The Bell Curve

Candidates taking GCE ‘O’ Level may feel familiar with term ‘bell curve’. Yes, it is the curve that determines whether candidate will get A1, A2, B3, B4, C5, C6, D7, E8 or F9. There is a quota of students who can get a certain grade (it is harder to get A1 because of the quota despite the ability of a candidate, it all somehow depends on luck).

When I was taking GCE ‘O’ Level a year ago, my teachers kept saying “Don’t worry! If the whole Singapore doesn’t do well for (a particular subject), the bell curve will come in handy.”

They say only the good thing. And that is for the worst-case scenario.

But today, as my Research-Arts teacher Malgosia said, the bell curve isn’t good at all and it is actually bias. In the past almost all universities use the curve to determine whether a student has a good grade or not. Lately, many universities have scrapped the usage of the curve because it is promoting sneakiness, cheating and unhealthy rivalry.

Education is supposed to be shared for every one, not just certain students who are aiming to be the best. The curve has promoted secretness, backstabbers and intrigues in the academic world in the past. Students who wish to get good grades must attack other students (preferably rivals who can get better grades) because of the quota set.

Since the purpose of education is sharing, so why the curve is still used?

I don’t expect any answers from SEAB, Cambridge or even Singapore’s MOE. I’m just anxious why they didn’t tell the negative side of the curve beforehand. Why must I go Down Under to get the answer?

Well, that’s Singapore. Go figure.

P.S.: I’m not trying to attack certain country but I’m just disappointed with the system currently used. If you disagree with me, say it out here. Let it be a lesson for me, don’t be a backstabber in the wild, wild web. There’s no bell curve, anyway, to determine the quality of a blog post.

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Sunday Highlights 02/08/2009

Agenda Dunia Agustus 2009
Courtesy: Koran Tempo (01/08/2009), please click to zoom in

World Agenda for August 2009

1. Aug 20, Kabul – Afghanistan Presidential Election. This will be the election on its worst condition since the Taliban was defeated in 2001. The election will also a challenging test for new democracy between Washington and Kabul.

2. Aug 30, Tokyo – Japan held general election after Taro Aso’s ruling Liberal Democrat Party lost in a Tokyo by-election. Previously, Aso has dismissed parliament to prepare for the election.

3. Aug 9-10, Guadalajara, Mexico – US President Barack Obama is going to meet his Canadian and Mexican counterparts on North American Leaders’ Summit. They are going to discuss economy recovery and swine flu.

4. Aug 7, Colombo – Sri Lanka will migrate its 3000 residents who stay in Vanni region in the north of the country. Around 250,000 northern Sri Lankans lost their houses.

5. Aug 4, Niamey – Niger is going to lengthen President Mamadou Tandja’s mandate. However, the referendum may cause chaos there.

6. Aug 11, Los Angeles – Launching of Alana Stewart’s diary. Alana is a fromer wife of rocker Rod Stewart and a close friend of the late Farah Fawcett. The diary will tell us how the Charlie’s Angels star fight against cancer.

7. Aug 15-23, Berlin – World Athletic Championships

8. Aug 27, London – Exhibition on former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s life

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Geoweek - Pulau Dino
Courtesy: Kompas

The largest dinosaurs deposits in Europe was found on the-most-impossible location. Hundreds of dinosaurs fossils, including local species, were dug from stones in Isle of Wight, an island in England, Britain. The amount was huge and so, the diamond-shaped island was named “Dino Island”.

In the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods, about 130 million years ago, Isle of Wight was connected to Belgium by land. The island is part of a complex river system by the coniferous forest. Now the complex is more on the southern side, now we called it northern Africa.

Swamps and old forest in the island, which was prone to floods and fires, combined with subtropical natural condition resulted a very good location to deposit and preserve bones. Tropical sea then closed the area, adding more sea mud depositions that were solidified to form clay layers and limestone full of fossils.

Isle of Wight was first known as a dinosaurs’ fossils source during the Victorian era when Charles Darwin studied the deposits formed there. Modern scientists are still digging for fossils in the island. In the last few years, remnants of four new dinosaurs, six mammals from dinosaurs age and dozens of other animals have been identified.

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Peringkat Universitas Asia Tenggara
Courtesy: Media Indonesia (01/08/2009)

Media Indonesia newspaper yesterday discussed about the rank of universities in Southeast Asia as well as their positions in the world rank. National University of Singapore still leads in the region (no. 162 in the world).

Correction:
The flag of the country that represents Nanyang Technological University is wrong. It should be Singapore flag instead of Thailand.

Four Indonesian universities are on the list. They are:
1. Universitas Gajah Mada (UGM) (ranked 8 in Southeast Asia and 572 in the world, my dream university as well)
2. Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) (ranked 13 in the region and 727 in the world)
3. Universitas Indonesia (UI) (ranked 21 in the region and 1010 in the world)
4. Petra Christian University (ranked 25 in the region and 1080 in the world)

UGM is located in Yogyakarta, I’ve been there before. One of the lecturers in the law faculty asked me to join the university. I wouldn’t mind since I like Yogya, it’s like my second home in Indonesia. ITB is located in Bandung, West Java whereas UI is located in Depok, a suburb outside Jakarta and part of Greater Jakarta or Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi). Petra Christian University is located in Surabaya, I’ve passed the university building lots of time since I frequent visit Surabaya (in the past).

The list is dominated by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and only one from Philippines make it onto the list. After all, these five countries are the most developed countries in Southeast Asia.