Jan 18, 2008

27 Hapless Girls And One Unhappy Principal

First, the background:
ST Jan 12, 2008
Sec 5 class advised: Go to ITE instead
Principal tells students that they are unlikely to do well at O levels
By Sandra Davie

CALL it a disheartening start to the new school year.

A group of 27 girls in a Secondary 5 class in a mission school - which shall remain unnamed - were advised by their principal on the first day of school last week to seek transfers to the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), since they were unlikely to do well in the O levels this year.

To back her point, she even flashed the girls' detailed N-level grades on the board in class using an overhead projector; she also stressed that she wanted 100 per cent passes in her school.

The result: teens with punctured self-confidence and some fuming parents.
This article does not surprise me. The principal's attitude - which I deplore - is common among educators in Singapore. The selfish motivation shows clearly here:
".... she also stressed that she wanted 100 per cent passes in her school."
In other words, the principal is concerned that the weaker students will lower her school's overall pass score. She would prefer that they get out of her school as soon as possible. After all, the size of her annual bonus could be affected by the school's pass score.

This kind of thinking happens in better schools as well. I was previously a student at one of Singapore's top junior colleges. I remember one group session where the Head of the Maths Department badgered the "weaker" students to stop taking Further Maths (one of the A-level subjects). Why? She didn't think that they had a good chance of scoring an A or B. They were at no real risk of actually failing, but they might conceivably score a C or D. Her fine record of top grades would be ruined! What a disaster.

Into the fray jumps our PAP man, Lui Tuck Yew. I'll declare my bias upfront - I don't like him. I have not liked Lui ever since the Straits Times reported that he was heading
this kind of PAP committee. Sneaky, sneaky. Anyway:
ST Jan 16, 2008
Principal's 'wake-up call' to Sec 5 students had to be 'conveyed'
By Jane Ng

PARENTS and students may disagree with the tone a principal used when she told some Secondary 5 students to apply for the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) instead of doing the O levels, but the message was one that had to be delivered, said Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew on Wednesday.

Past data shows that 40 per cent of students will not do well enough to qualify for polytechnic, and students need to know this from the start, he said.

Speaking to reporters after a teachers' investiture at the National Institute of Education, Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui said it was important to separate the 'tone' from the 'substance' of the message.

'We can calibrate the tone, we can soften it, improve on the presentation, but there is a lot of work to be done between Secondary 4 and Secondary 5.'

'Principals need to do their job to convey this message to the students and teachers to do their part to challenge them, set high goals and to help them achieve these goals,' he said.
What's my take? 40% of Secondary 5 students don't make it to polytechnic. That means 60% of them do. If the odds are in your favour, why not try?

What's the worst that could happen? One year later, you find that you can't make it to the poly. You can still go to the ITE then. Where's the damage? None that I can see. (And no, the size of your principal's annual bonus is not relevant).

Yes, you would have "wasted" one extra year in secondary school, studying subjects like Maths, Science and English. But you would have a few GCE O-level passes and a N-level certificate, rather than just a N-level certificate. Surely that counts for something.

And that extra year of education - is that really such a waste? Is studying Maths, Science and English in secondary school really so useless? I don't think so. But Lui seems to think so. I do wonder why he seems to have such a poor opinion of our education system. After all, he's responsible for it. Oops, did I just answer my own question.

130 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, why am I not surprised? Do you know that the ACSI students who took IB? Well, the programme was approved by MOE TWO years ago, but I heard they started scrambling on how to match IB scores to A levels (H1, H2, H3) scores only now, AFTER the IB students complete their studies!

Also, they were undecided on when the ACSI IB can start applying! That led to SMU (the usual 1 upmanship) opening up earlier while NTU and NUS were saying they asking for MOE decision. TWO years. They took that long to do last minute decisions!

How many scholars you think MOE has?

Anonymous said...

A ex-Armyman heading MOE is a disaster waiting to happen.

You are not the only one who dislike him from the start, I don't know why on earth our PM selected him to take care of Singapore Education. Bad choice as there are other people much better and qualified than him just like our PM selection.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought this up, Mr Wang.

Let me recount an incident a couple of years ago.

My nephew was a Science stream student in Sec 3. Then, his final year results weren't good for that year. His Additional Mathematics marks were a few marks short of the cutoff of 46 marks. So his school channelled him and a handful (around 10) of the others like him to the Arts Stream in Sec 4.

In Sec 4, the final year.

Among the subjects he had to take as an Arts stream student was Arts and Crafts. My nephew was never good at art, he was way better with numbers. But the school didn't care, he was expected to do Arts in his forth and final year of secondary education.

His parents went to see the principal to try and plead with the principal to let my nephew stay in the Science stream, but their efforts were futile. So they sought help with their MP.

Eventually, my nephew was allowed to stay in the Science stream.

And you know what? My nephew got an A in Additional Mathematics in the 'O' Levels.

Yes, he probably worked very hard after the incident to try to prove that he was capable of doing well in Mathematics. But had he not been given the opportunity - like the handful of students - I doubt he would do as well in his 'O' Levels as he he would be doing quite a different set of subjects in Arts from the Science combination he did in Sec 3.

That was to me totally absurd. And it's pretty obvious to me the school had such a policy for its own good and sake. Rather than thinking of how to help this group of students with their grades - like supplementary classes or whatever - the school took the easy way out. And that's to channel the affected students to a different stream.

David said...

Agree with Wang. This is nothing new. In Singapore, it is really the result that is important not the means. There is no room for morality and ethnics since one can't even measure them in KPI.

Just what some elites will do to achieve their aims to make their resume look spectacular. Tese elites will excuse their morality by saying that they are helping the school and society by improving the standard where in reality, they are just helping themselves. The other reasons quoted are secondary to their own personal agenda.

Anonymous said...

Elitism at work again.
Would the principal or Lui Tuck Yew advise their own son/daughter the same way -- "you better don't take the risk of failing O-level...just go to ITE now, ok?"

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, MOE was very much on the parents' side whenever parents complained Many teachers were even forced to apologise to their students becaue if they did not, their rice bowl woulf be affected.

This led to low morale among educators, and it - along with many other issues - contributed to many resignations.

With large number of old teachers retiring and difficulty in recruiting and retaining new teachers, MOE, in recent years, has gone to the other extreme of supporting teachers and principles even when they are obviously in the wrong. Nowadays, parents' complaint, even when legitimate, will be dismissed - in this case, by a Minister.

That's always how things are done in Sinhapore: EXTREMISM. This is just a small example. Other larger examples would be going from the extreme of "encouraging" birth control and sterilization, to mass import of foreigners. From "encouraging" everybody to go into engineering, to now "encouraging" everyone to go into bioscience. And so on.

Living in Sg is like living in a war zone - fighting one war after another. First we go fight one war in one direction (eg. war against errant teachers who hit students, war against over population), and after winning it, we suffer from the backlash, and then suddenly shift course and go fight a war in the opposite direction (eg. war against parents who bully teachers, war against low birth rate). And so the whole country is like a pendulum, 3 million people on high adrenaline and in wars after wars. ad infinitum! If you want a peaceful, stable, predictable life/public policy/ school culture , sg is not the place.

Anonymous said...

It was Teo Chee Hian who made ranking formal and public, thereby putting utmost pressure on the principals. It was Tharman who reversed Teo policy. This is the problem, when you put non-educators who have never taught for a single day as education Ministers - the future of our pupils depend on luck: whether a Minister has a keen enough personal interest to read up on the findings of education researches on various educational issues eg. effect of ranking on morale, effect of morale on academic results, rosenthal effect etc. If minister don't know and has no interest in such education research, we get Teo's type. If minister has such knowledge,we get Tharman's type.

In Sg, till now, we have never had an educator as an Education Minister before. Goh Keng Swee is an Economist and he viewed education from an economics pt of view - he cameup with streaming to reduced what he called "educational wastage" - waste of money to educate a person to O-level, when such a person should be going to VITB (former ITE) after PSLE. Teo is a military person with engineering background. Same for Lui. Tharman too, but this guy apparently has some knowledge and personal conviction about the bad effect of streaming. So you see? It's all got to do with luck as to who becomes the education Minister - Luck, since none of them are trained in education theory!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

Not sure if you're able to edit my entry for me. I missed out an important word:

Rather than thinking of how to help this group of students with their grades - like supplementary classes or whatever - the school took the easy "AND SELFISH" way out.

Thanks!

coder said...

I do not know much about the experiences of our esteemed minister in the area of education. I can tell that his military skills are helping him in the way he talked.

He looked more like a guy that can push a button in one of our naval warships but not able to hold a pen to write some useful educational policies.

We have Teo, Tharman and this Lui performing their roles in the education ministry. It seems that there is a central agenda (political?) in our education system. I guess that whoever is the minister, he or she needs to push this hidden agenda through. There may be some variations in the implementation but the hidden aim needs to be achieved.

yh said...

i dun like lui too.
http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2007/yax-747.htm

onlooker said...

The state of Education in Singapore is not really that rosy as They paint it.From the Controversial EM streaming that was later Axed and the so called meritocracy system.One big gaping flaw has always been there.Who is to determine the qualification of the person in charge?(hint the people who vote for them)Yes We have students who are brilliant in those math Olympics but how do we score on cultural and artistic level. The mass production of engineer/ accountants /lawyers who contributed to the economy have also lead to damage to the lower wage caste who could have aspired to become writers,actors,painters and graphic artist.
Sidenote The Mediacorpse idols ones don't really count, Those who really count are people like jack neo,stefanie sun,ahdu and fann wong.Yes they are known outside Singapore.

Anonymous said...

This issue has gone to the press. Do we really expect the ministry to hang the Principal out to dry? I thought the ministry's response was measured and reassuring. And from the comments above regarding the Science / Art student, yes it is probably true that you need to make the student appeal and 'treasure' the opportunity to stay in a science stream, and then he will do well. If the ministry came down hard on the principal, then I would have been just as upset that the principal was not given the benefit of the doubt to manage her school the best that she could, and there would be follow on effect on morale of principals, teachers, etc

Anonymous said...

I had the same experience as Mr Wang with respect to schools forcing students to drop subjects.

I too went to a top JC. Many of my classmates who didn't do well in maths in JC1 were forced to drop Further Maths. There was no negotiation allowed.

Another true story. I know someone who was not allowed to take Further Maths in JC because he was from Normal stream. His maths teacher embarrassed him in front of the whole class by ridiculing out loud his request to take Further Maths. Now this guy has a PhD in theoretical physics from a top US university, and has published in the best physics journals.

World-class education system my foot.

Boomboomclangclang said...

Typical elitism mentality.

The principal tries to strongarm the students into ITE, while Lui Tuck Yew does damage control.

Sounds like Wee Shu Min's dad trying to damage control his daughter's elite uncaring comments, only to score an own goal with his 'but she was right' conceited 'apology'.

If there's one thing our ministry (govt) has taught our leaders, its poor delivery and statistical control.

The only interest our principals have now is how many awards they can achieve with their current institution, and then how many banners they can place on their school exterior; education has become something else entirely.

And i weep for the future of young Singaporeans.

yamizi said...

I just feel that probably the education system have evolved that these students' results is a mean to prove the efficiency of the various educators.

I definitely believe that there are teachers who are really more concerned about the character and personal development of students over their exam results.

As more and more white-collar criminal surfaced, it doesn't necessary mean that getting good grades or being an elite will guarantee a certain morally upright person.

I still believe that education should be treated as a growing experience as a whole to the teenage student. And that character development and the personal realisation are really far far more important than chasing after the big A.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Nothing new here, folks. Read this old post of mine - where one Christopher Ng relates how he and his classmates were strongly encouraged to go to poly instead of JC.

The reason given was that people of their academic standard were too lousy to be able to eventually make it to university anyway ... so they might as well go to poly instead of JC.

Most of his classmates followed that advice, but Christopher refused to. He chose to go to JC, and eventually he went to NUS where he obtained 1st Class Honours in Electrical Engineering. He also went on to get a Masters of Science in Applied Finance, as well as MCSE, MSCD, CISSP, CISA, PMP, FRM, CAIA and CMFAS qualifications, and now he's on his way to becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst, the most internationally recognised financial qualification in the world.

oikono said...

It reminds me of my secondary school when the teacher told us if we were any good, we would not be at our school. Same teacher told us that we were unlikely to get into university, and should just aim for polytechnic.

Jon said...

It starts with the presumption that people are objects.

It ends with the failure of a system that was supposed to educate / bring out the best in students, with one that sorts and places them in bins.

The latest upgrade even comes with a cool feature that eliminates the need to have a F bin.

smazh said...

In all fairness, not all educators are like that. I remember when I was in JC, teachers actually encouraged students who were thinking of dropping from 4 A level subjects to 3 not to do so but to believe in themselves. Admittedly it was about 10 years ago and I don't remember any specific cases, but the atmosphere in the school was such.

It's true however, that friends in other JCs told me about their schools asking students who did not do so well to drop subjects...

Alan Wong said...

"A ex-Armyman heading MOE is a disaster waiting to happen."

I agree.

If one had experience of dealing with those in the civil service or stat board, many a time these politically appointed nominees (especially those running dogs nearing their expiry dates from the army or navy) know next to nothing in the specific field that they are assigned to.

I remembered there was once a joke that one of LTA'S project directors (who happened to be an ex-Army General) was playing golf too often, that was why disaster striked.

So sometimes when the MIW talked about meritocracy, remember to take it with a pinch of salt.

En & Hou said...

If Mr Lee never spoke up, at least he could get away with "it's just the bad eggs in a good barrel".

But since now he has endorsed the comments, it just proves that the barrel (education system) is broken.

Cheers,
Hou.

Anonymous said...

Are we forgetting that regardless what teachers say, all they can do is advise, the ultimate choice lies with the student. Yes, I agree that teachers some times give the opposite of pep talks to dissuade people from taking subjects like F Maths. I recall being interested in it, but getting scared off when it was brought to my attention that F Maths has no practical uses unless I want to be a mathematician. That dissuaded me, but not hundreds of students, who went on to take it, and thus greatly improve their C Maths standards. So those teachers never had any real power to stop us from taking anything, if anything I had weak will power.

Before that I was in sec one and had scored dismally in HCL, and was asked to drop it. My mother wrote a very powerful email that stated that I had scored my score all on my own, without any tuition teacher's help, and that I didn't come from a Chinese speaking background. The school had no real power to make me drop it, and they put me on probation for a year, and soon I was writing beautiful chinese essays after working really hard at Chinese.

So you see, we can criticise the educators, or we can recognise that the most important tone that will affect a child's learning is that of the parent.

Parents, being more experienced, should know that it doesn't hurt to have another opinion, even though it is a biased one possibly affected by bonuses. If the child is already mentally prepared to mug for good results, even if someone trots out statistics that prove that the odds are against him getting a good grade, it shouldn't deflate his confidence so easily.

