Don't make choice based only on rankings

While I agree with the gist of senior education correspondent Sandra Davie's arguments, I have a few additional points ("University rankings: Time for a regrading?"; yesterday).

First, university rankings are widely consulted, but not always correctly.

An applicant for doctoral studies would do well to seek out the best professors in his research area, rather than just rely on the rankings.

An undergraduate study applicant, on the other hand, would be best served by the views of employers in his chosen profession.

Such data is sometimes embedded in the ranking scores but is difficult to extract.

Second, the best universities, including Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS), are not driven by rankings.

A good example is the "flipped classroom" educational model pursued by NTU, including its physical embodiment in The Hive, opened just a few days ago.

Such educational innovations do not appear in rankings, but NTU pursues them to prepare graduates better for their careers in the Internet Age.

Third, although the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development initiatives mentioned by Ms Davie are laudable, any high-stakes test introduces its own unintended effects.

Parents in Singapore often attribute academic pressures to desires for good scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment.

This adds pressure on Singapore educators and students alike.

We should never ascribe too much importance to a single measure, no matter how useful.

For those who are considering Yale or Cornell versus NTU or NUS, my advice is to find out as much as you can, based on your own personal objectives.

Do not just play the numbers game.

As for NTU versus NUS, the two universities have different strengths, and rankings do not reflect the rich diversity within each university.

Prospective students should reach inside both campuses to find out and make personal contact.

The high ranking of both universities is a bonus not just for students and parents, but also for Singapore.

Su Guaning (Professor)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'Don't make choice based only on rankings'. Print Edition | Subscribe