Thursday, April 29, 2010

The truth behind why MOE is reducing weightage of mother tongue in PSLE

Recently, the Education Ministry said reducing the weightage for Mother Tongue in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) can help students whose scores border between the normal and express stream. Most importantly, this can help when streaming students to secondary schools, allowing those stronger in mother tongues, but weaker in other subjects, to go into streams that are more suitable for them, like the normal stream. On the other hand, those who are strong in other subjects, but could not even complete a sentence in their mother tongue, they can go into streams that are more suitable for them as well, like the express stream.

One may wonder, why the sudden change, and who are the students that will truly benefit in this decision that will inevitably lower the standard of our younger generation's mother tongue, especially Chinese, yet again?

Well, just like what Agent Mulder will say, the truth is out there.

The following article was published on LianHe ZaoBao on 22nd January, 1999:








And thanks to a friend, this is the English translation:

Three students from Anglo-Chinese were interviewed when MOE first introduced Chinese B classes in 2001. All of them come from English-speaking families with almost no contact with Chinese and almost all their reading materials are in English.

Jonathan Ng Yuan En (黄元恩) who is in Sec Three expressed that he wishes that Chinese can be taught in a more interesting manner. To him, English is interesting because text books do not matter, and instead they have debates and words games etc. to make learning English lively and relaxing. Whereas the Chinese lessons are too stern. It is as if everybody just got serious and stern during Chinese lessons.

He also feels that Chinese can never be as important as English. It is just a subject and it does not matter as long as he can communicate with others in Mandarin. But English is different. He needs to be efficient in English because it helps in other subjects like Maths and Science.

Jonathan Ng's father Ng Eng Hen (黄永宏) is glad that Chinese B classes will allow his son to concentrate in other subjects. He laments that even when his son was spending 30-40% of his time in Chinese alone, he was not making any progress in his result at all. With the new scheme, he can now spend his time more efficiently on subjects he can understand better.

And for those who have spotted and find this Mr Ng Eng Hen sounding kind of familiar and ringing some bells in your head, oh yes, Bingo. His current job now is Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence.

Yes, I did notice that his youngest girl should already be 16 years old by now, so is he not kind of late in implementing this weightage reduction at PSLE? Well, for a clue, turn around and look at other younger ministers in the cabinet and make a guess whether their kids speak Mandarin and write Chinese. I'm sure you do your colleagues some little favors at times right?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MOE reinvited Susan Elliott and apologised for not knowing her well enough!

MOE invitation: She feels the high of the roller-coaster again

SINGAPORE - When Susan Elliott, 56, received the invitation to present at the Teachers' Conference 2010 here in September, it was "a highlight of (her) career", the Colorado State Teacher of the Year 2009 told MediaCorp.

So, when the teacher with three decades of experience had the invitation retracted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) - due to a mix-up arising from her hearing-impaired status - it was "one of the lowest lows (she had) ever felt".

It has certainly been a roller-coaster ride, she recounted of the episode, which sparked online chatter in the United States and Singapore.

Now that MOE has reinstated its invitation, the English and social studies teacher feels the "high of the roller-coaster again".

"I believe the committee sincerely would like for me to present, and I'm moving forward in good faith," she said in an email to MediaCorp.

"I have much to learn about other cultures with regard to education, and I'm trying to see the light ... I'm looking forward to turning the Singapore experience into an enriching one for all."

MOE had contacted her last week to convey its apologies about the mistake, which stemmed from a misunderstanding about the need for interpreters and her professional experience. The Ministry had apparently thought that she worked only with deaf children.

But when Mr Anthony Mullen, who pipped Ms Elliott to the National Teacher of the Year award in the United States last year, wrote about the incident on an education blog, readers sent emails to MOE, which then took remedial action.

"We should have clarified these matters before making the decision. Ms Elliott has accepted our apology and the organising committee is delighted that she will participate at the Teachers' Conference in September. We look forward to her contributions in making the Conference a success," committee secretary Sucillia Sukiman emailed in reply.

