What happened when Singapore’s top universities combined technology, harsh penalties, and disciplined students? The answer is zero coronavirus cases.
The success stories of Singaporean universities are in stark contrast to several U.S. universities, many of which saw an explosion when students returned to campus last fall.
Following the example of the government, renowned universities like the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) have taken a top-down approach to curb virus transmission, social distancing to challenge and keep track of contacts on campus.
Thanks to a new VR game system called PASS-IT, medical students at @NUSMedicine can now learn more about patient safety and operating room procedures during # COVID19 despite clinical restrictions. #NUSImpact https://t.co/e3Rr8T2CRQ
– nus (@NUSingapore) August 13, 2020
The gThe goal is to “make sure there are no infections” on campus, NUS President Tan Eng Chye specified to The New York Times.
Aggressive tests to save the day
Testing for the coronavirus is critical to tracking its spread and determining when isolation and containment measures should be taken.
However, it has not been easy for students and faculty to get tested at certain US universities. For example salivaryTesting at the University of South Carolina is completely voluntarily and had to be stopped completely in September after an employee doing the tests fell ill. The university had already reported over 1,000 cases then.
Compared to such laconic measures in the US, Singapore universities have taken aggressive testing measures to nip the virus in the bud. NUS, which had used online lectures for a short time, quickly resumed operations on the campus. By the fall, the university implemented strong social distancing measures, assigning students to different zones on campus while imposing harsh penalties for breaking the rules.
The university made sure of that too Students returning to campus had “their temperatures checked and their locations tracked through an app through a national digital check-in system”. according to the university Emergency information website.
No brotherhoods, sororities or parties
Unlike American colleges, most students in Singapore do not live on campus. Those who do adhere to other restrictions, including limiting the number of visitors in their dorms.
Singapore also has no fraternities and sororities cited for many COVID rule violations in the US. Off-campus parties and mass gatherings continued despite the pandemic, leading to an increase in cases on campus.
Alabama Crimson Tide fans flood the streets of Tuscaloosa after the team secured their 18th national title. pic.twitter.com/k9UCH8BC4m
– James Benedetto (@james_benedetto) January 12, 2021
Several universities have quickly introduced disciplinary measures. Some, like the University of Kentucky and Indiana University, were quick to join take action against students Social distancing violations. Despite strict measures, some sites like California State University continue to see many students breaking and reporting on the rules 1,000 cases in a week last month the university website reported.
Compared to the US, a cooperative student population in Singapore has been of great help in slowing the spread. Indeed, baffled by reports from parties at U.S. schools amid pandemic, Olivia Lim, a senior at NTU, said, “Why should you risk doing this?”
Technology to the rescue
Singapore universities have relied heavily on technology to control the crowd on campus. Last spring, the Singapore Spacer project was launched, a tool that uses Wi-Fi signal strength to identify locations with a high concentration of human traffic.
The project developed by two professors was put into operation in April. “We are trying to help our universities, which are facing the same problem: how are we going to provide safe environments for our students?” explained professor Rajesh Balan, one of the project leaders.
Balan’s colleague, Professor Chee, agrees, adding that student attitudes that collective well-being is most important is more important than technology.