Well, I’m just about to go in and take exams.  I have two coming up on Friday.  Both Discrete Mathematics and Operating Systems in one day.

Students at NTU are always pretty serious, and certainly very competitive.  Multiply that attitude by 5 and you’ll have the exam season atmosphere.  Everyone spends hours upon hours in the library “revising” as they call it in order to out perform their classmates.

No really, “out perform.”  I’m not just using that phrase to emphasize competitiveness here.  Your grade is based on your outperforming the guy sitting next to you.  This can make for some very interesting outcomes when it comes to scoring.

Take my roommate for example.  He made a 94 on a test; clearly excited that he did well.  The class average on the test was a 95, therefore he came out with a C.  This is known as the NTU Bell Curve.  In fact, from what I understand, the entire society functions like this from grade school on.

This is an interesting concept.  At first it sounds horrendous, but it does have some redeeming qualities.

Because of this everyone puts some level of effort towards everything they undertake.  I’m not doing good at summing this up, but basically it is the Asian version of “No Child Left Behind”.

In the US “No Child Left Behind” basically leaves no child behind by bringing down the rest of society.  (They literally punish teachers if the pupils don’t try, but that’s a whole debate in and of itself….)

Here, this basically attempts to leave no one behind by forcing everyone to keep up.  And you will very rarely be the top of your class; there is always someone smarter.  But because of this a B or B+ is considered to be very good.  Doable by most people, it just requires a bit of effort.

This ensures students remain committed to their work.This is also its biggest drawback.  You can only be so committed to something.  There has to be a cap to this commitment, but if you are competing with others, this commitment will grow exponentially in response to another’s (now also exponentially growing) commitment.

Since everyone does try though, professors are hard pushed to give you lower than a C.  In fact, a C is considered fatal to a GPA, so unless you really don’t care or are incredibly unprepared, you should do relatively fine.  At least, that’s what I’ve been able to glean off other students.

Regardless, this competitive mindset has a tendency to make people very stressed.  Last semester a guy jumped off of the B3 balcony in South Spine (Basement 3, which is 4 stories high in South Spine).  This semester a girl was either dead or severely wounded by a knife in an attempted suicide.

The details of these kind of events are kept mum, but their frequency highlights the increased stress levels placed upon local students.  It gives the serene, quiet library a whole new dimension as you look across the vast expanse of computers, tables, and books only to be greeted by the bane of your existence, the blank faces of seemingly more dedicated students as they stare at lecture slides for hours upon hours.

These “competitors” can do untold damage to your ability to get a job, not to mention the respect given you by your parents and grandparents.

I can’t emphasize the library enough.  People flock here as if it opened a previously unknown realm in your mind, a realm only available to library goers. Check out this You Tube video of the Lee Wee Nam (the biggest library on campus) as it opens.

That happens every day during exam season.

You can never seem to find a table, so you get there earlier and earlier in an effort to get a place to work, set your stuff down, then go get breakfast or just chill, or do whatever else you might rather be doing instead of grabbing that seat.  Nothing is ever stolen; that’s just not something you worry about in Singapore.

Well, it’s getting late and I know that I’ll have to make it to that library tomorrow morning.  I’ve got to study there right?  Anywhere else and it just won’t count….

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