Mr Mullen updated the blog on Friday to say: "The many letters and phone calls to the Ministry of Education have made them reconsider their original position. Susan is very excited about attending the conference and advancing the cause of disabled students. Without the care and compassion of the Singapore people, this would not have happened. Your City Upon a Hill now shines brightly to all students."

MOE had a real good and solid explanation for retracting her invitation previously. They thought that she worked only with deaf children. Apparently we have all misunderstood the innocent MOE. Apparently it was not the Ministry's idea though we could see that somebody did not do their homework. Apparently MOE sincerely would like for Susan Elliott to present though they do not know her works and contribution well enough to realise that she is not only working with deaf children.

However MOE could be in the wrong for another matter. And one that is even more serious! According to the report, after Anthony Mullen blogged about the incident on an education blog, and after readers sent emails to MOE, MOE then took remedial action. Apparently in this occasion MOE was “duped” by “astroturfers” into making hasty decisions! This is outrageous and simply daft! The honorable PM Lee has warned that the government cannot make decisions simply based on the volume of emails supporting or opposing a particular situation and must also be cautious of such astroturfing campaigns. How dare MOE fall into such trap after the honorable PM Lee's warning? How dare they give in to a blog and some emails so easily?

Friday, April 23, 2010

MOE retracted invitation to a distinguished US teacher because she is deaf

If this is indeed true, then well done MOE. We've just managed to make a name for Singapore in the Education world.

Singapore's City Upon a Hill
Source: Anthony Mullen

Singapore will be hosting a major education conference in September and has invited distinguished scholars and teachers from throughout the world to share ideas and presentations. One such distinguished teacher is Susan Elliot, the 2009 Colorado State Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for the 2009 National Teacher of the Year (I may have pulled the sword from the stone but Susan will always best me as Lancelot did Arthur).

Susan Elliot has spent three decades in education and taught thousands of students. She is bright, articulate, and has a great sense of humor. She teaches social studies and history to mainstream and hearing-impaired students-all in the same classroom. Her unique ability to teach social studies and history to both "regular" and hearing-impaired students in the same classroom is a remarkable display of master teaching. Susan is the perfect educator to help represent America's teachers and deserves a key to this Asian City Upon a Hill.

Susan was excited about traveling to Singapore and sharing her ideas and experiences about methods that could develop the potential of all students to become independent, self-supporting and contributing members of society. And then came her dismissal.

Once the Singapore education officials discovered that Susan was hearing-impaired, they retracted her invitation. The so-called discovery and subsequent retraction of her invitation was an act of disingenuous statesmanship because the Singapore education officials knew all along that Susan was deaf. The official in charge of inviting and then disinviting Susan attributes the mistake to miscommunication. Wait a minute. Singapore is renowned for its academic prowess; surely the highly educated official could read a simple biography that very clearly noted Susan was hearing-impaired. The Singapore education system may be perched on a higher hill than the American system but something is not quite right.

Susan Elliot sent a few emails to Singaporean education officials, hoping the "miscommunication" was itself a miscommunication and the whole matter an innocent mistake. She had to defend her disability and remind conference officials that America's teachers and children are a diverse lot.

How did the Singapore officials respond? Susan was wished a successful future but remains persona non grata at the conference.

The Singapore system of education may be the envy of TIMSS groupies, and from a distance the city appears brightly lit in the night sky. But a peek behind the city walls reveals a flawed and ignorant culture of education.

Maybe, just maybe, Americans came in 16th place on the TIMSS because we are willing to carry a much heavier load. A weight gladly held by teachers such as Susan Elliot.

As I glance out at the cold Atlantic Ocean I think about the pilgrims huddled on a small ship, listening to John Winthrop preach about what it takes to create a City Upon a Hill. Singaporean education officials should heed Winthrop's warning, lest their country be viewed as hypocrites in "the eyes of all people."

Oh, by the way, if any teacher would like to email the education official who disinvited one of America's top teachers, please send a message to Ms. Lynn Koh.

