NUS or NTU business school: which is better?

nusI asked an on-line friend, Darryl Chen, his opinion on which business school is better: ntuthe National University of Singapore or the Nanyang Technological University? This is his comprehensive and well written reply. If you have any opinions to add, feel free to add your 2 cents worth…

“Hi Pastor Kenny,

Anyhow, yes I did go to NUS Business School. Here’s my personal & unbiased(as much as possible) opinion about both schools….My feel about NTU is that it offers a more technical(because they start specialising in the 2nd year) grounded type of approach toward business education, whilst NUS tends to offer a more generic strategic(because they only start specialising in the 3rd year) type of approach. The good thing about NTU is that it offers direct honours to those who qualify, i.e. they don’t have to spend an extra year just to get their honours, whilst NUS has its students(those that qualify) spend one year on academic research to come out with a thesis to be awarded honours. Qualification is based on attainment of a certain GPA(grade point average, maximum 4) or CAP(cumulative average points, maximum 5). NTU uses the former whilst NUS uses the latter. However, I’m not sure if there has been changes in the systems in either schools since I have left NUS for about 4 years coming already. (Whoa! I didn’t know it was THAT long ago!)

I do not think that employers in Singapore today favour NUS over NTU, or vice versa. I verified this with a couple of my HR colleagues as well. From personal experience, when I was hiring 2 graduate interns in my job 2 years ago, I did meet with some NUS and NTU business graduates. My opinion from the employer side of the table, based on those interviews, was that the NUS students were more able to handle themselves in a professional manner and their responses to my questions tended to be slanted more “big-picture”. The NTU students, on the other hand, tended to be more reserved and did not leave as strong an impression as the NUS students. I’d like to think that this is an unbiased opinion, because my manager agreed with my assessment as well, and she’s from NTU. (Hahaha….)

But having said that, I don’t think either school is stronger than the other….they just offer different approaches to business studies. Your son should go with his heart and he’ll be fine. But just out of curiosity, did your son also consider SMU? I understand they offer a very good business program as well and based on the few SMU graduates I know, I’ve been quite impressed and I also heard good feedback about the program being offered there, although they do tend to be slightly pricier than NUS/NTU.

As for becoming CFA, I don’t think going to either school would aid or hinder him from getting that qualification. It shouldn’t, since CFA is a professional qualification and it is strictly based on a seperate set of coursework to be done, and I believe either NUS or NTU would give him the appropriate grounding. I always think that its most important to enjoy yourself while studying because that’s when you won’t drag your feet to school and you’d avail yourself to be receive whatever your professor has to impart. So, go with the heart….that’s what I say….

Thanks for writing. Hear from you again and see you around soon…


p.s. your son should do well in Uni….i have very high esteem for people who go from the poly into university because they’re very hardworking people yet humble and capable. I always enjoy working with them in my uni days.”

(Re-posted from old blogpastor file dated 9th May 2007 for the benefit of those applying for university entry next month)

The ACS spirit

the best is yet to be“Was that the ACS spirit? Or perhaps the MGS spirit?” I provocatively asked a young adult in my cell group. I was referring to a news report about a video of a birthday celebration that looked more like birthday ragging. It was done at ACJC. A group of 10 laughing girls crowded around her as they pinned her down and tied her hands to the chin-up bar. The girls tried to tape the victim’s mouth with masking tape when she started screaming repeatedly. They poured milk on her, stuffed cake into her face and even her blouse as  a crowd of 15 boys and girls looked on. After the ragging, the birthday song. To the birthday girl, who took it in her stride, it was “memorable”. The young adult said, “No it was not the ACS spirit!”