Mugster

Ex-NS man said...

During my secondary school days, I had a principal who did not allow us to take A-maths in our class. This was because we were from the technical stream. He didn't want us to "waste" our time on a subject, which he thought we would not do be able to do well in, and tried to dissuade us from our "silly" request.

Luckily for us, our maths teacher, Mr Lim, came to our rescue. He argued with our principal and fought for us. I still remember how happy we were when our maths teacher came in, and told us that he would teach us with or without our principal's permission. With our maths teacher on our side, our principal finally relented.

If I remember correctly, whole class passed A-maths in the preliminary exam. Many of us scored A or B in our "O"Levels. This happened in 1983. I guess something never change.

Jason said...

The power of being young is that you don't know any better, and consequently if you work at it you can achieve things that others thought unlikely or impossible.

It is a crying shame that our school system is apparently designed to purge from our kids this kind of hope and optimism.

We need more teachers like the Mr Lim that ex-ns man mentions. And we need them at the top.

Asian Mongrel said...

Are we forgetting that regardless what teachers say, all they can do is advise, the ultimate choice lies with the student.

No, I disagree with that. I took a heavy A-level load which my principal disagreed with. She made sure such a collection of subjects was never taken again by deliberating changing the book list for a student following me. When books for Economics, rather than Physics, arrived, the parents and student made a great fuss but the principal kept on delaying and delaying. The student went to Economics. Then, weeks later, the principal said it was too late now to change. The parents, bewildered, caved in. The student had no rights and ended up with a mishmash of subjects that made entry to University difficult (not one thing, not another). Admittedly, this happened in Australia, but I can see the signs of it here too. Pity.

John said...

This principal and the remarks by Minister reminds me of our super elite girl Wee Shu Min.
What they did and said is as good as screaming to those hapless girls aloud:
"GET OUT OF MY ELITE UNCARING FACE !"

scriqtfc said...

I am not here trying to side the principal but there are some issues that only people in the line will know. maybe you would like to read the article by stressed-teacher at blogspot?

Anonymous said...

Stressed Teacher gave a good counterpoint
http://stressed-teacher.blogspot.com/

mingz said...

some people only care for themself

Weiye said...

Having read through most of the comments, I feel that people are generally adverse to educators suggesting polytechnic education instead of JC, ITE education instead of secondary 5, taking 3 A-level subjects instead of 4, etc.

I am intrigued to ask why because it seems to me that there is an inherent albeit subconscious despise for such alternative education paths.

With such a mentality, I can well be an educator asking my students genuinely if they have considered the ITE or the polytechnic paths, and I will be thrown with tonnes of backlash.

To me, they are just different paths to cater to different types of students. And all of them will eventually lead to the same destination of knowledge gaining.

Without any negative stereotypes of the various education paths, I believe this case will be reduced to a non-issue.

While the motives of such suggestions remained questionable, I do believe that all options should be considered without prejudice to ensure the best for the students.

George said...

It is only natural for MOS Lui to defend the principal since she is doing precisely what MOE wants all principals and even teachers to do. Teachers and principals who do otherwise, ie who have the professionalism, dedication and moral ethics, who know better, to go against the trend, are perhaps the exception to the rule.

The vast majority knows on which side their bread is buttered. This principal and others recounted here and reported elsewhere are living proof of the sort of 'covert' elitist practices of the govt.

Remember, the govt need only a 747 Jumbo jet load of elites to run and control this place!

ex-teacher said...

"His maths teacher embarrassed him in front of the whole class by ridiculing out loud his request to take Further Maths. Now this guy has a PhD in theoretical physics from a top US university, and has published in the best physics journals."

Not siding any camp, but perhaps we would think twice about criticising the principal (not that I agree with what she did) if we contrast the girls' reaction to this enterprising young man who proved his teacher wrong.

That is resilience.

Anonymous said...

Actually i dont quite understand the separation of tone and message here. To me, the message from the principal was clear n unequivocal. The message was direct and specific to certain persons(yes the bottom 40% of those names on the huge projector up there). You cannot make it, pls seek transfer to ITE.

Or did someone (all 27 of you out there) misinterpreted the message?

One more - selective use of statistical data has always intrigued me. Just think about it, as long as there are 5 N level students in the entire cohort, there are 2 doomed to fail their "O"s? Not very motivating eh?

Iago said...

I'm a student in a reputed JC, and as it was in Mr. Wang's time, so it is in mine. Even at our age, we still tend to be micro-managed and have little autonomy over our education. It seems like a mad rush for grades, expecially when your principal constantly emphasizes that we must get at least 2 or 3 'A's for the 'A' levels, and uses a triple-A bag of rice to illustrate.

I have never heard any authority figure in my school mention anything about real learning, with the exception of my KI and literature teachers. It seems like the school is the factory, whereby its urvival depends on its products: students' grades.

As for Lui: At the 2007 Pre-U Seminar, Lui evaded my questions during the open forum and evaded them again later during informal dialogue. Very disgusting, and disappointing.

fckfashion said...

to Anon who posted on January 19, 2008 4:37 PM

Apparently you dont get the big picture. Until you try, you never know if you're going to make it.

2 out of 5 fails or 3 out of 5 will make it. Its all semantics. I dont know what you're trying to prove but as far as im concerned, 60% success rate is worth a shot for these sec 5 students.

Anonymous said...

You are not the only who dislike Lui intensely. Lui is a homophobe who once compared gays to pedophiles. A person who spews such crap can be minister caliber? Looks like PAP is scrapping the barrel.

Btw if anyone notices, the PM is padding his cabinet with mostly paper generals. It is looking not too different from the Burma junta.

Kaffein said...

Should not the decision to take the said subjects, take 'O' leves, go to ITE lie with the students themselves?

Of course, teachers can ADVICE, not DICTATE, provide GUIDANCE, not CONTROL. Smells so much like the current government and systems in place.

It should be for the benefit of the STUDENT, NOT the school, should a teacher discourage the student not to take any particular route/subjects.

Ultimately, it should be the students to decide for themselves.

Sheesh, what is our education system heading. I fear for our future generations if everything is for KPIs or putting up wayang shows.

Kaffein

loonyd said...

"As for Lui: At the 2007 Pre-U Seminar, Lui evaded my questions during the open forum and evaded them again later during informal dialogue. Very disgusting, and disappointing."-iago

Could u let us know wat was it that u asked during the forum and dialogue? I'm interested to know.

Anonymous said...

what can u guys expect from someone who was elected from flawed GRC system.

Come on.. this is not rocket science.. if school ranking and result are to be all principles KPI... then student retention rate has to carry the same weightage too..

if their KPI is set at such.. 50% on result againt average of past 5 yrs result as a benchmark..

and another 50% on student retention rate .. from the day they entered school til O level..

at least these 50% of their KPI is decicated to student's welfare and trying to keep them in school..

btw.. i was a normal stream student too.. i am now a project manager for an US MNC..

Luther

jueq said...

Everyone has been through school and this is perhaps one of the reasons that folks like to comment on teachers, as if they knew all there is and was to teaching. I'm not a teacher, but have done a stint in relief teaching before. And the reality is, what you want to achieve theoretically is not what happens in real life, and what goes on behind the scenes, often goes unreported. I'll not list out specific examples but rather offer an alternative look at the situation in general.

One thing here, everyone is assuming the girls' account of the incidents are unexaggerated and undistorted. But think about it, can you be really sure? We are just relying on the account of one or a few students from the class, and of course, the reporter's biased/unbiased stance on it. I'm not insinuating in any sense that the girls are lying but they could certainly be exaggerating.

However, do you really think this is the first time the principal or any teacher has spoken to them about their grades and their post-secondary plans? Most likely, their form teachers and subject teachers have been telling them over the years that hard work is important if you want to get into the school of their choice. But how many of those kids really listened? Will we ever know what kind of efforts the teachers and the school did to pull up their grades? And when their teachers praised them, why wasn't it reported in the news?

Some parents these days are also pretty lax about their kids' education. They don't monitor their kids' studying habits at home, but the moment their report cards return home with poor grades, they fly to the teachers and ask the teachers why they didn't teach their kids well. When the teachers point out they have been conducting remedials but their kid didn't turn up despite repeated calls to their parents, they insist that it's the teacher's fault for not making the lessons interesting in the first place and that's why their kids failed.

True, the education system is not perfect. True, some teachers and even really good teachers conduct boring lessons at times. But what is education really? About fun, about making you happy? No, it's about learning -- not just the learning of a skill, but also learning that to master a skill, there will be interesting times where you discover relevations and inspiring stuffs, and boring times where you put in lots of hard work but hardly seem to progress at all.

Do our teachers teach that? I sincerely believe they do try, in one way or another. But whose responsibility is it when the kid is not receptive to learning or studying hard? (I'm not saying that "Normal stream" kids do not work hard. They are some who work so hard, they make their teachers so proud of them.)

1. The parents, who have obviously failed in inculcating a love for study in them, and are seeking to find other excuses for their failure? 2. The kid himself? Although he may still be an adolescent, it does not excuse him totally for being irresponsible and immature. There are kids who are good in their studies despite numerous family conflicts and financial troubles in their lives. 3. The teachers, who conducted "boring" lessons and failed to force the kids to come for remedials?

I'm not saying the principal is right in saying such brutal stuff (if she did indeed say so). Her approach may have been wrong, but does that warrant running to the press to complain? This is not a case of a student who was punished unfairly.

Besides that, it's interesting to note that on issues like politics etc, everyone takes a cynical view of the press reporting. But when the press reports on such incidents, it becomes the gospel news. Remember, the parents are the ones who raised their kids 7 years before he entered primary school. If they were unable to control their kids before they became living terrors or slackers in school, they shouldn't point the finger at the teachers either, esp. since each teacher is responsible for at least 100 kids a year, compared to the one to five kids each set of parents has. At the same time, it's interesting to note that the parents/kids these days often go to the media to complain, even if their kids were in the wrong in the first place, such as in discipline matters. But some parents knowingly aid and abet their kids, resulting in diminished respect for and feeling of one-upmanship over their teachers and harbouring thoughts such as, "My parents are paying taxes to fund your salary." (Gosh, are teachers the only civil servants here?).

That said, I can understand how it would feel being told that by a principal or teacher cos it happened to me before. In my case, my parents rebuked me strongly when I did poorly for my exams and said that I should forget about going to uni . It felt like the end of the world and one just felt terribly useless and unaccomplished.

But does that mean we sit down and cry for the rest of our lives? The human resilience is strong, and if these kids, and many others, can wipe away their tears and persevere, we wish them well. Sometimes, there's nothing like a good wake-up call. All the best to you, kids!

Mr Wang Says So said...

Now pay close attention, folks.

An educator may harshly say: "You students are hopeless and lazy and if you don't buck up, you will surely fail your exams and your future will be screwed."

This is quite a different thing from saying: "You students are hopeless and lazy and if you don't buck up, you will surely fail your exams and that means you will mess up my school's pass record. You should all GET OUT OF MY SCHOOL now, before that happens."

I hope the difference is clear.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Her approach may have been wrong, but does that warrant running to the press to complain?"

But why not? Let me put it this way - if the principal's kind of behaviour is widespread throughout the education system, then this is very damaging to Singapore as a whole.

What it would mean is that educators are actively and deliberately shaping the students' aspirations and future path, NOT with the students' interest in mind, but with the educators' own interest in mind.

For example, suppose 20 weak students in a school fail their exams. Instead of letting them repeat a year and try again, educators may be pressurising them to drop out of school, so that they don't fail again and damage the school's pass record.

Then suppose in a top school, some students feel that they are overstressed and would prefer to take seven or eight O-level subjects, instead of nine or ten or eleven. But once agan the educators put pressure on them to take nine or ten or eleven subjects, so as to boost the school's performance.

Or this example we have here - what if a great number of principals in Singapore are all placing pressure on their N-level students to quit school? Rather than study another year and potentially lower the school's pass score?

What controls are in place, to sop these things from happening? You tell me.

Anonymous said...

To jueq,

Yes, there are students who are just plain idiots - "irresponsible and immature" in your words and there are parents who jump at every opportunity to get back at the school.

But the important question here is, in light of what was reported in the press, did the principal do it for the school's interest, her own selfish interest, or for the interest of the students?

I'm the one who cited my nephew's case and I'm inclined to think schools put their own interest above that of their students'.

Anonymous said...

ex-teacher said...
"His maths teacher embarrassed him in front of the whole class by ridiculing out loud his request to take Further Maths. Now this guy has a PhD in theoretical physics from a top US university, and has published in the best physics journals."

Not siding any camp, but perhaps we would think twice about criticising the principal (not that I agree with what she did) if we contrast the girls' reaction to this enterprising young man who proved his teacher wrong.

That is resilience.


I was the person who posted that anecdote about the theoretical physicist. Actually, I haven't seen any reaction from the girls that they will give up trying for the O-levels because of what their principal said. Instead, they expressed outrage that he stooped to saying such things. And, in fact, this person had the same outraged reaction to his teacher's actions. Finding the principal's comments offensive is perfectly compatible with wanting to forge on despite his comments. So I see no reason to label these girls as weak-willed or whatever.

passer-by said...

To jueq:

I am surprised to hear you have done relief teaching. Was it to earn some keep and pass time and have some theoretical feel about the education system?

Education is a long life process. Not only to learn new skills and also to develop an individual and impart values.

Teachers are not required to take a doctor's equivalent of a Hippocratic oath but certainly not supposed to pass derisory remarks on students. It is unbecoming for a principal to stoop so low.

The basic point is about giving every child a fair chance in self-discovery during his/her formative years and life ahead.

Mercia said...

It's pretty heartening to see that students are eventually standing up for themselves and refusing to let a principal decide their path.

I personally know someone who dropped out/got expelled from JC because of their inability to fit into the system, but somehow managed to work their way into an Ivy League.

Anonymous said...

So we've all established that it is downright selfish of teachers to, at the end of the journey, tell students who haven't been putting in the effort to please don't take the exam and mess up the score. I've done a stint as a relief teacher before and i am so glad i didn't opt for it as a life long career. It's not about idealism, it's about trying to motivate kids in an era of handphones, computer games, psps, and unattentive but very eager to complain parents. You can't even say shut up to a kid these days.

Can anyone think of a way to fairly appraise teachers then? I agree that it may be wrong to influence the score by denying kids a chance to take subjects, but I was wondering how actual teachers feel when they work hard all year from sec one to sec 4, especially in weak schools,and there are no indicators at all of their efforts when the results come out. How would teachers in neighbourhood schools feel when schools like RGS have a perfect record simply because the students who went there have been streamed in the first place? Who would want to invest their life's efforts in neighbourhood schools if the results always show as if the children haven't improved in their 4 yrs in secondary school?