Her email is:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Accusations that employers prefer to hire foreigners are so unfounded!


Ah Tan, Ah Lim, Ali and few other colleagues were seated in a newly opened posh Italian Restaurant. They were flipping and studying the slightly weighted posh menu seriously while the waitress stood by their table. After Ah Tan made his order, he turned to talk to Halimah who was sitting next to him.

AH TAN: Halimah, I heard that recently your panel has been investigating on some work discrimination issues?
HALIMAH: Yes, Tan, and you know what? Those accusations that employers prefer to hire foreigners over Singaporeans are so unfounded doi! Just like what we've expected!
ALI (speaking to the waitress in a slightly loud and impatient voice): What you say?

Waitress mumbled something in heavy accent.

ALI (frowning): Alamak, I don't understand you lah! Adoi!
AH TAN (shouting over to Ali): Ali! She's asking you how you want your Homestyle Roast Duck to be done!
ALI (still frowning and shouting over to Ah Tan): Brudder! This is duck not beef yah? How I know duck also got rare or not rare doi!
AH TAN (chuckled): Hahaha... so how do you want it to be done?
ALI (to the waitress): Well done, of course! Who wants to eat raw duck?

The waitress hurriedly wrote down Ali's order.

AH TAN (turned towards Halimah): Sorry, where were we?
HALIMAH: Oh... that we found out that it is so not true employers prefer to hire foreigners over Singaporeans.
AH TAN (nodding): Yah, sometimes I wonder where these folks get their ideas from!
HALIMAH: In the cases we have intercepted, employers say this is based on the qualifications of the person and not nationalities yah. If given a choice, they'll always want to hire a local yah!

Ah Tan and Halimah were again interrupted by some commotion on the other side of the table.

AH LIM (speaking to the waitress in a slightly loud and impatient voice): Har?! Can you repeat?

Waitress mumbled something in heavy accent.

AH LIM (frowning): Walau eh...

Ah Lim then spoke to the waitress in Mandarin. Delightfully, the waitress nodded and wrote down his order, then walked away.

ALI: Brudder, what she want sia?
AH LIM: Orh, she was asking me for the French Onion Soup, I want cheese on it or not lah! Walau eh, her English damn cannot make it leh!
ALI (nodding eagerly): Yah man!

HALIMAH (continued): You know, the vice-president of the National Employers Federation was saying, very often, there is some misunderstanding on why foreigners are hired over Singaporeans. In actual fact, it has got to do with the job requirements and it is never true that foreigners are chosen because they're cheaper and willing to work longer hours. Such words of wisdom right?

Ah Tan nodded in agreement.

HUA HUA (interrupted): You know, the locals must avoid developing irrational fears toward new immigrants. They ought to prepare for, rather than resist, an increased willingness among people worldwide to travel and relocate.
AH TAN (turned to Hua Hua who was seated on his other side): Yah, sometimes I don't know why are they so afraid of the foreigners!
ALI (speaking to the waitress in a slightly loud and impatient voice): Hey! I didn't order this!

Waitress mumbled something in heavy accent.

ALI (frowning): Adoi! I didn't order this sia!
AH LIM: Ali, what did you order?
ALI (frowning even harder): Brudder! I ordered grape juice but she gives me grapefruit juice sia!

AH TAN (continued): Anyway I heard that the mass recruitment at Taiwan went on pretty well!
HUA HUA (nodding and grinning): Yap! We actually started an agency to mass recruit thousands of Taiwanese PMETs in fields such as healthcare, engineering and social media to fill up vacancies here.
AH TAN: But how do you convince the Taiwanese to come all the way here to work? I suppose it's not as easy as recruiting in China or India right?
HUA HUA (shaking her head): No no, it's a totally different ball game. To bring in people from China or India is very easy and we never have problem bringing in truckloads of them. But for the Taiwanese, we need to attract them with a different strategy. We're paying them thrice the amount they'll ever get in Taiwan!
AH TAN (eyes wide opened): Wow! How can they ever resist that! So those positions cannot be filled by the locals here?
HUA HUA (with a stunned looked): Oh... that I don't know... Hmm... didn't thought of that man...

