Education & Research in Singapore
Inviting great researchers from all over the word
Compared to universities of Japan, those of Singapore is more internationalized. A large part of Ph.D students and researchers in Singapore come from foreign countries. It is a graph which shows nationalities of staffs and students of Center for Quantum Technology (CQT). Among 109 members in total, 21 are from Singapore, following 17 from China. This data includes administration staffs. Without administration staffs, Chinese would be the most largest part of CQT. This tendency can be generalized to most of the research institutes in Singapore. We met many Chinese Ph.D students in NUS and NTU.
When we asked why they had decided to study in Singapore, they gave almost the same answer; "Singapore give us (Ph.D students) enough money to live well-off, but there is no such a good scholarship system in China". As to Ph.D students, scholarship is the most attractive point for students from other countries.
We also met many research staff who were not Singaporean. In fact, many of them were on important positions. The director of CQT, Prof. Artur Ekert is from Poland, and the director of IMCB which is a part of Biopolis is Prof. Neal Copeland from America. I can't imagine that situation to occur in Japan. Regarding this topic, Prof. Yoshiaki Ito who has his lab in IMCB said;
"Of course, one of the reasons why Singapore invite first-rate researcher from U. S. A. and U.K. is that they can conduct great research and produce excellent results. In addition, they speak English very well. I mean they can not only talk about research topic in English, but also communicate in various occasion without any kinds of inconvenience. Singaporean speak English, so they don't have to worry about communication in labs and institutions. What's more, they can talk and have dealings with the executives of European and American companies very smoothly. In other words, by inviting the top-class researcher, they have a good advantage in attracting companies of Western countries."
Natural resource is scarce in Singapore, therefore they have to create "value" by their works. Without that effort, Singapore would go back to a developing country. People in Singapore always have a sense of crisis. In the middle of world wide current of globalization, it is very important for Singapore to attract world-wide company. The strategy to invite first-class investigators and world-class excellent companies can't be considered separately.
By the way, why do great researchers decide to move to Singapore? For one thing, Singapore offers very comfortable environment to live. Public space is very clean, as we were impressed with, and people who can speak English don't have to concern about language. In short, for Europeans and Americans, there are not so much high barrier to move to Singapore. For another thing, by suggesting great environment for jobs, high salary and things whatever they can offer, Singapore have succeeded in inviting great scholars.
Scholarship in Singapore
Then, how is educational system in Singapore?
Singapore is a small country, which is short of natural resources. In addition, there are many peoples living together in Singapore. Therefore, education is an important matter for the maintenance of the nation itself. It is clear that Singapore places great importance on education by the fact that the percentage of the budget for education is only second to that for defense. There is an education system called "screening", in which excellent students are selected and educated in a special curriculum. Basically, children study at Primary school for 6 years, Secondary school for 4 years, Junior college for 2 years, and University for 4 years. The situation is much more complicated in general case, though, since there is "screening" every time children go on to the next step. It is a characteristic feature of Singaporean education. However, we do not comment on primary and secondary education here. Please look at the homepage of Singapore government for detailed information.
There are three universities in Singapore. National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU). Now we will look at the characteristics of undergraduate and graduate courses at NUS and NTU, together with our impression of them.
Let's begin with the undergraduate courses. The curriculums at NUS and NTU follow those of Universities in the US. Consequently the fundamentals of education are similar to those of America. So we did not feel big difference between education system at Singapore and that of Japan. In the case of Department of Physics, both have a mechanics course, 2 electrodynamics, 3 quantum mechanics, 2 statistical mechanics, and final year project.
However, there are many systems in which excellent students join in the forefront of science and technology. When we visited NTU on March 4, the members of CN Yang Scholars Programme welcomed us warmly. CN Yang Scholars Programme is a premier program at NTU for science and engineering students, named in honor of Nobel laureate CN Yang. CN Yang Scholars not only receive scholarship but also have opportunities to pursue independent research under supervision in the schools of Science and Engineering. The opportunities allow scholars to immerse themselves in research as early as first year. I was astonished all members had their own research topics and talked about them happily. They said they were excited to be exposed to various fascinating areas in science.
On the other hand, freshmen and sophomores at Todai belong to the department of arts and sciences, and have not decided their majors. I think liberal arts education is important, and two years at Komaba are indispensable to us. Generally speaking, however, freshmen and sophomores at Todai do not study so hard. Furthermore, the Shingaku Furiwake system prevents students from learning in advance. CN Yang Scholars Programme may be a model for improvement in the undergraduate system in Todai.
Let's move on to graduate schools. Please also refer to the other writing on Singaporean education in respect of recruiting excellent researchers and students from abroad.
Ph.D students in Singapore live comfortable lives in that there are many scholarship systems. Let's take an example of NUS Research Scholarship, which most of Ph.D students at NUS receive. (S$1 is almost equal to ¥65)
There are other scholarships. As the criteria more challenging, so the stipend better. They not only have tuition fees fully paid, but they can receive monthly stipend. It is enough for living in Singapore. A student from China is already married and supports his family by the scholarship. Most of CN Yang members wanted to proceed to Ph.D. I really envied their situation where students conduct research without financial anxiety.
In addition, graduate schools in Singapore recruits students from abroad. I hear that most of the graduate students consist of Chinise students. In the laboratories of Prof. Kuok and Prof. Feng, who I visited at NUS, all the members were Chinese. Unexpectedly we ESSVAP members were also invited to NUS with enthusiasm. When our 5 Physics members went around laboratories at NUS, professors explained the class schedule and scholarship in their grad school only for us. Because of ample scholarship and high level research, students from all over the world get together at Singapore. This situation is beneficial not only for foreign students but also for Singaporeans. In the case of Japan, on the contrary, there are not so many foreign students. Living expense is very high, and it is difficult to break the barrier of Japanese language. Todai should develop scholarships for foreign students and make all the lectures taught in English. Foreign students will activate Todai and its students.