You speak of a lot of people who did well later in life, well that proves a point doesn't it? They aren't innately stupid, they just didn't put in enough effort when they were in secondary school. When you say "weak", you try to invoke an image of a kid studying very hard but failing, but the truth is that children who do put in effort in their studies are appreciated by teachers, and it shows in their results.

Mugster

Anonymous said...

To put things in a different perspective...

If I found out my kid got scolded or canned in school and if I know my kid to be quite naughty and assuming I'm a reasonable parent, I would be thankful that the school is helping to discipline my kid (There're parents who, despite knowing their kids to be naughty, fault the school when their kids were punished in school).

But if found out my kid got into a certain stream not because the school thought it was the best stream for him, but because it was best for the school, then that's very hard to swallow.

Mr Wang Says So said...

And I note that all the "pro-principal" commentators so far have remained quite silent on the proposition at the end of my post.

The proposition is simple. As a practical matter, since you have already succeeded in passing your N-levels, why not go one step further, just study for one more year, and try to pass your O-levels?

Is this not worth a try? Bearing mind that at worst, you can still apply for ITE one year later (and your choice of eligible ITE courses will in fact widen, if you have O-level qualifications).

Suppose that school principal had a daughter, and that daughter was in Sec 5 this year. Do you think that the principal would ask her own daughter to stop studying for her O-levels, and go and join ITE? Ask yourself that.

ex-teacher said...

"So I see no reason to label these girls as weak-willed or whatever."

When did I label them as such?

That fact that they have created such a big deal out of a comment (which is really very common in schools and the workplace, in the past and present, anywhere in the world) enough to make it to the news, insensitive the comment might have been, showed an inability to tolerate advice (well-intentioned or otherwise) or (constructive) criticism, as well as a vindictive stance that does not allow room for benefit of doubt.

Whether they make it past the O levels is yet to be seen. But I do hope they will prove the principal wrong.

Same applies to the many comments that condemn without full knowledge of what actually happened. The tone might have been harsh, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it was ill-intentioned. But most of the reaction is sadly negative even to the extent of calling for resignations.

I personally think that it is out of proportion and reflects very much on the maturity of some in the blogosphere.

Like I have said, I am not siding any party, but having taught in a school with many NT classes before, I know how distorted things can get.

I have also spoken in very harsh tones before because that was practically the last resort. Students hated me too, but they later realized they were wrong and grew to trust me more after that, and results improved. I am not boasting but it's a fact I have to share in order for those without any teaching experience to understand. I resigned because of poor health, not because I hated teaching or the students.

Let's be gracious, give the principal the benefit of doubt, and prove the MM wrong about us Singaporeans.

ex-teacher said...

Mr Wang, in response to your comment,
one reason I could offer is that the principal did not want to give the students unrealistic expectations of themselves and be disappointed when they fail.

When I was teaching, one HOD actually told me not the give students false hope because if they fail, they would be disappointed and some might even blame the teacher for giving bad advice or not giving them warnings.]

It might have been a "kiasu" approach which I do not agree with, but surely we should understand where they were coming from and make allowance for differences in the way all of us approach and discipline students?

Mr Wang Says So said...

From news reports, it seems quite clear that the principal was addressing one entire class of Secondary 5 students.

In other words, she had not picked out, say, the 10 laziest students, or the 10 stupidest students, or the 10 least-motivated students.

She simply picked out an entire class of Secondary 5 students. Their sin is not that they were lazy, or stupid or unmotivated, but simply that they were in Secondary 5.

If Lui's statistics hold true, we know that around 60% of these students would make it to polytechnic anyway.

Of course, if all the students followed their principal's advice, 0% of them would make it to poly. 100% of them would go to ITE.

Mr Wang Says So said...

ex-teacher said: "in response to your comment, one reason I could offer is that the principal did not want to give the students unrealistic expectations of themselves and be disappointed when they fail."

Let me explain, using an analogy, why this reason sounds like nonsense to me.

Suppose you are diagnosed with a serious illness. If you go for treatment, there is a 60% chance you will be cured. If you don't go for treatment, you will definitely die.

But your doctor tells you, "Oh, I advise you not to go for treatment. After all, 40% of the time, the treatment fails. So why don't you just lie down now, and just die straightaway. It's less disappointing."

Now, let me ask you. Will you slap your doctor's face, or not.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang needs to understand two facts:

1) There is nothing so good that would justify expending any amount of resources to get it. It is all well and good to say, Why not spend another year and try for the O Levels. If you fail that, it's not too late to THEN go to ITE. However, demoralized by the failure, these students might not even go to ITE. There is an average amount of time people will spend on education before they feel they would be better served by entering the workforce - the longer it takes for them to try, they more options they spend time exploring, the more likely they will drop out before they reach a desired outcome. From an educator's point of view, taking all things into account, these students' best bet, economically, could be an ITE qualification. It is matter of a cost-benefit analysis. If they fail the O Levels, and then go on to ITE, it would still mean one year of lost earnings. You are not too well-off I think, Mr. Wang, to see that one year of earnings is significant to most Singaporeans, and that the cost of being far-sighted is too much for many Singaporeans to bear at present. You say a 60% pass rate is a good chance that students should risk, but you are discounting the principal's (and the teachers') knowledge of these students, and their professional judgement based on this knowledge. Do THESE students have a 60% chance? Yours is an irresponsible application of a statistic.

2) Your proposed thought experiment, "supposed the principal had a daughter...", belongs to a too-sweet ideology that has inflicted swarms of self-righteous parents upon over-worked educators. Educators cannot and should not value and invest in each and every child the way a parent could and should. It is of course a parent's perogative to fight for his child till the last breath in his body, and the devil take the hindmost; he does not need to be FAIR. But an educator DOES. I think many people misinterpret the provision that "Every child will be given a fair chance to succeed" as the commitment that "Every child will succeed, no matter what it takes". That said, I don't think anyone would expect a teacher to drop everything for a child who insists on being lackadaisical; the argument, reasonable people will agree, is whether the students in question deserved such harsh comments. If we agree on that, how can we then spin out such an impassioned exhange of accusations based on a newspaper article? Do we know the students' academic history? Do we know the history of interaction between the teachers' and the students' parents? How confident are we in the article's objectivity? Again, it's all well and good to cite all the inspirational examples of rejects-make-good. To these, I sincerely say: Good for them; I wish the system had been more robust, I wish we had more resources to be more accommodating of late-bloomers. But let me ask the converse question: If you were the parent of a child who was doing well, would you appreciate a teacher who leaves her to her own devices, because she obviously does not need the teacher as much as the others? Until we are prepared to pay more taxes (or tap into our reserves - another prickly issue altogether) to improve the teacher-student ratio, I think the best teachers and parents can do is to be cooperative rather than adversarial.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Do THESE students have a 60% chance?"

That is exactly the point I made earlier. If the principal had specifically singled out 2, 3, 7 or 9 weak students, and told them to go to ITE because she felt that they, specifically, have very low chances of passing their O-levels, then that is a different case.

Here the principal is picking out an ENTIRE class of secondary 5 students. You see the difference? You note the report:

"she also stressed that she wanted 100 per cent passes in her school."

The sin is in being in Sec 5.

Anonymous said...

And from the comments above regarding the Science / Art student, yes it is probably true that you need to make the student appeal and 'treasure' the opportunity to stay in a science stream, and then he will do well.

January 18, 2008 4:53 PM


Excuse me, his parents almost gave up appealing because the principal was cynical about their son staying in the Science stream and doing well.

And do you think a lot of parents have the time or resources to do things like that? Meet the principal, meet the MP, seek help to write letters?

Basically at their age, the students can't think for themselves. And if their parents aren't that educated or informed to do something, that's it. Case closed.

ex-teacher said...

Mr Wang,

It would have been worse if the principal picked only the very bad performing ones because she would have been accused of picking on the students she didn't like.

With regard to the comment about doctors, let's say, the doctor did not advice the patient about the consequences chances of the surgery failing, and the surgery failed and the patient died or got worse, wouldn't the doctor be blamed for not giving the patient a full picture and offering his opinion?

The fact is, the principal, as far as I know, did not forbid the students to carry on with Sec 5, but she only advised, albeit harshly and strongly.

Is that such a big crime? To the extent of being dismissed?

Rest assured, I do not agree with what she did. But I wish to highlight that sweating the small stuff excessively might eventually work against us being heard or taken seriously because we come across as petty and unreasonable, not to mention defensive and quick to judge.

Mr Wang Says So said...

As for the economic argument, this again is nonsense, because the principal did not say:

"Please consider your family's financial situation. If your family is not well-to-do, you must bear in mind that studying for an extra year costs money and that money may be wasted if you don't pass your O-levels in the end."

Instead the principal said:

"I want you to get out of my school now, because I am aiming for a 100% pass score and you jokers are jeopardising my goal. Anyway, 40% of you will not make it to poly anyway, so 100% of you should get out of my school and go to ITE."

Mr Wang Says So said...

"It would have been worse if the principal picked only the very bad performing ones because she would have been accused of picking on the students she didn't like."

What is your point then? Are you saying that all Secondary 5 students should not take O-levels?

Mr Wang Says So said...

" let's say, the doctor did not advice the patient about the consequences chances of the surgery failing, and the surgery failed and the patient died or got worse, wouldn't the doctor be blamed for not giving the patient a full picture and offering his opinion?"

The doctor should give the full picture, but the doctor should not say:

"Please don't ask me to do the surgery. If I operate and you die, that would be so embarrassing for my personal record and my annual bonus might be affected. i suggest that you just lie down and be untreated and die on your own straightaway."

Mr Wang Says So said...

Found some interesting quotes here:

1. "Passive acceptance of the teacher's wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position." - Bertrand Russell.

2. "Sir, we're surrounded by the enemy."

"Great! Then we can attack in every direction!"

Beware the leaders you choose to follow.

Anonymous said...

ex-teacher, you wrote:

if we contrast the girls' reaction to this enterprising young man who proved his teacher wrong.

That is resilience.


That is clearly insinuating that the girls will not react like the young man in the anecdote; that they did not/will not display the resilience he did. Which you have no evidence for.

Kaffein said...

I applaud you Mr Wang. Friggin' good answers, especially citing the doctor's reponse to a patient with a critical illness.

Again I say, friggin' good responses too all those pro-principal/Minister. May they wake up their idea.

Kaffein

Weiye said...

But your doctor tells you, "Oh, I advise you not to go for treatment. After all, 40% of the time, the treatment fails. So why don't you just lie down now, and just die straightaway. It's less disappointing."

I'm sorry but I kind of disagree with your analogy. You ignored the alternative treatment prescribed i.e. the ITE path.

Of course, if all the students followed their principal's advice, 0% of them would make it to poly. 100% of them would go to ITE.

By stating so, I think you are doing a great disservice to the ITE. The truth is there are students who made it to polytechnic from ITE, and many ultimately made it to local universities as well.

Please refer to my reply in Aaron's Blog regarding the same issue. He, too, gave an analogy similar to yours.

Anonymous said...

The doctor analogy is not a good one. The students' lack in scholastic aptitude is not a terminal disease; going to ITE is not death; the O-Levels are not the only way to an economically viable future the way surgery might be the only way to survive. The analogy is sensational and moving, but misleading.

All this outcry against the principal ironically reinforces the prejudice that everyone purports to denounce, that ITE is an inferior option. The O-Levels and ITE are alternative, distinct routes: the one academic, the other application-based. Perhaps what these students need is a different model of teaching, one that ITE offers. We must not let bleeding-heart sentiments stand in the way of actual education.

Mr Wang Says So said...

The doctor analogy is quite apt because:

1. ITE is always available as an option for these students; just as death is always available as an option for the patient;

2. The principal tells the students to go straight to ITE; just as the wicked doctor tells the patient to opt straight for death; and

3. the principal and the wicked doctor are both acting for their own selfish interests. One does not wish to damage his pass scores; and the other does not wish to damage his cure rate.

Anonymous said...

Years ago, one of my young friend who is very good in his math and science was ¨channel¨ from the technical stream to the Art just because he did not do well in his English. He ends up going to ITE and then Poly to complete his technical education.

The school principal & our educators feel that it is our students who can´t make it rather than their education methodology.

They are more concern of their ranking rather than the well-being of our students.

Anonymous said...

All this outcry against the principal ironically reinforces the prejudice that everyone purports to denounce, that ITE is an inferior option. The O-Levels and ITE are alternative, distinct routes: the one academic, the other application-based.

You seem to be suggesting both will lead you to the same outcome in life, it's just that one is academic-based, the other is not.

ex-teacher said...

"That is clearly insinuating that the girls will not react like the young man in the anecdote"

I wasn't insinuating. I will give credit where it is due. I will also not count the chickens before they are hatched.

I have also said I hoped they would prove the principal wrong.

Assumptions - there are plenty here - can also be interpreted as insinuating, if one chooses to see it that way.

ex-teacher said...

"Please don't ask me to do the surgery. If I operate and you die, that would be so embarrassing for my personal record and my annual bonus might be affected. i suggest that you just lie down and be untreated and die on your own straightaway."

The doctor in this case did not say that. It's more like, "Please consider carefully whether you really want the surgery because there is 40% chance of failure and there is an alternative I think might be worth considering."

ex-teacher said...

And lastly, another assumption again that the doctor is trying to protect himself which might or might not be true. I see it as professionalism. If he neglects to advise the patient properly, and the surgery fails, he would have felt very guilty for not having done so. Even if he was protecting himself, who wouldn't? Would you be that altruistic to sacrifice your career prospects for somebody whom, in your opinion, and from experience, is stubborn as can be?

That is why I say, benefit of doubt, please, benefit of doubt.

ex-teacher said...

"What is your point then? Are you saying that all Secondary 5 students should not take O-levels?"

I was just responding to a point you made, to show that there is more than meets the eye.

Again, my whole point is to give the principal the benefit of doubt, be gracious and not be too presumptuous because we do not know the full picture and context.

dynasty warrior said...

Mr Wang said,

1. ITE is always available as an option for these students; just as death is always available as an option for the patient;

You might want to reconsider that statement. It may help to imagine if it was posted on a ITE student's forum.

As someone else mentioned, this just serves to reinforce the notion that ITE stands for "it's the end".

I don't mean to say that the students shouldn't be aiming to stay in Sec 5 and aim for O level passes either. Ultimately, the students themselves are the best judge of that. I doubt anyone here in this blog really knows the students' capabilities. But I'm very sure the principal would have a better idea. Hence her action to advise (as taken verbatim from the original news article; the principal did not order the students) them to apply for ITE.