On the other side of the table, the commotion continued.

ALI (frowning and talking to Ah Lim): Brudder, this looks rare to me sia! I wanted well done! Can't they get someone who understands English to come talk to me?
AH LIM: Brudder, you can't see meh? All the waitresses here are not local lah!



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Mystery of the Quitting Old Workers

NTUC probes labour mystery

THE labour movement aims to unravel the mystery of why a relatively large number of men tend to quit the workforce in their 50s, instead of staying on until the retirement age of 62.

Official manpower figures show that the labour force participation rate for men dips after age 50.

There is no data on the reasons behind this dip, a trend which the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) intends to study in its bid to get more older men, as well as women, to work longer.

But NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How suggested on Monday that 'some men may want to take it slow after taking out their CPF at 55'.

Hence, the NTUC will start a programme in three months' time to encourage both men and women in their 50s to work beyond 62, said Mr Heng at a seminar on re-employment issues.

The 'Back to Work for Active Agers' programme will be rolled out once the NTUC determines the factors driving people out of the workforce; and works out which industries have the largest exodus of older workers.

This is indeed one great mystery in Singapore. Why are there so many jobless old men and women loitering around, or working as cleaners and fastfood chains servers? Why did they not be good and stay with their previous companies? This mystery that existed for the longest time is so exhilarating that National Geographic should make a special series out of it.

But if the union were to search carefully and thoroughly, there are actually hints on the ground, left by the companies, especially SMEs. Some of the hints that the commoners frequently tripped over are...
  • Workers were coerced into quitting

  • Workers were given the choice of quitting or getting a high percentage of pay cut (say, 50%)

  • Workers were given more mission-impossible tasks till they quit

  • Workers were bounced around in different departments (say, from Engineering department into the Storeroom) till they give up and quit

Just in case the union is puzzled over the other mystery of why would employers go through the trouble to get rid of their older staff, try thinking in the line of cheaper, younger, oh and maybe foreign workers?

Monday, April 5, 2010

We can't control the rising HDB resale prices, wet market rental hikes and another other hike


Ah Tan and Ah Lim slowly walked up to the stage as the audience stood and clapped. A couple of grinning senior RC members led the way and another handful of grinning junior members followed behind. Ah Tan and Ah Lim were shown to the seats in the middle of the stage. After they were seated, the senior RC members settled themselves on the left and right flanks. The emcee then made a short introduction to the audience.

AH LIM (leaning towards Ah Tan and whispering): Hey Tan, this is not going to take long right? I've got to go for a high-tea later leh...
AH TAN (whispering back): Don't worry lah, won't be long one.
AH LIM (still whispering): By the way hor, today's event can claim off-in-lieu or not? Sunday morning leh!
AH TAN (still whispering back): I think so bah, better check with Mr Teo.
EMCEE (finishing his introduction): And now, let's hear from our honorable Mr Tan!

The emcee handed over the microphone to Ah Tan and the audience clapped excitedly. Ah Tan recited fluently the message that his secretary has drafted for him and ended it with a smile. The audience clapped passionately again.

EMCEE: Okay, you may now ask the honorable Mr Tan questions. Who's going to start the ball rolling?

A young man in polo t-shirt walked over to the microphone in the middle of the hall.

YOUNG MAN IN POLO: Mr Tan, the HDB prices are getting higher and higher everyday and just recently a penthouse maisonette in Bishan Street 24 was sold for $900k! That is even more expensive than those private condominium! The HDB resale prices are getting out of hand and this is soon going to be another property bubble waiting to be burst! Isn't the government going to do anything about it?

The young man ended his question with a stern look and walked back to his seat.

AH LIM (nudging Ah Tan): Wow... that question again...
AH TAN (holding up the microphone): These resale prices are set by individual households who transact flats on a willing buyer, willing seller basis, and are affected by movements and sentiments in the wider economy, including the private property market. Hence, we do not have control over prices of resale flats.

