Asee peer logo


Download Paper |


2017 ASEE International Forum


Columbus , Ohio

Publication Date

June 28, 2017

Start Date

June 28, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Concurrent Paper Tracks Session I - Curriculum I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Main Forum (Podium Presentation)

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


N. Krishnamurthy (Self-employed)

visit author page

Dr. N. Krishnamurthy (known as 'Prof Krishna') is currently Consultant in Safety, Structures and Computer Applications in Singapore. He is an Approved Consultant of the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, for whom he has carried out assignments.
He has more than five and half decades of teaching, research, and consultancy experience, including short courses and talks for practicing engineers, in U.S.A., Singapore, India, and other countries.
In USA he was civil engineering professor at three universities, and Department Chair in the last one. He held senior positions in the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Mysore University in India.
He has taught professional ethics at NUS and the University of Newcastle (Australia) at Singapore for many years.
Professor Krishnamurthy has written over a hundred papers, and five books on various engineering subjects, and contributed to other books and compilations.
Further details and publications may be obtained from:

visit author page

Download Paper |


Professional ethics is very subjective, rooted in culture which is a function of many factors such as country, religion, language, and social status. Hence professionalism and (hence) teaching of professionalism in Eastern hemisphere differs drastically from that in Western hemisphere. The differences have been delineated in books and papers, and taught in courses.

Most publications on engineering professionalism are from the West. Teaching from them tends to direct the students towards western mores, bolstered by case studies mostly from USA, and some from UK and Europe, with a few examples of how some Western industries got mixed up in mismanagement in Asia. Recent editions of popular texts provide at least a token page or section on Eastern cultures such as Chinese and religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism.

Author taught engineering ethics at two universities in Singapore: Group-A, mostly Singaporean students through the engineering division in a public university; and Group-B, working engineers from other Asian countries, at the Singapore campus of a foreign university's philosophy department. In both, author faced the dilemma of an Asian teaching Asians from Western resources. Having lived and taught in both cultures, he was quite at home with all the concepts and case studies. But he felt uncomfortable basing all arguments on Western attitudes.

Without violating curriculum, he inserted key concepts of Asian ethics. With innumerable religions and sects in non-Christian religions, he was careful to avoid dogma and comparisons. Yet, there was a curious reaction: Singapore is a young and small island nation with its leaders uncorrupt and citizenry disciplined. Discussion of ethics was considered at worst irrelevant, and at best a review of 'foreign' chicanery, endured as academic penance! Apart from this common problem surfaced two differences between the two courses in the same city: Cultural divergences and communication limitations.

Group-A was culturally homogeneous and fairly cosmopolitan, with predictable engineering background and exposure to Western thought. Group-B was heterogeneous and provincial, with widely divergent engineering backgrounds and superficial familiarity with Western ways. Group-A had no problem following the various Western ethical theories or case studies. But Group-B had fractured reactions at every stage, identifying with some, and rejecting others. With communication, differences were even more challenging. in the English language. In Group-A, English comprehension, presentation skills, and familiarity with the Western idiom were a given, while in Group-B, all three factors were highly variable, and generally weaker. In Group-B strict parity with the syllabus and assessment standards of the parent foreign university had to be maintained, but questionable solutions to overcome frustration raised their ugly head frequently, requiring the lecturer's firm hand and close guidance. Fair implementation of quizzes and getting through (or around) the strict requirements of essays were a formidable challenge.

In this paper, author will describe his attempts to bring in the Western ethics milieu into Asian groups while teaching in the two disparate courses, identify the similarities and differences, and describe the problems he had and his solutions he found for them.

Krishnamurthy, N. (2017, June), TEACHING ENGINEERING ETHICS IN ASIA FROM WESTERN RESOURCES Paper presented at 2017 ASEE International Forum, Columbus , Ohio.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015