Anonymous said...

damn if you do, damn if you don't. I pity the school principal. If Mr Wang was the minister of Education, I will probably quit teaching if I were the principal. Can you imagine working all your life, and having to watch all your words carefully cos the public / parents / students will quote you to the press? Mr Wang, give the principal a break. Until you know her personally and have taught a Sec 5 N level Technical Class, or met a few of such teachers, I think you should give the principal and all sec 5 teachers the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it is a wake up call to principals and MOE on their KPIs and how / what they hope to achieve, but still all of us have a job to do and we learn how to do it better the next time around. Mr Wang, please. Our ST is 154 in the world - do not take their sensationalistic write up as the gospel truth.

Blogter said...

Let's also give Mr Wang the benefit of the doubt. He was somewhat justified to start to comment.

Note that this incident emanated from a girls' mission school. This already hints to us strongly that it's an elite school. Maybe even one of the best schools, if not THE best school in town.


It's therefore not surprising that the principal would want to preserve the pristine track record of the school. Improve until can improve no more already, the principal maybe had no choice but to hatch up this scheme of 'advising' some sec 5 girls to leave so as to achieve her 100% passes in her school. Otherwise she might lose some parts of her not insubstantial annual bonuses, or even get a D grade in her performance report.

It's not unreasonable for most of us to thus surmise the situation, unless it can be otherwise proven.

gamergirl said...

A few thoughts...

1) If the principal's primary motivation is for 100% pass rate, go die in a fire please.

2) What has the school done for these students? Did they sit down with them to discuss their future and HENCE suggest ITE? This is the point I feel is missing and that makes it unforgivable.

Personal experience on my side:

I scored a D7 for A Math in Sec 3. Math teacher spoke to us (the failures) and told us about what the school is doing for us - extra lessons during holidays, make up exams, mock exams etc; as well as telling us the unfortunate truth that we should drop it if it's beyond our understanding. Drop it such that we can concentrate our time on other subjects, and eventually we can still fulfill the L1R5 criteria to JC (it's not the end of the world to drop A math).

Did the school put in such an effort for her students?

3) This essentially feels like a social problem here. Efficiency is so important that "wasting a year for O levels" is bad. Failing is a problem too.

Maybe a principal has several other issues to consider besides her students - accountability to various other parties besides students, parents and MOE.

---

IMO, there's nothing wrong with what the principal has suggested, ITE/Poly/JC does not determine the eventual success of any individual. However, the motivation of the principal disappoints me immensely.

What happened to the care and concern?

A westernised parent said...

Ex-teacher wrote: "a comment (which is really very common in schools and the workplace, in the past and present, anywhere in the world)"

Not true. In USA, it is very uncommon for a teacher to make any demoralising comment at all to a student, much less such a harsh one. The public would view such a teacher as unfit to be in the education sector and the media would call for such a teacher tos resign or be sacked immediately. In USA, every student is supposed to be "special", even if the teacher privately feels that the student is mediocre, and every homework is labeled as a "good job" even when it is obviously lousy. Grades are inflated to make students feel good.

Now, my point is NOT that such a praise-only educational philosophy is superior to the Asian criticism-only philosophy. It's not. (In fact, more likely, it's a delicate balance between praise and criticism that is the right approach). My point however is that nowadays, Singapore parents are very well read into American educational philosophy. So, we parents, no longer tolerate such demoralising criticism from teachers. My point futher, is that it is sad that on the other hand, NIE does not seem to have taught you guys at NIE about western education philosophy - the "danger" of demoralising children and scarring those who are not resilient, for life - so that you professionals are in tune with what we parents read from thos american parenting magazine. Ultimately, teachers are civil servants and paid by us parents/tax-payers. If we parents and tax-payers are very into western education philosophy and yet our teachers are trained to "comment" on their students the traditional asian way, then there is mismatch, right?


>Anonymous at Jan 20, 5:15pm wrote: "the argument, reasonable people will agree, is whether the students in question deserved such harsh comments".

No student deserved such a harsh comment, ever! Well, at least that's so, according to western education philosophy. Maybe that's why expatriates prefer to send their children to international schools. I suspect it may have nothing to do with local teachers' ability to teach academic subjects, but everything to do with intangibles such as the way teachers treat students, the kind of comment they make about students etc. Mr Wang can shed more light on this, since he said he has many expat co-workers and he knows a lot about how they view local education.

Anonymous said...

>Can you imagine working all your life, and having to watch all your words carefully cos the public / parents / students will quote you to the press?

I do not need to imagine. I can see that that's the case for all civil servants working in the public sector, in all real democracies with a free press! It's called accoutability. But yeah, in a controlled-media environment like ours, we have to "imagine" such a working life for our civil servants.

Pray, tell me, what's wrong with civil servants - including teachers - having to watch all their words carefully cos the public / parents / students will quote you to the press?

Anonymous said...

It will definitely be very interesting for Mr Wang to comment on those financial specialist, economist, analyst who have just a while ago predicted a rosy picture of economic health for Sg.

The stock markets have dived quite steeply these last few days and despairs have hit many investors. Many of these investors depended much on the 'expert' views of those many economic specialists that appear frequently and extensively in our medias.

Wonder if the tens of thousands of financial planners, advisers and consultants have misguilded their clients.

Pardon me for digress for I think You are one of the 'most right' person to give us an insight, thank You Sir.

Anonymous said...

Pray, tell me, what's wrong with civil servants - including teachers - having to watch all their words carefully cos the public / parents / students will quote you to the press?

Indeed, the million dollars ministers should account for every word and act. So too the principals and teachers with the recent pay hike for civil servants. What you get is a bunch of students who is soft and will complain if the teacher give them poor marks, and they all get a bunch of end of year comments which only says nice things about the students but actually - says nothing.

Let us be careful what we wish for.

Anonymous said...

damn if you do, damn if you don't. I pity the school principal. If Mr Wang was the minister of Education, I will probably quit teaching if I were the principal. Can you imagine working all your life, and having to watch all your words carefully cos the public / parents / students will quote you to the press? Mr Wang, give the principal a break.

Did the principal spare a thought for those students when she said what she said?

If your child was placed in a stream to protect the school's ranking and reputation and maybe even to help some people get that superscale, how would you feel?

Do you know that many an unfortunate student had been channelled into streams they didn't fit in, just so that the schools can boast about their pass rates at the end of the academic year?

Just as you ask Mr Wang to put himself in the shoes of the principal or teacher, I'm asking you to put yourself in the shoes of parents whose children's future could have been irreversibly adversely affected as a result of their being placed in a stream that suited the school's interest best.

ex-teacher said...

westernised parent,

Perhaps you could read my comment again and ponder the essence in the full context of the sentence, not just what you have extracted out of context.

What is the main point? What is nit-picking?

ex-teacher said...

"My point futher, is that it is sad that on the other hand, NIE does not seem to have taught you guys at NIE about western education philosophy - the "danger" of demoralising children and scarring those who are not resilient, for life - so that you professionals are in tune with what we parents read from thos american parenting magazine."

Are you suggesting that teachers have to put up with students who have been pampered all their lives, who are "not resilient" just because you paid tax? Who are the ones who raised up soft-as-jelly kids? Who are the ones responsible but not able to raise up kids who can withstand the harsh realities of life?

So you think by sugar-coating with sweet words, the child would be able to learn how to fend for himself? Sure, his moral may be boosted, his results may be stellar, he may rise like a shining star. But he would only be a mansion built with cards. Just a blow from a big bad wolf, he will come tumbling down.

We learn about western education philosophies, but that does not mean we should employ them blindly. As you have said, their methods are by no means superior always.

Are you suggesting that teachers and principals all turn a blind eye to something they find really disturbing just so to save your kids' fragile ego and to accommodate your method of raising kids? Because you are extremely well-versed from only reading about education?

Have you tried teaching? Maybe you could volunteer and experience for yourself.

Knowledge and application are different things. Just because you are westernised and seemingly well-read, does not give you the authority to tell educators what they should do and judge what is right or wrong without full knowledge of what actually happened.

Otherwise, you will appear even more clueless about the school environment and behaviour of students here given the extensive knowledge you claim to have.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Ex-Teacher:

I wonder if you have SERIOUSLY considered the implications of what you are saying.

I see this as MUCH more serious than just a matter of bruised egos (whether the principal's, or the students, or their parents').

I see a very real possibility that students are being misguided, pressured or coerced into making choices for their education / career ...

... that AREN'T for their own good, but for the good of, say, the school's reputation or the principal's performance appraisal!

And no, I don't see the point of giving any benefit of the doubt to the principal in this case, because if she really felt that she had been wronged by the ST reporting, it would be easy for her to come out and give her side of the story.

As it is, the ST, by concealing her identity and the name of the school, has already been VERY kind to the principal. Too kind, I should say.

Mr Wang Says So said...

The N-level results had JUST been released on 18 December 2007.

Those who had failed would not qualify for Secondary 5 and wouldn't even be back in school.

Those who had passed are eligible for Secondary 5, and to study for their O-levels.

This is the way it has been, all over Singapore, for years and years.

And this principal - on the FIRST day of school - takes an entire CLASS of Sec 5 students and tells them to leave her school!

To quit studying for their O-levels, which they HAD just proven themselves as qualified to take!

To me, this is like passing your driving test and getting your driving licence, and then, just before you get into your new car, the authorities appear and try to snatch away your licence. Saying, "So what if you just passed your driving test? In my opinion, you're still not fit to drive!"

KF said...

I am a teacher.

As a teacher, we are held up to role models so it is imperative that we should be careful with what we say. I cannot imagine or suggest it be otherwise.

ex-teacher said...

"I wonder if you have SERIOUSLY considered the implications of what you are saying."

Mr Wang,

Why do you think I have taken the time and effort to explain and respond to comments here? Do I have a vested interest? I am an ex-teacher. I did so because I feel very strongly that putting the blame on the principal will not solve the problem but only mask the real issues.

Yes, I have seriously considered what I have said IN RESPONSE TO WESTERNIZED PARENT. Because that parent is part of the equation that makes our education what it is today. Instead of working with educators to help their children, some parents think they know more and expect to be listened to and obeyed just because they pay tax and have read some magazines and articles and are "westernized".

And, correct me if I am wrong, even to the extent of suggesting educators should pretend to be nice and withhold the truth just to preserve the kids' moral. That is dishonesty and hypocrisy, to say the least, not to mention cowardice and lack of moral courage.

Are we forgetting that parents are also responsible for what happened?

Sorry, I have to use bold letters for emphasis. Having said that, I agree totally with you that it is a very serious case if, and only if, your assumptions are right. There could be reasons why the principal has not spoken more. Perhaps she thinks there is no need because she has a clear conscience, perhaps she thinks it's a waste of time talking to unreasonable people or she was not allowed to.

As I have said, we all can use a little benefit of doubt. We all need it some time or other.

Finally, I feel that the main issue is not the principal or teachers but the system. If you had written about the system in relation to this case, we could probably have agreed with each other from beginning to the end.

Anonymous said...

For someone whose expertise and time is dedicated to entirely further his own pursuits, you certainly are harsh to those who have dedicated their lives to others. Besides your own kids, how many children have YOU attempted to educate? How would you know what it's like to teach 40 unreceptive children?

Yes, theoretically teachers opinions should never be tampered by their own interests, but you are a man of the working world and you should know how selfish people really are, including yourself.

Let's bring the incident to light, and tell MOE to stop discouraging students from taking subjects, but you should stop criticising an entire profession you deem too lowly for yourself.

Mugster

fckfashion said...

Anonymous January 21, 2008 11:15 AM said...

"damn if you do, damn if you don't. I pity the school principal. If Mr Wang was the minister of Education, I will probably quit teaching if I were the principal. Can you imagine working all your life, and having to watch all your words carefully cos the public / parents / students will quote you to the press? Mr Wang, give the principal a break. Until you know her personally and have taught a Sec 5 N level Technical Class, or met a few of such teachers, I think you should give the principal and all sec 5 teachers the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it is a wake up call to principals and MOE on their KPIs and how / what they hope to achieve, but still all of us have a job to do and we learn how to do it better the next time around. Mr Wang, please. Our ST is 154 in the world - do not take their sensationalistic write up as the gospel truth."

Of course the principal has to watch what she say. She's a figure head of the school and she doesnt get paid 8k for nothing.

LUDICROUS

ST is ranked 145th now and is ranked for biasness which is a major factor. Are you trying to insinuate ST is putting words into the principal's mouth? Are you saying what was quoted is completely untrue?

Are you sure you can discern between accuracy and biasness?

The papers didnt take a partisan stand. They just reported it as a matter of fact-ly which sparked an internet debate on her insensitivity and warped mentality fullstop.

Anonymous said...

I can see where the dice falls, and it falls where the MOE wants it to fall. I heard from my sec 3 son that only ONE student will be taking art as a subject this year. Yes, so there will be a 100% pass in that subject or a ZERO percent pass in that subject when he gets to sec 4. My sec 1 son comes back with a CCA form for students to choose - and it stated very clearly, only 10 places for soccer. Singapore's favourite game, but if your are not a soccer 'elite' you are out of the CCA. This is the way our dice falls in Singapore, in MOE. What can we do about it? I guess we all can blog about it and hope someone somewhere picks it up. As long as the current KPI stands, students will be asked to do what the principal wants, drop literature, art etc and buck up on maths, English and Mother tongue.

Anonymous said...

I think there are many assumptions on why the principal said those words. I think we should just give her the benefit of the doubt.

I am not saying that the ST gave a lie or exxagerated anything but I think the full picture is not out here. There are students who just will not listen and need harsh words to wake them up and of cos, there are students who need just encouraging words. I guess we should just give the principal the benefit of the doubt in her choice of words.

Let me put a little picture here.

Supposed the principal really know the students and really cared for the students, be damned with the KPI and bonus. Her harsh words would be taken out of context and the press would have a field day but the students would finally wake up and study to prove the principal wrong. The principal 'sacrificed' her career and promotion prospects in order to motivate the students in the only way they could be motivated, by geting them to want to prove her wrong (I admit, this is a bit thick).

Would you now have respect for the principal?

I am not saying that she really thought like that. I am just saying that sometimes, we do not really know why a person did such a thing and in the absence of conclusive evidence, let us just give the principal the benefit of the doubt.

Philip

jueq said...

Hi again, just to clarify. I'm not pro-principal or pro-ministry. If anything, I'm on the side of the kids. My heart aches if a teacher, by his well-intentioned scolding, inspires not perseverance nor motivation, but dashes their hopes irreversibly. My hope is that this does not happen here.

The point I'm trying to make here, is can we be sure the principal has not been quoted out of context? How sure can we be that the media has not twisted/misrepresented/overexaggerated whatever the girls have said? Truth be told, I'm actually quite cynical of the media, esp. since in some articles, the news is built up around the headline, rather than vice versa. It grabs your attention, it gets your blood boiling, but does it tell both sides of the story?

Of course, if the principal was truly brutal in her speech as the article described, then well she's made the wrong call and needs to take a course in Making Motivational Speeches.

