Sunday, March 8, 2009

Resarch vs Education - The curse of Janus

The Greek God Janus was supposed to be the God of doorways, and is often used to represent a transition between two states - from old to new etc. He is often visualized as a guy with a head having two faces in opposite directions.

For me he kinda represents the current tension between research and education in the universities. My recent comments about the universities may have led some to think that I am somewhat anti-research. Far from it. I think research is critical, not just from our national development point of view, but also because it is vital part of our global scientific and academic contributions. I think it is really wonderful that the research $$ are flowing in Singapore.

But the other face of Janus says that the universities have made serious errors in judgment in too eagerly jumping onto the research bandwagon, and have seriously neglected their responsibilities towards the educational mission. By all means progress the academic mission, and reward good research. But a research mission that is primarily directed towards commercial endpoints, and devoid of a strong educational ethos is sterile, mercenary and dishonest. Worse, it essentially steals from our future, because it will eventually hollow out and kill whatever is noble and truly worthy in our educational system. And I am not just talking about an educational system that just drives students towards academic endpoints.

Janus is not very happy.

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