There were three from ACS so I asked them with curiousity. What is the ACS spirit? None were able to give a definitive answer. “It cannot be defined”. “It is unity and loyalty.” “It is being passionate and proud of your school”. Does the school give a clear written definition of what “it” is in its publications or talks? “No”. So what is “it”. Most government and neighbourhood schools don’t have “it”. Does MGS have a “MGS spirit”?, I inquired. “Yes it has “it”. RI seem to have “it”. SJI, St Andrew’s and Victoria also. Is “it” a sense of tradition and pride since it seems to be present in very old schools. Then why doesn’t Gan Eng Seng Sec Sch have “it”?

When I was studying at Swiss Cottage Secondary School, which was among the three best schools from Rochor to Woodlands,  🙂  Rudy Mosbergen was the principal and he tried to inculcate a Swiss spirit. It didn’t work. After he left for RJC or RI, the spirit left with him.

This spirit inhabits ex-ACS students and sort of holds them in loving bondage for a long time, often over several generations. Very few get delivered!  :) I know this from experience. I was climbing Mt Batur in Bali with some trekkies a few years back and we were all just conversing in the hotel room’s front porch when suddenly two persons in their mid fifties sort of “found” each other and realized they were both ex-ACS, and they both broke off spontaneously into the ACS school anthem, and they knew the words by heart. I was stunned and looked curiously for there before me was the “it” in manifestation. The “spirit” had take control of the subjects’ vocal chords and sung. I can’t remember the lyrics, not even the tune of my school song. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be caught singing it as an adult in front of other adults. To me, it was so uncool to be doing that, but they were doing it. I really had a good laugh and rubbed it in and they took it sportingly.

I googled “ACS spirit” to see if there was a definition but there was none. Instead I was led to a forum where an ex-ACS was ranting at the whole ACS spirit thing. It was “snobbery”. The ACS spirit existed only among the doctors, accountants, entrepreneurs and successful exes who attended the alumni dinners held at expensive places. It was the old boys network patting each others back. He claimed the ACS spirit comprised overly enthusiastic persistent insensitive evangelism; constant intolerable appeals and pressure for donations for all kinds of projects; and taunts and pressures to conform that came from various groups or cliques who were loyalists and true blue ACSian of several generations, among whom were informants, plants, agents,etc. Well for sure this one ex-ACS boy had a bitter experience there. (The rest better keep quiet, you may need to work for Ong Beng Seng or under Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam one day!)

I also asked the young adults, “Is the ACS spirit as strong in ACS Independent as it is in ACS Barker? What about ACJC, is “it” really present there?” Their answers are that “it” is present in ACS-i and Barker but less so in ACJC. The tougher question, which I didn’t ask them for obvious reasons, is:”Is the ACS spirit stronger in the older generation than in the present generation?” “Do they have it across the causeway?” Hmmm…this is one for the older to answer, and I think most will answer in negative, or with hesitation or doubt.

But it seems the “it” is present in the generation of Malcolm Loh, who wrote two posts in his blog which together with the ACJC birthday report got my juices going to write this post. This was what he said about the “it”:

“I realise that no matter how bald or fat some of us have become, there is a certain air of confidence that ACS boys have about them (others would call it arrogance). Even from a tender age of 7 at Primary 1, we were taught the school anthem (”ACS Forever”) and our motto (”The Best is Yet to Be”), and that is deeply ingrained in every single ACSian, so much so that this ACS-identity sticks with us through the rest of our lives. This is very evident to others, and that is why I know of many guys who, even though from other schools, have chosen to put their sons in ACS. I have yet to come across an ACSian who chooses to put his son in a school other than ACS.”

Another thing the ACS spirit exudes is this “cool” factor: that the ACS boy is not as nerdy and boring as the SJI or RI or St Andrew’s or other boys. They are happening and make nice dates. In fact, at a wedding dinner I heard the bride said one of her criteria for life partner is that he should be from ACS! She had said it tongue in cheek but I wonder if the bermudas, the BMWs and the bravado have created a brand that has become as desirable as Prada, among eligible females looking for a nesting partner?

(This was posted on 14 November 2008 and re-published because ACS was on my mind.)