At the same time, do also take in mind that mission schools in general (even the good ones) take in Normal Acad/Tech students, and even those from affiliated primary schools whose scores fall way below the prerequisite for Normal stream. Some students may even be retained a few years just so they can leave the school with O-level certs. Expulsion is only for extreme disciplinary cases. Such leniency would never appear in independent or elite schools.

Another thing that gets my goat: Personal anecdotes are well and good, and add a dose of humanity, to inspire hope in a debate, but I believe they should not be used to support a stand, purely because they are subjective. While students are individuals and should not be compared with each other. The examples I have given are only examples to give an alternative view of the other side of the fence, since not many people have pointed this out.

Now on to further education, which I believe is more important issue.

To Mr Wang: Comparing ITE to the ending of a life is cruel, just as cruel, if not more than the principal. Not everyone can excel in studies in school, because exams only measure whether they are good in Maths, Science, languages, Geog, Literature etc, and whether they are motivated at that age. What if they are not? What if no one at home really bothers about their education? What if they have to work part-time to earn pocket money?

Regarding your proposition to take another year of O-levels, it is a non-issue. Why shouldn't they go and try if the student is willing? However, if the student studies an extra year and only receives dismal Ds in return, she may be even more disheartened and lose even more confidence in herself, even if she still had the option to go to ITE. Whereas, if she had gone to ITE earlier, her good N-level grades may bolster her confidence and allow her to do well in ITE, go on to poly and thereafter uni, or wherever she wants to go. I know of some graduates who went by that route and I admire them greatly, because if it were me, I don't think I would have stuck it out. But of course, both scenarios are a big IF. It all depends on the motivation and ambition of the student and whether she gets the right guidance along the way.

To passer-by: I went into teaching because I wanted to teach Normal Acad/Tech kids. I remember this kid telling me that some schoolmates from other Express classes looked down at them and never once smiled at them even though their classes often had joint activities together.

Our local system of measuring teacher performance is contrary to the aims of education itself. We badly need an overhaul of the system. But society's poor view of ITE as an legitimate option for further education, as in Mr Wang's case, is also a reflection of the elitism of those who go by the conventional routes.

Lucian said...

What totally blows is that everyone here assumes that ITE is a place where people go if / when they fail to get good O-Level results.

It's an alternative place to obtain an education - where students can learn skills not taught in reputable JCs and where the method of teaching doesn't consist of memorising long lines of text.

If you can wrap your head around the idea that there need not be a linear hierarchy when it comes to the various forms of schooling, the elitism with which you accuse the government of perpetuating would end. Because as far as I can see, you've just placed all ITE students in a caste lower than your own.

-ben said...

Mr Wang wrote:

Suppose that school principal had a daughter, and that daughter was in Sec 5 this year. Do you think that the principal would ask her own daughter to stop studying for her O-levels, and go and join ITE? Ask yourself that.

Well, you know what the ancients say, "What Jupiter may do, the ox may not."

There are lots of examples out there. E.g. a certain so-and-so's grandson is in an internationa school. Now, Singapore citizens and PRs are not allowed to attend international schools without authorization from MOE. But this kid gets it because his higher IQ makes it difficult for him to get along with the rest of the... ermm... oxen.

And then, notice the curious timing when a certain very highly placed government official admitted that Mandarin is very difficult to do well in for many students from English-speaking households. (Wasn't his son, or one of his sons, taking Mandarin in school then? Hmm...) Later, an easier class for Mandarin appeared for students weak in the mother tongue.

The list goes on (of course!).

If they can play Calvin Ball (i.e. shift the goal post; create escape clauses for themselves), so can you.

Why are you so special? Why can't you be like everyone else? Well, are they like everyone else? If not, then why should you?

Remember the pledge you were forced to recite every morning. If justice and equality are out of the equation...

anonymous said...

dear mr wang,

i have been reading your blog for some time now, and i will take the liberty to say that you have taken it upon yourself, among other things, to point out the various faults and deficiencies of the singapore government. in a word, your blog is poliitcal.

in that respect, there is no fault attached, since one can imagine that nothing is apolitical, or that everything is political in a place like singapore.

i sometimes wonder though, as i read your responses to your readers' comments, how you exhibit the same attitude for which you criticise the government. the much vaunted right-of-reply is an euphemism for how-i-am-always-correct, or how-you-are-wrong.

you preach openness, tolerance, and other liberal values. yet, at the same time, you seem open to, and tolerant of, your own views exclusively; dissenting voices or responses get short shrift, and are told how they might not be thought out carefully. all of this sounds eerily familiar to me.

i also recall a blog post in which you suggest how the christian community is solely to be credited for fermenting the intolerance towards the gay cause in singapore (not a complete and faithful account, i might add, but i digress). the discussion thread attached to this post was shut down as you thought that the comments were bordering on racial/religious animonsity. my point? whether in the national press or on your blog, censorship, there will always be.

i should say that i have always been suspicious of people who religiously combat what they perceive to be the tyranny of the government, because it seems to me that idealism itself can often be the seeds of a new tyranny. and this bias of mine, sadly, has been reconfirmed from my observations of your blog over time.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Lucian: If that worries you, what should worry you more is that the principal, an educator, holds that view. From the article, it's clear that she isn't saying: "You girls are really capable! You've done so well in your exams! You must seriously consider going to the ITE."

Mr Wang Says So said...

Jueq:

You may not be pro-principal or pro-student. But let me say it upfront:

I am VERY pro-student. They are the ones seeking education; they are the ones who are still growing up; they are the ones who need proper guidance and advice.

NOT the principal. Who has already ably demonstrated her ability to take care of her own self-interest.

Anonymous said...

What totally blows is that everyone here assumes that ITE is a place where people go if / when they fail to get good O-Level results.

It's an alternative place to obtain an education - where students can learn skills not taught in reputable JCs and where the method of teaching doesn't consist of memorising long lines of text.


Then I would expect it to a popular choice amongst students, parents and teachers. But reality tells me otherwise. Ya, reality sucks.

westernised parent said...

Mr. Ex-teacher,
Let's not going into the nitty-gritty details, because it will be drag the discussion too far, and make us miss the big picture. The big picture being: WHO IS YOUR BOSS?

So let's just put it in this way: In general, the big picture is that in response to a very mischievous + lazy + stupid + useless + rebellious student, there are two general category of possible reaction: the first is to tell the student he is mischievous and lazy and stupid and useless..., and the second way is to tell him he is brilliant and capable and all he need is to work harder...

Between these 2 extreme, Singapore parents are now leaning towards the latter extreme because of influence from the west. But our teachers are still tending towards the former extreme - the old traditional way.

Now of course this is a problem because there is a mismatch between teachers and parents expectation. May I ask: WHOSE COUNTRY IS THIS? WHOSE SCHOOL IS THIS? Who should teachers ultimately answer to - who are the bosses of teachers?

In a truly democratic country, it is the tax-payer/ citizen/ parents who are the bosses to which the government/ schools/ teachers are all accountable to. And they do it in a concrete way - i.e. just as there are governmental elections, so too there are school board elections, where citizens of a particular town will vote and elect a school superintendant whom they think has educational philosophies that are in-line with the communities' thinking. So for example, if in a particular town, the citizens/parents favour a "scold the child to wake them up from their stupid idea" philosophy, they will vote for a school board that lean towards exactly that. And conversely, if the citizens/parents favour a "should encourage the child even if that give them false hope" approach, they will boot out a school board that contradicts their idea and vote in one that is compatible with their thinking.

THAT IS REAL DEMOCRACY - citizens/parents are the boss of the country/schools.

And as a digression, I should also add that in a real democracy, they have a jury system, where again, citizens are the bosses who judge their fellow citizens, instead of a judge appointed by the authority. So for example, if the community thinks that reading porn is no big deal, the community, via the jurors, may either find the accused not guilty, or impose only a fine. Conversely, a community that do not tolerate porn, may find the accused guilty and sentence him to the maximum penalty. See? Citizens are bosses! But of course,
in a non-democracy, we have the accused at the mercy of a single judge, who depending on *HIS* own moral stance towards porn, may sentence the defendant to either 1 day jail or 1 year jail! Judge = boss.

I have touched only on 2 aspects - school board and jury system. But you can extrapolate it to all other things. Ultimately, you gotta ask yourself - are you as a teacher supposed to align your teaching philosophy to your own idea, MOE's idea, the government's idea, or is it the parents' idea? WHO IS YOUR BOSS? if parents want a strict approach, and MOE wants a n"encouraging" approach, and you yourself prefers a 3rd approach, ultimately, whose approach should you follow? I wish to reiterate again, in a real democracy, citizens should be the boss. And please, don't give me this crap that parents do not know what's best for their kids - that's similar to what dictators say: "you citizens don't know what's good for yourself. And you people make lousy jurors too. So yeah, we will think for you, and do the judging for you. To hell with elections, to hell with jury system. To hell with elected school boards. You people don't know enough to be the boss. I will appoint judges, and principals and you citizens have no say, except to vote me out in a *general* election".


Finally, you asked if I were a teacher. I have done half a year of relief teaching in sg. not enough compared to you. But enough to know that yeah, some of those normal stream people class are really living hell. I have been a teaching assistant at the university level in usa. And I have kids going to school in uk. I have seen enough to make a comparison, including the cultural transition from "hard" approach to "soft" approach.

And after this comparison, let's just say this: I will not be letting my children attend Singapore school. Not anymore.

My eyes have opened - I now know that democracy means more than voting at the national level. It includes "voting" to judge your peers in a jury system and of course also voting in a school board who will recruit teachers that teaches according to parents' philosophy- it means being BOSS of the country/school/law.

oh, regarding your comment about raising soft children, I think Japanese education is very tough - they have the highest suicide rate. The western "soft" system seem to have produce many nobel prize winner. Anyway, that's besides the point because the point is not about the merit or dismerit of the "soft"/"tough" approach. The point is - can we, as parents (citizens), choose or vote for a school board (government) whose soft/hard philosophy is aligned with ours? That's the bigger picture.

You seem to not understand that your teaching philosophy should be aligned to the parents', not the other way round. And as an analogy, the government's philosophy (on welfare for eg), should be aligned to that of citizens' and not the other way round! Get what I mean?

westernised parent said...

ex-teacher said: We learn about western education philosophies, but that does not mean we should employ them blindly.

Whether you should employ them - blindly or otherwise - should not be up to you to decide. Neither is it up to your principal to decide. It should be parents who should be deciding whether they prefer the western aka "softer" approach or the eastern aka "tougher" approach. Your job as a teacher is to teach according to the philosophy of the parents aka tax-payer who employ you. And if you need an analogy, here it is: The job of a government is to govern according to the philosophy/wish of citizens who voted/employed it!

I wish to stress again that it is highly arrogant of teachers to claim that parents do now know what's good for their children and that teachers, as professionals, should teach using an approach that parents dislike. This is as ridiculous a claim as what those arrogant dictators said of their citizens.

Anonymous said...

Besides your own kids, how many children have YOU attempted to educate? How would you know what it's like to teach 40 unreceptive children?

People who throw out questions like this are dodging the issue. Mr Wang is not criticising teaching methods in classrooms. He is criticising the clearly flawed advice given to their students by their principal. This isn't about pedadogy, it's about nurturing and counselling. I would say that anyone who has had to bring up children has some experience in how to motivate, encourage, or (if needed) discourage them.

Furthermore, it's clearly an ad hominem accusation that does not address Mr Wang's criticism. If you think that the principal was actually in the right, then explain why the principal was in the right. Whether Mr Wang is a teacher or not does not affect the substance of the issue at hand. Are teachers the only ones capable of being correct on this issue? If yes, then doesn't that mean they can do no wrong?

For an example of what I mean by explaining why your position is right, see today's commentary in the ST where the Rosenthal study is cited. The Rosenthal study, for those not in the know, demonstrated that teachers' praise of students had a strong correlation with their future performances on tests, regardless of the students' prior performances.

westernised parent said...

I wrote: "it is highly arrogant of teachers to claim that parents do now know what's good for their children"

That's of course a typo. I meant "not", instead of "now".

Excel Eduservice said...

There appears to be a lot of talk even after the dust has settled down. I see the main issues as this:

1. The principal did not respect privacy and confidentiality when she flashed the girls’ individual results, using an overhead projector.

2. If she truly had the girls’ welfare at heart, she should have spoken to them last year, BEFORE, the deadline for application for higher courses at the ITE.

3. The minister made NO MENTION pertaining to the above 2 points and sidetracked it to “content vs manner”. Effectively, his comments are really no comments at all. He is just shirking the messy issue off his shoulders.

I have made those points in this blog here.

http://road-to-psle.blogspot.com/2008/01/wrong-way-to-motivate-mdm-principal.html

http://road-to-psle.blogspot.com/2008/01/ministers-comment-is-really-no-comment.html

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

Hey Mr. Wang,

Thanks for the write-up again.

I think its not new that educationists make the mistake of using statistical figures to break the occasional student ego. I was subject to it and many sympathetic readers have their own experiences.

I'm not on the principal's side nor the ministers but I do know that humanity is much bigger than MINDEF policy. I think after the media exposure, these girls will buck up and do something for themselves and their lives.

I think we should make the mistake of thinking that these girls will be ruined by the principal's unkind words, if anything it's a powerful motivator.

I'm trying to get my book translated into Mandarin. If I succeed, I'll send my Chinese teacher a copy.

Note that I never passed mandarin after 16.

ex-teacher said...

westernised parent,

Your majesty. This will be my last post because it is pointless to even try to reason with people who think they know all and expect others to be at their beck and call because of they pay tax.

Nobody is saying that the principal was right. Think about what this means.

Nobody is saying that teachers purposely use methods that parents dislike.

Correlation does not mean 100% effectiveness, or adequacy unless it is 100% correlated. If is that easy, we would only need to learn and employ a few of these theories and the world will be a jolly wonderful place.

Correlation does not make other strategies irrelevant. If that is the case, teaching would be a much simpler job.

Just because you have money does not make you a king or queen and all others have to bow down to you and pay respects and be slaves to you.

You can take your money and go elsewhere - the US perhaps - and educate your child there if it so disturbs you.

It is precisely this money-minded mentally that makes our system and society the way it is.

Your child is a victim of the system which employs exactly the same money-is-all mentality you are exhibiting in your high and mighty you-will-starve-in-poverty-if-you do-not-do-as-I-say attitude.

I pity your child. Really.

And Mr Wang, please do not censor this post. It is very important that I say it as it is.

westernised parent said...

Mr. Ex-teacher,
It is sad to see you distort true democracy as a "money-is-all mentality". The fact is, in all democracies - true democracies at all level of governance, that is - the government, the civil service, the judiciary and of course, the schools, have always been governed according to the wishes of the majority of the voters aka tax-payers, and not according to the wishes of a single school principal/ teacher, a single judge or a single dictator! Any human who yearn for freedom and democracy can see that this is the meaning of true democracy and has nothing to do with "money-is-all mentality".

