitive climate for undergraduates as the value of a degree diminishes.

Students would have to work harder to get a higher honours class, multiple internships and co-curricular activities, to secure a good job when they graduate.

We may end up like many Western countries where a first degree is no longer enough and students incur more fees for a master’s degree.

This would contradict national goals such as increasing birth rates, as people would have to delay marriage and the age they start work. And with an increasingly busy university schedule, students may not even have time to date.

Also, is this policy equitable? The academic entry requirements for SIM University and the Singapore Institute of Technology seem low, and many can get in because they have the means to afford it.

This may add to the existing inequality whereby richer students have the option of going abroad or to private universities if they cannot make it to local universities.

The move is also not in line with one of our core national values, meritocracy. With basic education for all, everyone now has a chance to prove themselves worthy of a place in university. We have a fair fight for the limited number of university places.

If university entry requirements here will be lowered, how would those with the mentality that if they strive to be one of the best, they can earn a place in university, feel or think?

A degree is not a right but a privilege for which one has to work hard. I hope that the Government will not make this accessible to just anyone who has the means to pay for it.

A final consideration is that, with increased competition and stress in our society, and if current undergraduates resent this policy, would our talented workers choose to work and live abroad instead?

It is important that, in an attempt to pacify one group, we do not sacrifice the interests and hard work of another.


In a nutshell, Ms Phneah believes the opening of 2 more universities, along with existing ones accepting more students, would lead to a deterioration of the value of degrees. Phneah believes that “If university entry requirements here [are] lowered”, degrees will become a dime a dozen, with students having to “work harder” to get “higher honours class”, “multiple internships” etc. to “secure a good job”.

Firstly, I see nothing wrong with chasing excellence. If the extra competition results in harder working students who gain more valuable work experiences and get higher honours class, what exactly is wrong with that? Far from diminishing in value, employers worldwide would be thrilled with such accomplished and well-prepared graduates produced locally.

Furthermore, I believe Phneah cheapens employers’ ability to discern degrees from a reputable and well-accomplished varsity from a private one. (This is not to say students receive sub-standard education, or are any less able than students in NUS or NTU, I am merely pointing to the university ranking tables which show NUS and NTU etc. in more reputable standing.)

The fact is that there have been many news reports thus far which show that graduates from the 3 public universities earn higher starting wages than their counterparts from private schools, which shows employers do pay attention to the colleges that job-seekers come from. Phneah herself displays knowledge that the “academic entry requirements for SIM university and the Singapore Institute of Technology seem low”, which is while not an accurate reflection of candidates’ ability, is still surely employers take note of. I thus urge Phneah to not worry about her starting pay.

I am under the impression that Phneah believes that with the increase in places, more candidates will be of a lower calibre. With these ‘sub-standard’ students diluting the pool, she believes she will find it difficult to stand out from the crowd. This frankly smacks of elitism, and is again a flawed judgement on the increased intake. Phneah discounts the fact that current spaces of university spots are far too limited for local students, a problem worsened by the influx of foreign scholars who take up much of the available university places.

In the current scenario, many students who meet the entry requirements for their desired courses are denied their spaces simply due to a lack of space, not because they are sub-standard to other students in any way. Thus, Phneah’s delusion that meritocracy is eroded if more university spots equate to more undeserving students entering university is … well… deluded. In fact, more university spots actually promote meritocracy in that no longer are deserving students denied their reward simply due to scarcity.

Her argument that “This may add to the existing inequality whereby richer students have the option of going abroad or to private universities if they cannot make it to local universities” is also sadly, full of shit. This is already happening in a large scale. Less than half the graduating JC cohort enters a local university, where do you think the others go with a simple A level cert? The ones who can afford to, go overseas or to a private university as Phneah mentions. Those who can’t afford to have no choice but to retake the As or just enter the workforce.

THIS is inequality and ALREADY exists. I have no idea how Phneah arrived at the conclusion that opening 2 public universities, which offers those unable to afford the luxuries of overseas or private education a chance at entering a university, and being able to get better wages eventually, actually worsens the inequality. In fact, it actually solves it by leveling the playing field.

I find Phneah’s opinion really, sincerely, stupid. While everyone has the right to have an opinion, sometimes when it’s as selfish and idiotic as this, please just keep it to yourself.
To end off, it is important that, in an attempt to inflate and maintain the value of your education certificate, you do not stifle competition and deny deserving people of their places as well. In short, If you wish to be successful, rise above others, don’t shackle them down.
Edit:Following a debate on Facebook and a discussion with my dad, I realised that I myself have missed out some points in my argument.
Firstly, to clarify: I do not believe attainment of a university degree should be the sole goal of university education. I believe education should be more rounded, in terms of character development, instilling analytical skills and thought independence. However, that is not what the government believes. The screening process for university admission is meant to weed out those deemed unsuitable as of yet to cope with university syllabuses, or those that lose out to others in terms of the skill of rote learning (which is essentially just what Singapore certs say about someone). Do I think it’s the best way to judge someone? 2 posts ago I’ve given the answer (No), but in Singapore’s narrow definition of “merit”, this is all that counts.  
So when I advocate for the opening of more university spaces, it is because of my belief that more people should be given the chance to be educated at a higher level. Yes, an oversupply of graduates can flood job markets. But as I’ve said before, employers are discerning enough to tell higher quality degrees from lower ones. Furthermore, the country should be proud of striving to be a nation of many educated graduates, and not celebrate the fact that an elite minority make it while the rest flounder.
We must ask ourselves. What is the function of higher education? Is it simply to pump students with the necesarry skills to work their jobs? Is it to weed out the bad and pump the good students full of resources and knowledge, all the while blaming those who fail to make the cut for not working hard enough?
2 posts ago I’ve established that that itself is flawed. Yes, there are some who are lazy, complacent and don’t deserve it. But for every lazy Tom, there is a Dick who has worked so hard but is just not suited for the rote learning style of education and a Harry who was simply denied a spot due to lack of space. In that light, should we not allocate more spaces for such people to attain a higher education, and be given the same opportunity to grow and learn?
A university education is seen by many to be an opportunity to grow as a person, to learn skills that they would never have learned anywhere else, especially for those who can’t afford to go private. While some may define it as simply a stepping stone to good jobs, I believe it is too narrow a definition for a 3-8 year process that instills so much more than just “How to do your job”.
The university admission screening process is meant to weed out the lazy and undeserving, but all too often it denies those that, I believe, rightfully deserve a spot in universities. In our rush to become ever successful, we should not ignore those that jump with all their might and still miss the boat. Let us be more inclusive in our education system and give more deserving people the opportunity to expand themselves.
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