Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Private Educational Organisations- Accountability needed in the system

Hi friends,

I have written to Straits Times Forum about the ongoing debacle that has struck Singapore’s Private Education System.

I have strong feelings about this as I had enrolled in 2 Private Educational Organisations (PEO) in the past 3-4 years ( and I enjoyed it).

The first PEO was an University of London accredited college and I spent one year on the London School of Economics (external program). I then jumped track after one year and embarked on a PEO which helped me get my MBA with a university in south Australia.

I guess I was lucky as I was not fleeced by PEO’s who were degree-mills ( unlike Brookes Business School).

I made many friends in both institutions and what struck me most was that these students who are already disadvantaged ( as most of them are there by default as the official Uni’s -NUS/NTU/SMU, had either rejected them or made it not practical to enroll in), now face risks of wasting time in degree mills and being victims of scams.

In the Bachelor’s program, my classmates were mainly polytechnic graduates (20-30 years olds) trying to advance their careers with a recognizable degree ( UOL-LSE) and despite the gulf in age, we had a great time. I had to do Maths/Stats/Econs/Marketing/Accounting with people less than half my age! I think only one or two lecturers were older than I. haha.

In the MBA program, my classmates were a mixture of locals and foreignors, degree holders as well as mature polytechnic graduates. Only Mr. S.A. was older than O and I! Projects and presentations were the order of the day and we survived it and most of us convocated in Adelaide last year. ( we also had wine and song ( no women) there!).

However,there are many who are not as lucky as us and we read about them in the Brookes saga and in so many horror stories that I cannot recall these PEO's names as they come and go as surely as the wind.

I honestly feel that if some people were not sleeping on their jobs, there would have been less broken hearts and dreams.

To those in the PEO system, please fight on. Don’t let the system's failure distract you from your dreams and aspirations. Yes you can! ( even pass Statistics & Accounting)

The letter to the Forum page demanding accountability

July 26, 2009

Dear editor,

Singapore’s reputation as a hub of educational excellence had been dealt a serious dent, by what I can only describe as, a string of gaffes which I do not expect from our efficient civil service and government related bodies.

Involvement of Case;EDB;Spring Singapore;MTI

I refer to Sunday Times’ write-up yesterday (Academic checks not our job: Case), where Case (Consumer Association of Singapore) disavowed any responsibility for ensuring academic excellence in the Private Educational Organisations (PEO) who pay money to be accredited with the Casetrust mark, without which these PEO’s would not have been able to enrol foreign students.

Case’ executive director, Mr. Seah Seng Choon, also explained that in 2004, Economic Development Board (EDB) developed the Education Excellence Framework which consisted of three components: organizational excellence; academic excellence and excellence in student protection and welfare practices and that Casetrust’s purview was limited to the last component. Organizational excellence was run by Spring Singapore and most tellingly, an accreditation council which was supposed to be set up by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) to oversee the academic component, ensuring delivery of quality programmes by the PEO’s, did not “materialize” despite official EDB press statements.

In essence, one leg of the tripod was missing, hence contributing to the present pathetic saga amongst PEO’s.

Involvement of MOE

Furthermore, Australia’s RMIT had officially complained to our Ministry of Education in April 2007 about Brooke’s false claims and Senior Minister of State for Education, Mr. S Iswaran, revealed to parliament recently, that apart from warning Brookes two months later, no further significant action was taken by MOE.

Accountability and explanations please!

Although the main culprit is obviously Brookes, Singapore’s public and students left in the lurch by the Brookes saga still deserve a coherent explanation of how the implementation of a much heralded public policy had failed and the interests of stakeholders of Singapore’s private educational system were left unprotected.

I totally understand why these students feel let down. After all, they had put their faith in Case and other official bodies only to find out after the fact that Singapore’s reputation as an efficient and well-oiled city-state was to them, more imaginary than real.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


sgcynic said...

I never really bothered about CaseTrust. I've always had the impression that it's some form of accredition scheme that "Trust" means rely on. Then I realised it's more like Trust-fund, where you buy some form of insurance against the PEO ripping you off. But then it seems that Case is the ultimate rip-off. The names Case and CaseTrust are misnomers.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi sgcynic,
Even if we take Case’s response at face value- there are still many questions not answered.
Did Case know that one of the legs of the tripod was not set up ( as planned) and hence even if the students money were safeguarded, the students could still be wasting time on a bogus degree?
Does Case not care if the institution is bona fide with respect to accreditation or is they interest in just collecting money ?
Did Case inform anyone of this absent tripod leg and wasn’t Case concerned about it? How safe and fool-proof was Case system of ensuring that PEO’s abide by the rules ( not so safe as Brookes had shown that it was so easy to circumvent it).
Now everyone is claiming that no one is at fault but the student! Typical. Set up a non-existent tripod of a system and when the shit hit the fans, all cower under the tables! Only the students left with shit all over the face!
Dr Huang

Xtrocious said...

CASE should be renamed as ATNA - all talk no action

Again, this is a reflection of our culture of having too many "generals" and no foot soldiers who are able to carry out the needed checks and balances...

I also find it so strange that none of the relevant bodies were interested in conducting checks on whether these PEOs are bonafide - instead as our good doctor noted, they were more interested in acting as custodians (bankers) for the monies...

Is the real aim to milk the education "hub" status or provide an affordable and world-class education for private students?

sgcynic said...

Hi Dr Huang,
I recalled reading about allegations that MOE knew about the bogus accreditation since 2007 but took no responsibility. How's that for irresponsibility. In Singapore, it's the people that are always being ripped off by the various institutions, private or otherwise.

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