That you can reprimand citizens and tax-payers aka parents in such true democracies that "just because you have money does not make you a king or queen" - well, that simply shows that some of us (i.e. you) are still not ready to live in true democracies. May I suggest that you are more suited to work in a dictatorial government framework where as a civil servant/teacher, you can teach in accordance to the education philosophy of your one single dictatorial master, instead of according to the wishes of the parents/taxpayers whenever the latter's view contradicts the former's.

Furthermore, I am puzzled as to how you can label such a democratic system where school superintendants (a post analogous to our education cluster heads) are voted and elected by ordinary citizens so as to ensure that the education leaders' philosophy on education are in tune with that of the citizens/tax-payers, as a "high and mighty you-will-starve-in-poverty-if-you do-not-do-as-I-say attitude". Perhaps, you would rather prefer a situation where the principals and cluster heads are appointed and accountable to a dictatorial head rather than appointed and accountable directly to tax-payers/parents living in that particular town where the school is situated? Strange! Then again, not all are ready for true democracies, as I said :)

You then said that you really pity my child. Why? I assure you that you needn't be. My son will grow up knowing that as a citizen of a true democracy, he is truly the boss - "truly", because it is not just at the national level that he can vote, but also at the municipal level where he can vote to appoint the school governing board. He knows that he has a concrete say on how his children i.e. my grandchildren, will be educated, because school principals and superintendants are directly elected and hence accountable to ordinary citizens like him. School principals cannot dismiss his views and tell him to go fly kite, simply because Lui Tuck Yew support them! So for example, if my son thinks that corporal punishment is the way to go, he can vote for a school superintendant that is very into "traditional values", instead of being at the mercy of a "liberal" school superintendant, appointed top-down by a dictatorial Minister of education.

May I suggest that perhaps it is your son that need to be pitied? To give you the same example. Let's say as an ex-teacher, you believe that your son should be given wake-ups call in the similar way that the principal of this mission school has given her students. But, alas for you and your son, that Minister of education at that time does not believe in such wake-ups call. His philosophy is to only praise and never criticise. Well, he appoints the principal and so the principal listens only to his philosophy, not to those of the parents, and so oops, your non-performing son never ever gets the wake up call that you would wanted him to get! On the contrary, day in day out, your son receives only false praise from his principals because that's what the principal must do, to get her promotion. Your view doesn't count, the principal is not elected by you. Too bad for you then. You can only pray and hope that one day a new Minister of Education is appointed by your dictator, and that this new minister has the same education philosophy as you. Your say in how your son's school is run is limited a general election - an all or nothing situation where you will be forced to decide whether to vote out a ruling party just because of your displeasure with a principal!

Oh, I should perhaps digress into Law a bit. My teenage son, if he were accused of downloading porn from the internet, will be judged by his fellow citizens in a jury system (citizen and tax-payers are bosses mah, remember?). Your son, accused of the same crime, will be judged by a sole judge. You had better pray for your son that that particular judge is not a prim and proper person who has never ever read a porn (Lui Tuck Yew?), lest he sentence your son to the max 1 year sentence allowed under the law. I, on the other hand, will be assured that out of 10+ fellow citizens on the jury, the probability that some of them have downloaded such porn is high, that the average of 10 persons' view will be more balanced that one prim and proper judge and hence my son will be given a more moderate sentence compared to your son.

At the time when your son is hypothetically in prison, would you be telling him: "What's wrong with having a solo prim and proper judge sentencing you. The alternative is to have taxpayers be boss and to have a jury made up of tax-payers deciding your case. That's no good because it is a money-is-all mentality, and just because you have money does not make you a king or queen and all others have to bow down to you and pay respects and be slaves to you" - will you be telling him that?

Oh, you called me "your majesty". Thank you. We, in true democracies are indeed living like majesties. We lord over schools (because we elect school boards), courts (because we are jurors), and the government (because we can reallybr/>
Seems strange to me that you would prefer such a system!

Anonymous said...

Basically, MOE is fucked up. That's the end of it. The Minister has to defend the Principal's decision and so he took her side of it.

Sometimes, I wonder if they really think Singaporeans are stupid/dumb. I mean, anybody in the right mind who knows how things are run over here, will know that the Principal made such remarks/took such a decision because she wanted to make sure her school falls in the 'right' band. So please.

Stop kidding us.

Btw, there was an excellent article in Today written by a Thomas Koshy. Well-written stuff. Glad that got printed in a newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Dear westernised parent -

for all the talk about the goodnes of the west system, all those shows about the 'hood, metal detectors in public schools, teens running wild etc. Are these for real and widespread for the majority, or is it just a hollywood movie that paints the worst scenario. How do you feel about it? I believe freedom comes at a price, and I am not sure what that is.

ex-teacher said...

I have to leave this link here:
http://forums.delphiforums.com/sammyboymod/messages?msg=164298.15

Now, depending on who to believe, the picture is very different on both sides, isn't it?

Solo Bear said...

Dear Western Parent,

I believe that there is no such thing as a true democratic nation. Take a look at the US elections. It is full of fraud. Even the recount in New Hampshire does not guarantee there won't be a fraud again.

The US media has also been trying very hard since last year to censore the only anti-war Presidential candidate - Ron Paul.

Here is my comments on that http://
wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2007/11/last-hope-for-america-and-world-ron.html

Nobody said...

That principal lacks of professionalism as an educator, focusing too much on the result and not the process.

"The operation of removing the tumor is successful, but the patient died due to loss of blood."

Life is about enjoying the process...

westernised parent said...

>metal detectors in public schools

...goes only to show that allowing legal public access to firearms is no good. That's all. Cannot use it to infer that other freedom as per my description is no good.

Singapore's politics is an "macro" all-or-nothing system where the only say citizens have over how their lives are run is via a one and only election - a NATIONAL election - meaning, if one is displeased with only municipal issues, or only school issues, one has to decide whether to vote out the government just based on that one local issue!

I was describing to Mr. Ex-Teacher an extension of democracies to all levels i.e. not only do you vote at the national level, but you also vote for your town councils, and for your children's school governing board etc. Thus, with these multi-level of voting, citizens can be boss of the country at all levels, rather than be at the mercy of the national government who may appoint school cluster heads or town councils which do not serve a particular community's interest well. And though sg is small, such multi-levels voting should be the case, in my opinion.

I hardly consider allowing citizens to elect school board and thus having principals directly accountable to tax-payers - rather than indirectly via an elected government - a bad money-is-boss attitude. Quite the contrary, I consider it true democracy!


Solo Bear,
You can read about such "fraud" because USA has a free press. In "some" other country - which I shall not name, but which you should know - fraud and injustice are rampant in the election system, but either citizens do not know about it, or worse, everybody knows but dare not write or protest about it ;)

Everytime, we read about the bad in western country, let's remember, (1) it is good that such bad things are exposed and (2) such bad stuff may be even more in non-democratic country, just that the media is not allowed to talk about it.

-ben said...

Butchers would not be able to cut up meat if they started to worry about the fate of livestock. (visceral)

I guess Miss Diana Beetsma of Swiss Cottage Secondary would never have scored 7 'O'-Level distinctions if she listened to the well-meaning — and expert — advice of certain butchers... erm, I mean educators here.

Any (self-proclaimed) educator (or ex) who engages in ad hominem as a tactic in rational, adult discourse disqualifies his or herself from the exercise. It is no different from younglings hurling "Yo Moma is too fat!" lines in the playground, in futile hope that the overwhelming volume of invectives would compensate for the absence of intellectual substance.

Oh, wait, forgive me, you have grown up — you are now in a rat race, with rankings based on the percentage of passes and distinctions of students under you. Bully for you!


A chilling similarity:

1.) The attack on mrbrown ,via his son for his piece, "S'poreans are fed, up with progress!":

As for means testing for special school fees, we understand mr brown's disappointment as the father of an autistic child.

2.) The attack on "westernized parent" for his views, via his scion:

I pity your child. Really.


With regards to "fraud" in the US, you may want to look at the definition of "gerrymandering" and investigate the electoral process and the drawing — and re-drawing — of electoral boundaries on a certain shiny, tropical-island-paradise-city-state-with-the-death-penalty. There is no such thing as a truly free press, but some are freer than others.

While you are searching for "fraud," do look up "nepotism" as well.

Solo Bear said...

Westernized Parent,

I am bemused by the Singaporean who idolizes “western” ideology. They go round proudly telling the world that the west is democratic, yet, when told that the west is more hypocritical than democratic, the usual answer “at least the know about it” comes up.

Westerners ridicule that Singapore is no democracy. After many years, the number of seats in the opposition is but a pittance. But they do not ridicule that in the US, with over a quarter million population, power is being held by only 2 parties – Democrats and Republicans. What democracy is that?

Let me say it straight. The idea that there is such thing as democracy is a farce. So what if you know about it, yet do nothing about it? Americans know that the war in Iraq is based on lies. Yet, they returned Bush to power for a second term.

The west calls for democracy. But when the type of democracy is not the type they like, they turn their backs on democracy. Iran, for example, elected their president fair and square. Yet, the US wants to call for regime change in there?

In Iraq, the US toppled Saddam and his gang – only to reinstate “the gang” back in power.

The list can go on and on. Democracy is becoming a dirty word. It is now used as a justification to invade other countries. Especially oil-rich countries.

I invite you to take a look at this link. See how US lies its way into war with Iraq.
www.wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2007/11/war-and-lies.html

In case you are still not convinced, let me put this as a hypothetical case. Let’s say I am an American and I want the war in Iraq to stop. Who do I vote for to see that war stopped? Democrats or Republicans?

I await your answer to prove me wrong that in America, there is no democracy either.

ex-teacher said...

"I guess Miss Diana Beetsma of Swiss Cottage Secondary would never have scored 7 'O'-Level distinctions if she listened to the well-meaning — and expert — advice of certain butchers... erm, I mean educators here."

Did anyone even insist that the 27 girls should have listened to (meaning act upon) the principal's advice?

Ad hominem attacks:
I often wonder if people who accuse others of such attacks are aware that they themselves are in fact doing it.

First, with baseless assumptions like the one above or questionable arguments like the one below:

Any (self-proclaimed) educator (or ex) who engages in ad hominem as a tactic in rational, adult discourse disqualifies his or herself from the exercise.

Sorry, this is not a school debate. This is real world where people can speak whether you want them shut up or not. You can disqualify, but you canlt shut them up. You may not agree, but you are just a member of the audience. You may claim victory, pat yourself on the back, but the problem is still unsolved. The issue about principals advising students to drop subjects or take alternative routes.

You conclude so confidently albeit with assumptions based on personal bias. Opinions become personal attacks as long as it is disagreeable. What if I said I really pitied the kid? No, can't be! This bozo is only being sarcastic. Look again at what I wrote before I made that comment. Whether you see it as ad hominem or otherwise depends on your perspective.

The same applies to "Majesty". You may take it as an insult. But to me, certain parents really demand as if they are kings without considering the situation from other people's perspective. They think they are always right, and that is my response to sort of behaviour.

Accusing others of ad hominem attacks based on only what you think is reality is at best an academic tunnel vision that disregards the context. Wholesale application of bombastic academic concepts without regard to dynamics of a situation only shows a narrowness of mind.

Now, you can call this ad hominem again. Up to you. That is why I find it pointless to even try to reason with certain people.

And I wonder why you did not appear earlier, before I decided to stop engaging an unreasonable parent.

Sorry, I didn't say I will disappear altogether. And trying to sidetrack from my first question above without directly answering will not win any points, even in academic debates. Or my further attention.

westernised parent said...

Solo bear,
> power is being held by only 2 parties – Democrats and Republicans. What democracy is that?

That is true democracy - real check and balance provided by 2 parties, both capable of replacing each other, freely elected by the people.

There is really no point in you listing out the deficiencies of true democracy, as if doing so will somehow make a dictatorship looks better. It does not! If you cannot grasp this important point - that a democracy, even with all its faults, is better than a dictatorship because (a) it provides a check and balance and (b) it allows citizens to boot out an under-performing government without having to resort to riots and rebels. - then, yeah, that's what you will keep on doing: listing out all of democracies' fault to support a dictatorial sg style govt.


> The idea that there is such thing as democracy is a farce. So what if you know about it, yet do nothing about it?

If you know about it and want to do something about it, you can - as was what happened during the vietnam war where Americans voted to get out of the war. If you know about it and do NOT want to do something about it, you also can - as what is happening in the Iraq war now. But as a singapore citizen living in a fake democracy, sometimes, you don't even know about the most basic things (eg. do you know how many "residents" are Singaporeans by birth, how many are new Singaporeans, and how many are PR?). Some other times, you know about it but can do nothing about it eg Whether sg supports or not support the war in Iraq, is not up to you, but up to your dictator to decide.


> Americans know that the war in Iraq is based on lies. Yet, they returned Bush to power for a second term.

So? Americans are more concerned about domestic issues and about Bush's "religious" stance than to bother about the ethics of invading an oil rich country. Now, you can label them as foolish for doing so. But, how does that prove that democracy is bad, or that there is no democracy? Americans have exercised their democratic rights to vote on issues that concerned them and ignore issues that do not concern them. And that's democracy. Stop using apples to attack oranges.


> Democracy is becoming a dirty word. It is now used as a justification to invade other countries. Especially oil-rich countries.

Again, so? Within USA itself, there is democracy and people are allow to freely elect their leaders, and there is check and balance and they can boot out a government without resorting to a military rebel, blah blah blah.. That is democracy. Period. And yes, you are right and you can go on and on to say how outside of USA, Americans use "democracy" as an excuse to invade others. So? All your points do not prove that democracy is bad for USA or for any country which adopt democracy. Again, a case of using apples to attack oranges.


> Let’s say I am an American and I want the war in Iraq to stop. Who do I vote for to see that war stopped? Democrats or Republicans?

You can't get what you want, either way. Your anti-war position puts you in the minority and Democracy is about the will of the majority. The majority of Americans do not mind the attack on Iraq (at least right now, that's the case) and so the majority got what they wanted. That's the beauty of democracy - in some dictatorial country without democracy, the view of the majority is ignored while the view of a minority - in fact, the view of a sole single dictator - prevails! For example, I know of a dictatorial-style country where the majority of its citizens are very upset by the influx of foreigners and by the lack of welfare. But their majority view are ignored. The super-minority view of one single man who believes in zero welfare, and who wants to replace citizens with foreigners prevailed. That is point number 1.

Point number 2 is that even though your anti-war view is a minority view, you can make your view be known openly via protest, or by writing letters to free press, or by speaking up in the public. That is, if you were the American citizen that you imagined yourself to be. But haha, in the true world where you are a Singaporean instead, you can't stand at the Istana to protest the sg govt supporting usa's war in Iraq, neither will your anti-war article be published by our newspapers.