A wave of murmurs grew among the audience.

EMCEE (shouting into the microphone to overcome the noise in the crowd): Okay, let's continue with another question!

A dark skinny middle-aged man walked up to the microphone.

DARK MIDDLE-AGED MAN: Sir, Sheng Siong has increased our wet market rental by a 30%! Like that very difficult to do business! I can't even earn enough to cover rental! Can government ask them don't increase so much or not?

The dark middle-aged man frowned and walked slowly back to his seat.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): Sorry, forgot to warn you about this one...
AH TAN (holding up the microphone): Well, I won't complain if I were you...

Ah Tan was interrupted with a wave of loud clamor in the audience.

EMCEE (shouting into the microphone): People! People! We can't hear Mr Tan with your noise! Can we let Mr Tan finish?

As the clamor quieted down, Ah Tan held up the microphone again to continue.

AH TAN: When Sheng Siong planned to take over six wet markets, they have wanted to convert them into supermarkets. But we told them that the wet markets have to stay because they do not meet the criteria for conversion into supermarkets. If we didn't do anything at that time, you won't even have a wet market now.

Ah Tan paused as he noticed that he was speaking louder in dismay.

AH TAN: Sheng Siong’s managing director Lim Hock Chee had already explained that he had no choice but to increase rental rates in order to recoup their $25 million purchase of the wet markets. And anyway this is a private matter between Sheng Siong and the stall owners. Hence, we do not have control over rental prices of wet market stalls.

Another wave of murmurs grew among the audience.

EMCEE (shouting into the microphone to overcome the noise in the crowd): Okay, Mr Tan has already answered you. Let's continue with another question!

A plump middle-aged woman with heavy makeup walked up to the microphone.

PLUMP WOMAN: Hello Mr Tan, the electricity bill is going up again next month. Every quarter also increase, already increased four times liao! Everytime also say because oil price increase! My monthly electricity bill already more than $100 liao, if like that sooner or later will become $200! How can the government let them anyhow increase price one?

The plump middle-aged woman sighed and walked back to her seat.

AH LIM (nudging Ah Tan): Electricity bill got increase again meh?
AH TAN (holding up the microphone): Madam, SP Services has already explained that this hike is due to a continued increase in fuel oil prices. I trust that they've done ample investigation before increasing the tariff. The Energy Market Authority has already approved the revised tariff, and furthermore, SP Services has already been privatised. Hence, we do not have control over the cost of electricity.

Yet another wave of murmurs grew among the audience.

As the emcee attempted to control the crowd again, Ah Lim took out a piece of tissue to wipe the perspire off his forehead.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): Hey, don't you find this multipurpose hall very hot?
AH TAN (whispering): I think it's because there're only a couple of fans on the stage and one of them is not working.
AH LIM (whispering): Walau... can't they do anything about it?
AH TAN (whispering): Don't worry, this multipurpose hall will have aircon soon enough.
AH LIM (whispering with eyes wide open): Wow... really ah?
AH TAN (whispering with a grin): Yap, really. Because we're going to increase the town council service and conservancy fees. That, we can control!



Thursday, April 1, 2010

Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu thinks Singaporeans are bullshitting?

And should we be surprised by his statement? If he was "interested", he would not have run away in the very first place. Guess to Romania, we are indeed just a little red dot.

'I'm not interested'

FORMER Romanian diplomat Silviu Ionescu was defiant and dismissive of the Coroner's Court findings when told about them on Wednesday.

The 49-year-old former charge d'affaires at the Romanian embassy repeatedly said he was not surprised by the verdict, when contacted in Romania by phone.

At one point, he exclaimed: 'This is bulls***.'

Dr Ionescu scoffed at the evidence given by some of the 54 witnesses who had appeared in the Coroner's Court during the six-day hearing last month.

He accused them of lying, and said the 'scenarios' they painted in court were implausible, at best.

In particular, he referred to the account of bartender Mohamed Noor Hussain, who identified him as the driver involved in the hit-and-run accident.