Singapore—A new thread on r/SGExams concerning the difficulties of being a student at NUS Dentistry has garnered around 1,300 responses within a day of its posting. The post also seems to serve as an eye-opener for would-be students, as it’s titled “[Uni] Why I Disliked Being in NUS Dentistry (Advice for Future Applicants)”.
The Redditor had several points explaining why “the NUS Dentistry is an incredibly oppressive place to be in.”
One—Students are expected to toe the line. Stepping out leads to trouble, to the point that students don’t bother to give feedback, not out of laziness or unresponsiveness, but out of a sense that what they say does not matter to those in authority. “Why would we feedback, when none of it is taken into consideration? Why should we respond to a survey that is dismissed by lecturers and supervisors who repeat the same cycle of top-down instruction every year?”
Two—The rigid hierarchical structures observed. “Even if you’re right, you’re wrong as long as your opinion clashes with someone who is more senior than you,” the poster wrote, explaining that they chose to stay under the radar, and escaped unscathed. “Those who challenged those in charge were punished, and they had their lives made difficult and some were retained as a result.”
Three—The poster claims that NUS Dentistry “is a political minefield,” with tensions between and among teachers, students, staff, although this rarely, if ever, shows up in front of patients. They called it at times “a dog eat dog world, where the fittest or most vicious survives.”
Four—There is a “system of power and abuse” not only toward the students but also members of the staff who are considered “less important,” such as janitors and lab technicians, many of whom have resigned. “As a result, students have lost the technician support they need to complete their denture and crown cases.”
Five—The added stress of students having to find their own patients for “fillings, root canal therapy, gum disease, dentures, crowns and even surgical extractions,” which the poster claims dentistry students in other countries do not have to do. Failure to do so can be costly. “Just imagine losing 90,000 SGD simply because you couldn’t find enough patients to work on.”
Six—The bad treatment of students from “mean teachers”. “Here, there are stupid questions, there are stupid students, and there are also stupid students who ask too many stupid questions.” The “mean teachers” apparently give students nightmares for years, and the fear with which they operate makes learning even more difficult. Students live with the constant threat of being retained, the poster wrote, as much of the criteria for receiving marks is subjective.
The Redditor added, “It’s an open secret that the faculty will punish whoever dares to challenge their authority. I thought I was lucky to be admitted to the school of dentistry until I saw the blatant abuses of power of those who have accumulated power for themselves over many years – something I never expected to see in Singapore.”
The Redditor wrote the post to give other students a sense of solidarity as they struggle to “become the healthcare workers Singapore deserve,” and to remind them that “Singapore has changed, the PAP has changed, the voices of the minority now matter, please let the voices and cries of the students in the Faculty of Dentistry and bitter graduates be heard.”
Commenters were quick to agree, with one adding that finding patients is even more difficult now because of the pandemic.