The contrast is so obvious that I don't even why you wrote this:

> I await your answer to prove me wrong that in America, there is no democracy either.

Solo Bear said...

Westernized Parent,

Mr Wang, did I double post earlier? If I did, apologies.

Regards
Solo Bear

-ben said...

Interesting rant from one ex-teacher:

Talk about exempli gratia, eh?

Ad hominem attacks:
I often wonder if people who accuse others of such attacks are aware that they themselves are in fact doing it.


Nice try at accusing me of a Tu Quoque fallacy, but that accusation is invalid (see below).

Accusing others of ad hominem attacks based on only what you think is reality is at best an academic tunnel vision that disregards the context.

Since you obviously did not click on the link provided:

Description of Ad Hominem

Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

1 Person A makes claim X.
2 Person B makes an attack on person A.
3 Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

Example of Ad Hominem

1 Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."
Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."
Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."


If you are mature enough to disengage your massive ego from this discussion, you would be cognizant of the fact that the act of pointing out a logical fallacy in your argument does not constitute the commission of an ad hominem. I believe responsibility (for one's actions) is a desired — even necessary — trait for a teacher. Now as for a butcher...

What if I said I really pitied the kid?

Putting it your way: Hypothetically, what if I said I really pitied your physical fitness? And that I can easily beat you on a 100 mile (160 km) bicycle ride while giving you a 30 mile (48 km) headstart? That people who lack such self-respect for their own bodies (and self-discipline to cultivate such fitness) deserve no respect for their opinions? "No, can't be! This bozo is only being sarcastic. Whether you see it as ad hominem or otherwise depends on your perspective?"

And I wonder why you did not appear earlier, before I decided to stop engaging an unreasonable parent.

Well, prove my ad hominem wrong and find out. (I have yet to be "schooled" by a teacher (ex, or otherwise, principal, or butcher on the saddle.) All these said hypothetically, of course. Of course, if you want to make it a reality... (Did that grab your attention?) :-P

When people insist on digging, the best thing to do is to hand them a spade.

:-P

Solo Bear said...

To Mr Wang – REally, sorry. But i think my computer may be faulty. I don't seem to be getting any message that I have posted and it is awaiting your approval. I am not sure if this post reached you earlier. So I am reposting it.

If I have appeared to be spamming you, it was not my intention and I am truly sorry. There is no way to for me to know if my message has reached you or not.

If you feel that this post is unfit for publication in your site, please let me know about it by emailing me at bearsolo@gmail.

Many thanks,
Solo Bear

=====

Westernized Parent,

While you may laugh at how Singaporeans are moulded to behave in a particular way, you are now a product of the Western ideology yourself, moulded to behave in a certain way too. I believe your nick Westernized Parent, was self-picked to reflect your ideals.

To you, democracy is THE ideology, never mind that it is this ideology that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, displaced millions from their homes etc. As long as America get their democracy, to hell with innocent Iraqis and their homes.

Your posts show that you are devoid of compassion. You emphasize how important democracy is. But under Saddam the dictator, there were schools, hospitals, jobs and homes. Under America, the so called democracy propagator, there is nothing but bullets, bombs, poverty and death.

Yet in spite of the atrocious inhumane conditions above, you still stand tall, with the aloof “so what?” attitude, never mind that innocent women and children die, in the name of hypocritical American democracy.

Singapore has its faults. But so has American ideology of democracy. This is not about which ideology is better. This is not whether democracy or dictatorship is better. This is about human lives and compassion or the lack of it.

If American democracy kills lives and makes millions homeless, what good is that?

For your information, I see things from a larger perspective. I see things from the Singapore perspective, as well as the western perspective. To me, the end results are the most important. All so called ideologies are just terms to advance the hypocritical agendas of their respective governments.

To me, if the end results show that human lives are wasted unnecessarily, that ideology, or at least, the way that ideology is being propagated, needs to be overhauled.

As for the education system, Singapore is not perfect. But neither is the American system. You are using the American ideology to judge the Singapore system. That to me, is not a fair comparison.

Singapore has its own unique challenges, America has its unique challenges. Using what is good for America may not be good for Singapore.

You don’t down a birth control pill if you want to cure your headache.

westernised parent said...

Solo bear,
I am getting angry. You would do well to start arguing like a decent human being and stop falsely accusing me of being "cruel" and "devoid of compassion", in your desperate attempt to justify a dictatorship。I call you "desperate" because you had to resort to such underhanded unjustified name-calling tactics rather than argue logically like an educated person would. If this is not a sign of desperation, then it must be that you are incapable of arguing logically, and between the two, I would rather not insult your intellect. So stop behaving like a desperado!

To recap, you first said: "Democracy is becoming a dirty word. It is now used as a justification to invade other countries. Especially oil-rich countries.

And I answered you thus: "Again, so? Within USA itself, there is democracy and people are allow to freely elect their leaders, and there is check and balance and they can boot out a government without resorting to a military rebel, blah blah blah.. That is democracy. Period. And yes, you are right and you can go on and on to say how outside of USA, Americans use "democracy" as an excuse to invade others. So? All your points do not prove that democracy is bad for USA or for any country which adopt democracy. Again, a case of using apples to attack oranges.

Read the words carefully! Did I say or hint that USA was right to attack Iraq? No! On the contrary, I said it was using democracy as an EXCUSE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN EXCUSE IS? Excuse = fake reason = USA did not introduce democracy to Iraq = Iraq's current mess is not caused by democracy

I would expect you, an intelligent person, to know such things. So, when you deliberately twist things to write like this: "
To you, democracy is THE ideology, never mind that it is this ideology that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, displaced millions from their homes etc.


...you sounded pathetic: Democracy - a way of governance - did not kill, or displace a single person. Free press liberates a person, not kills him. Free speech fortifies a person, not displaces his home. You know as well as I do that it was USA that had killed and displaced people, using democracy as an EXCUSE. (if you really need a dictionary to undrstand the word, go get one!). Your attempt to scapegoat democracy holds no water.


> As long as America get their democracy, to hell with innocent Iraqis and their homes.

I don't even know what sh*t u are talking about? If you want to spew such sh*t, please attribute them to yourself instead of saying that these are my implied meaning! To repeat yet again: Americans used democracy as an EXCUSE to attack Iraq, but that does NOT mean that democracy is bad. It only means USA is bad <-- if you cannot grasp this concept, you should stop making a fool of yourself. (And if you can grasp this concept, then come up with better arguments to support your favourite dictatorship. Stop trying to fool us with such cheap attacks on democracy).


>Your posts show that you are devoid of compassion.

Nonsense! My posts show that I can differentiate between (A) a country that use democracy as an EXCUSE to attack another, and (B) the goodness of democracy in countries that adopted it. This differentiation is what separates a rational person from an irrational one. And sadly, I am arguing with one such irrational person who, being unable to seperate (A) from (B), ended up labeling me as cruel!


>You emphasize how important democracy is. But under Saddam the dictator, there were schools, hospitals, jobs and homes. Under America, the so called democracy propagator, there is nothing but bullets, bombs, poverty and death.

You know very well that that's because Americans did not propagate democracy in Iraq and Americans merely used democracy as an EXCUSE to attack Iraq. (Other readers must be finding me long-winded, but I guess, for some thick skull, such repeatitions are necessary before the idea can register in said skull!). Yet, you can fault democracy for the mess in Iraq. Geez, what a pathetic way to show your support for a anti-democracy dictator. Iraq, under Saddam, would have been better with democracy than without it. To imply that schools and hospitals can only be built saddam-style without democracy, is so ridiculous that I don't even know why you resort to such strange argument - is USA not a democracy that also has schools and hospitals? Are Western Europe not democracies with jobs and homes?


>Yet in spite of the atrocious inhumane conditions above, you still stand tall, with the aloof “so what?” attitude, never mind that innocent women and children die, in the name of hypocritical American democracy.

You said it yourself: hypocritical = fake democracy = not real democracy =

Hence I said "so what" i.e. all that happened in Iraq under the EXCUSE of democracy does not invalidate TRUE democracy <-- that's the context of my "so what"

But, you just have to twist my "so what", out of context to become "cruelty"!! How much lower can you stoop to support a dictatorship?


Singapore has its faults. But so has American ideology of democracy. This is not about which ideology is better. This is not whether democracy or dictatorship is better. This is about human lives and compassion or the lack of it.

Yes, this is about which ideology - dictatorship or democracy - is better. No, this is not about compassion, about whether we should pity Iraq and condemn USA. Stop twisting the topic away from the former to the latter. The Iraq war seems to be your favourite topic. Good for you, but no thanks, my feet is firmly planted on democracy vs dictatorship and in the context of Mr. Wang's post, how schools should be governed in a more democratic bottom-up parents -> teachers -> principal way, rather than a top-down Lui tuck yew -> principal -> teacher -> parents way. So, no, I have no interest to debate Iraq war with you, and my lack of interest has nothing to do with lack of compassion. It has to do with irrelevance. Get that into your head,


>If American democracy kills lives and makes millions homeless, what good is that?

Democracy did not kill lives. Democracy did not make millions homeless. It is - to repeat yet one more time for your thick skull - Americans, using democracy as an EXCUSE, that did those things. I am either dealing with an idiot who cannot distinguish between the two, or an intelligent man who thinks that everyone here are fools and so he can support a dictatorship with such strange twist in logic!

(How do you like the tone of this comment. I am capable of personal attacks too, you know? Haha)!

westernised parent said...

I see things from a larger perspective. I see things from the Singapore perspective, as well as the western perspective.

And what is this "larger perspective" that makes it ok to deny Singaporeans democracy? You can keep making grand statements ("larger perspective" indeed!), but if you cannot justify anything, nobody is going to accept your unjustified statements. So justify why Singapore's perspective is soooo unique that we must have a dictatorship and cannot adopt western perspective aka democracy.


> To me, the end results are the most important.

And the end result has shown that Singapore has suffered a lot due to a lack of democracy - NKF (how many motr nkf are there still hidden in the governmente?), influx of foreigners, citizens' wishes denied at all levels, and in this case, schools being run in ways contrary to citizens' education philosophy. I shall not list more - I feel you are taking me for a ride by making me explain the obvious: the end result shows that Singapore needs Democracy. Right now!


> All so called ideologies are just terms to advance the hypocritical agendas of their respective governments.

Democracy is not just an ideology. People who live in true democracy practice and benefit from democracy in their everyday lives. But yeah, to those who have not experienced democracy, they view it as just an ideology. In Chinese, there is this idiom: "but how can you tell the insect who is born in summer and is dead by autumn to think about winter? It has never experienced winter before!". You reminded me of this idiom.


>To me, if the end results show that human lives are wasted unnecessarily, that ideology, or at least, the way that ideology is being propagated, needs to be overhauled.

I tell you democracy is good for a country. You tell me democracy need to be overhauled just because some country is using "democracy" as an excuse to attack some other country!! I feel like making a personal attack here: you are out of your mind! Out of your mind to not be able to see that: It is the country - USA - which should stop giving "democracy" a bad name by using it as an excuse to attack another country. It is NOT democracy itself that is responsible for the "end result" in Iraq! Democracy is not in the wrong! (Am I arguing with an adult here? Why do I need to teach an adult such basic knowledge)

Then you said that "at least", the way democracy is propagated need to be overhauled. I am not interested in starting
this new "propagation" topic with you. Why u divert topic away? The topic here is simple: Democracy is good in
general, and good in this particular case when applied to the electing of school boards and school cluster head. You disagree? Tell me why. Go argue about USA/Iraq war with another person at another time.


>As for the education system, Singapore is not perfect. But neither is the American system. You are using the American ideology to judge the Singapore system. That to me, is not a fair comparison.

You are good at making general statements without justifying them. But alas, you can say it is "not a fair comparison" 100 times, but so long as you refuse to explain why it is not a fair comparison, it just nothing but hot air!

So, explain to us: Why is it not fair to suggest that Singapore school's governing board (i.e. cluster heads, principals) should be elected directly by tax-payers/parents, so that the education philosophy of the schools is in line with the wishes and philosophy of the parents/tax-payers? Tell us the cons of doing so - don't give us a "not a fair comparison" and expect us to swallow it like gullible fools!

And why is it not fair to expect principals and teachers to calibrate their degree of criticism/praise to the level that citizens and parents and tax-payers want? Why do you think it is fairer to let one single person i.e. Lui Tuck Yew, decide top-down how much praise/criticism our teachers should be using as if he owns the country and only he knows best? Tell us why a top-down dictator-style approach is better for Singapore and I will accept it is not a "fair comparison". Till then, your statement is just empty.


> Singapore has its own unique challenges, America has its unique challenges. Using what is good for America
may not be good for Singapore.


Again, stop making sweeping general rhetorics. Explain to us all why what is good for America (and Europe, and Australia and all true democracies) - free press, free speech, real elections, checks and balance, ability to vote out a government without having to resort to rebels and riots - are only good enough for Americans, and not for us.

Tell us, why Singapore is so unique that Singoporeans do not deserve free press, free election, free speech.... and that singaporeans are beste served by a dictatorship.

Go on. Tell us that. Answer right to the point, specifically too - and do so, without quoting me out of context,twist my words around and put words in my mouth and call me "cruel"!


>You don’t down a birth control pill if you want to cure your headache.

In other words, you think democracy - the birth control pill - will not solve Singapore's problem - the headache. So, go ahead and explain to us why! For example: Tell us:
- why a free press will not help expose any NKF-style issues happening in GIC, Temasek or PAP?

- why a free election will not solve the legalised corruption problem in Singapore?

etc.

Support your empty general statements

Solo Bear said...

Westernized Parent,

Where have I supported dictatorship? Just because I don’t support your perceived idea of democracy, you say I support dictatorship? You can’t see that there are in-betweens?

About your point that democracy is about the freedom to elect your leaders - You have not answered my point that the current Iranian President has been freely elected by the Iranians, yet supposed democratic America wants a regime change! Not to mention that Hamas has been freely elected by the Palestinians, yet so called democratic US now puts puppet Abbas to be their leader. Stop driving your point that democracy is about the freedom to elect leaders, when the biggest supposed democratic nation, the US, does not respect democracy in other lands!

The more you post, the more you expose you are devoid of human compassion. To you, you want to win an argument about democracy. To me, I say heck with it. What is of more importance is human lives are wasted and millions of innocents are now homeless and displaced.

Anyway, you have the habit of putting words into the mouths of others. I never said that schools, hospitals etc can only exist under Saddam style dictatorship. I said that under Saddam the dictator, there were schools, hospitals and jobs. Under “democratic” US, there are only bombs, poverty and death. In any case, there still are schools, hospitals and jobs, under the democratically elected government of Iran. And US appears to be itching to replace that democratically elected government!

The Iraq War is of importance to me, because that is the single event the last few years that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, and caused misery to millions. Shouldn’t it be of importance to you too?

If the Iraq War is of no interest to you, then just ignore what I have posted. But you seem to do the contrary.

My point about the larger perspective is not that Singapore should reject democracy. You have the habit of imagining things others did not say. The larger perspective is that the so called democracy actually does not exist. You only see democracy when you get a chance to choose. But in reality, in real life, even in the US, you can’t choose. I gave you the example of the 2 party system pertaining to the US Presidential elections. You admitted that anti-war individuals really have no choice because you realize that both parties are pro-war.

Singapore has its restrictions. But so has the US. In the US, you get arrested if you stage anti-war demonstrations! Even Ron Paul, an anti-war presidential candidate, is being censored by the media! What? You don’t who is Ron Paul? That proves that censorship in the US exists, doesn’t it?

Let’s get back to the Singapore context pertaining to democracy.

I disagree with your suggestion that school principals should be elected by the people. A principal is a civil servant. He is an employee of the government. You don’t elect employees in the civil service. You elect the government and the government in turn, employs civil servants.

When I said that what works for the US may not work for us, I meant the education system. I did not mean the election of the government system. I see that your views are narrow and you only see democracy in the election of leaders and nothing else.

In the US education system, behavourial problems in students are seen as “health problems”. As such, you cannot cane them, shout at them etc. They are to be counseled and/or be given medication.

In some parts of the West, it is an offence even to cane your own child. Hence, the most powerful and effective deterrent parents have had for centuries – the cane – is no longer an available option. Instead, children are counseled and they undergo “therapy”.

That’s good for countries like America, where there are thousands of child psychologists who are trained and will be at every school’s doorstep.

In Singapore, if you try to do the same, you find that you are short of trained counselors and child psychologists. Note that we still cannot drop the cane totally.

As for free press would have helped in the NKF, GIC issue, I will give you an example where there is supposed free press, yet bigger fiascos occur.

Google Enron. Does that ring a bell? What? Isn’t Enron from an environment of a free press? Why is it then that the Enron fiasco is a multitude times bigger than the NKF?
While you are at it, Google Jerome Kievel as well. So what is this free press that stops fiascos from happening you say?

You are blind. Democracy has done NOTHING to stop fiascos from happening. Neither has the “free press”.

Anonymous said...

To westernised parent:

Good for you, but no thanks, my feet is firmly planted on democracy vs dictatorship and in the context of Mr. Wang's post, how schools should be governed in a more democratic bottom-up parents -> teachers -> principal way, rather than a top-down Lui tuck yew -> principal -> teacher -> parents way.

Eh...you're assuming the majority of the parents make rational choices. What if they don't? What if they make selfish choices? Or choices based on skin colour?

Anonymous said...

We need really special and creative guy/girl to head MOE, as it is way too bogged down by bureacracy. This army guy speaks the army way. Too predictable, too safe, too typical. I worry for teachers and students alike. why can't we see pap pple to speak "Differently"? we are seeing alot of smiths who sings the same tone. I do not like the feeling of our country being ruled by this bunch of pple. i felt that many of them, including this Lui, is simply a super YES man. Yes Yes Yes....

westernised parent said...

>About your point that democracy is about the freedom to elect your leaders - You have not answered my point that the current Iranian President has been freely elected by the Iranians, yet supposed democratic America wants a regime change!

I do not answer irrelevant/stupid questions that are designed to divert the issue at hand. THE ISSUE HERE (that I started and to which you responded) is about the pros and cons of democracy at two levels, one, at the general national election level, and two, in the context of Mr. Wang's post, at the election of school board/cluster head level. You can talk all you want till the cows come home about how USA is being hypocritical in Iran - but, you will fool no one with such diversion, because such bad American foreign policies do not invalidate the goodness of democracy.


>Stop driving your point that democracy is about the freedom to elect leaders, when the biggest supposed democratic nation, the US, does not respect democracy in other lands!

US's disrespect for democracy in other lands, does not invalidate democracy. You are either (a) a fool who confuses the two, or (b) an intelligent man who thinks we are all fools and so you can confuse us by lumping apples (how america treated Iran) with oranges (democracy per se - see "THE ISSUE HERE" in bold above).


>The more you post, the more you expose you are devoid of human compassion. To you, you want to win an argument about democracy. To me, I say heck with it.

If you want to "heck with it", then why engage me in this debate in the first place? May I remind you that it was I who started this "argument about democracy" and it was you claim to oppose my view but then try to argue your opposition via diverting to an irrelvant war? The more you talk, the more you sounded like an easily distracted person who cannot pay attention and argue one particular topic without drifting to other topics. Read in bold what "THE ISSUE HERE" is about.


>What is of more importance is human lives are wasted and millions of innocents are now homeless and displaced.

It is of no importance to "THE ISSUE HERE". Your stubborn insistence on talking about oranges ("american used FAKE democracy to cause millions to become homeless") to prove the badness of apples ("democracy is a good way to govern a country/school") is very strange. This strangeness becomes almost as if you have a hidden agenda to support a dictatorship, when you maliciously labeled me as being cruel for pointing out the irrelevance of oranges to apples.


>I said that under Saddam the dictator, there were schools, hospitals and jobs. Under “democratic” US, there are only bombs, poverty and death.

You answered yourself when you put quotation marks around the word democracy. Since it is FAKE democracy that USA introduced, your point is irrelevant to "THE ISSUE HERE" and does not invalidate democracy.


>In any case, there still are schools, hospitals and jobs, under the democratically elected government of Iran. And US appears to be itching to replace that democratically elected government!

Your point about American foreign policy is irrelevant to "THE ISSUE HERE" and does not invalidate democracy.


The Iraq War is of importance to me... Shouldn’t it be of importance to you too?

It is not important to "THE ISSUE HERE". It is pathetic that you tried to debate "THE ISSUE HERE" with me by bring up other irrelevant topics and then call me cruel for pointing out the irrelevance.


>If the Iraq War is of no interest to you, then just ignore what I have posted. But you seem to do the contrary.

I should be the one telling you that! I wrote about "THE ISSUE HERE" **FIRST**. It was you who **LATER** responded to what I wrote. If "THE ISSUE HERE" did not interest you, you could have just ignored what I had posted! But no, you responded and proceeded to attempt to debunk "THE ISSUE HERE" with something completely irrelevant (Iraq wary), and then labeled me cruel when I tell you that it is irrelevant.

>The larger perspective is that the so called democracy actually does not exist.

It does exist. In Europe. In USA. Not perfect, but definitely much better when compared to the dictatorship in sg. If you have experienced it, you will know its existence. If you have not, then yeah, continue your propaganda about how sg's dictatorship is as good as democracy - and don't say I am imagining things. That's the conclusion you are trying to draw us into. Admit it!


> You only see democracy when you get a chance to choose.

Democracy does mean you get to choose everything. But it allows you to choose a lot of things. Your argument that an anti-war American cannot chose an anti-war president, and therefore there is
no democracy in USA, does not hold water. Americans get to choose lots of other things, under democracy. And there is no need for me to elaborate further because almost all of Mr. Wang's readers are quite well read and well traveled and knowlegeable enough to know that. Heck, even people from Africa to Siberia knows that. Your attempt to prove that sg's system is on par with US's democracy is funny, and I would have laughed if not because you maliciously called me cruel!

>But in reality, in real life, even in the US, you can’t choose.

You can choose a president that you like, a governor that you want, a mayor that you love, and a school board whose educational policy is in line with yours. Quite frankly speaking, your amateur attempt at trying to say - and I am not making up your intention - that USA's democracy is no better than sg's way, is kind of pitiful


>Singapore has its restrictions. But so has the US. In the US, you get arrested if you stage anti-war demonstrations!

Comparing a place where even a one-man protest outside Istana is illegal, to the world's most democratic country and trying to say that they are comparable because each has about the same degree of restriction!! Haha. How much did PAP pay you to do such an unenviable job of twisting logic and facts to the extreme to support a dictatorship?

westernised parent said...

Solo Bear,
>I disagree with your suggestion that school principals should be elected by the people.

I said school board.


>You elect the government and the government in turn, employs civil servants.

Similarly, you elect a school board which in turn employs the principals of schools in a town (or in sg's context, in an education cluster).

In sg, you can only elect a national govt, but not municipal govt, or town councils, or school boards. Those who has experienced democracy knows that election should occur at diff level so as to allow multi-level of "ownership" instead of just at the national level.


>you only see democracy in the election of leaders and nothing else.

Lies. I specially mentioned free press, free speech, human rights. You are the one who attempted (alas unsuccessfully) to equate democracy to Iraq war and US's FAKE democracy and US foreign policy. So, point the finger at yourself.


>In the US education system, behavourial problems in students are seen as “health problems”. As such, you cannot cane them, shout at them etc. They are to be counseled and/or be given medication.

Yes. And I am saying that nowadays, many Singapore parents are starting to view education this way too because they have become "westernised".

And I further argued that in a democracy, the people should be the master of the country at all levels, including law (jury system) and education (the election of school board). So if that's what most parents want, then that's how our schools should be: do not cane, cannot shout, and yes, must counsel.

Mr. Ex-teacher may think this is bad, but he should remember that in a democracy, he, as a civil servant, should be teaching/governing according to the majority wishes of the people, not according to his own education philosophy!


>In some parts of the West, it is an offence even to cane your own child. Hence, the most powerful and effective deterrent parents have had for centuries – the cane – is no longer an available option.

You mean the most powerful weapon of physical ABUSE which parents have?

Anyway, whether it is a "deterrant" or an "abuse" is not up to you and I to dictate. It should be up to parents/citizens /taxpayers to decide collectively, and if majority of citizens decide it is a deterrant, then MR. Ex-teacher and his colleagues can use the cane. Conversely, if majority finds it an abuse, then Mr. Ex-teacher should remember that he is not running his own private school, but a school paid for by tax-payer and he should jolly well use the cane as a "deterrant" only on his own children, but not on other citizens' children. That's what democracy should be about - a country, a court of law, a school, run by the PEOPLE, instead of by a dictator.


>That’s good for countries like America, where there are thousands of child psychologists who are trained and will be at every school’s doorstep. In Singapore, if you try to do the same, you find that you are short of trained counselors and child psychologists. Note that we still cannot drop the cane totally.

not enough counselors and psychologist = let's use the cane!

What kind of logic is that? What kind of barbaric idea is that?

The solution should be
to train more counsellors till we are up to the ratio in other developed countries and before our various ratio (of counsellors and doctors and psychologists etc)per poluation, reaches the level of other developed countries, our leaders do not deserved to be paid 5 times more than leaders in developed countries!!

We should also not streamed all the uncontrollable kids into one class, so that the techers are not overwhelmed and so that canes are not needed.


>Isn’t Enron from an environment of a free press? Why is it then that the Enron fiasco is a multitude times bigger than the NKF?

One, alarm bells had sounded for NKF many years ago, but was censored by our controlled newspaper becos govt supported durai then (and even now). In contrast, Enron was not kept hidden (by the govt!!) for as long because of the free press environment.

Two, NKF is multitude times bigger than Enron in terms of government involvement. Until now, Durai has not gone to jail. Why? The job he got in Dubai is indirectly linked to our Govt-linked companies. Why? I shall not list more. You should know.

Three, NKF is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more mega NKF hidden inside (and I don't mean other charities). Enron however is not a reflection of how the US government is.


>You are blind. Democracy has done NOTHING to stop fiascos from happening. Neither has the “free press”.

Keep a copy of what you wrote here. Wait another 20 years when whole PAP collapsed and all the dirt come out when all the other "NKF"s deep inside, get exposed finally by a free press, then let's see who has the last laugh and who was really blind!

westernised parent said...

Anon of 12:55am,
>Eh...you're assuming the majority of the parents make rational choices. What if they don't? What if they make selfish choices? Or choices based on skin colour?

Yeah, that's why Singapore cannot produce Wikipedia (what if majority of internet users are irrational and write vulgarities instead of encyclopedic information).

That's also why we used not to have bar top dancing - girls will fall off and boyfriends will fight. Blood will be shed...

That's also why we do not allow public events such as cycling by political party members - you may be just doing something legal, but someone may come up to you and want to debate you and....

Finally, that's also why we must have GRC and why we cannot have free speech because we are a multi-racial country and majority of citizens are irrational people who will make selfish choices based on skin colour! But funny thing is - How come, as Mr. Wang mentioned before, London and New York etc are also multi-racial and multi-religious and yet they can have free speech with no race riots? Ang Moh and the various races living there are more rational than Singaporeans?

Face it - such scare tactics have been brain-washed into you (and I too,before I becmme "westernised"), by a dictatorial govt. It is an excuse to dictatorship.

Fact is: majority of parents (and people who write on wikipedia etc) are rational people and the averaged view of all the citizens can be trusted to govern better than the (extreme?) view of a one-person "minority"!

Or look at it this way: If majority of parents wants the cane, tell me, shouldn't the schools cane students, according to the wishes of most parents, or should the schools only counsel incorrigible students because Mr. Ex-teacher and his colleagues are too "westernised"?
What about if most parents want counseling but Mr. Ex-teacher and his like-minded principal prefer to cane because caning is easier than training more counselors?

Whose school is it anyway? citizens'? If it is citizens', then why can't we have a say in how it is run, without having to exercise our vote at a NATIONAL election?

And we may extrapolate this to law too - whose law is it anyway? If most citizen feel that a person who kicks a dog should only be fined $100, but we have an animal loving judge who imposed a jail term, is that rational? fair? Conversely, if most citizens are animal lovers, and think that such a person should be caned, is it rational to let an animal-hating judge impose just a $100 fine? Shouldnt the accused be judged and/or sentenced according to the wishes of the people as represented (in an ideal case) by a jury, rather than according to one solo judge's personal inclination?

Democracy - an aspect of which is election and hence direct accountability to the people - should be at all level of government, from the national level right down to the school level.

Solo Bear said...

Westernized Parent,

You keep saying that your points are about democracy at GE and election of school board and the other points are irrelevant. Make up your mind now. If they are irrelevant to you, why entertain my points, only to stumble like a school kid who exposes that he knows nothing about democracy in the REAL world?

Your point that US uses fake democracy to defend your idea that democracy is good is akin to saying Saddam uses fake dictatorship to defend the idea that dictatorship is good. You have to come up with a better argument to defend democracy if you wish to take on my point that the biggest democratic nation, the US, exposes the ugly truth about democracy. Either you do that, or ignore my point and head for the Singapore context of the “issue here”, as you put it.

I never did put Singapore’s democracy on par with US. In fact I said that what works for US does not necessarily work for Singapore. Forgot that?

On your point that the school board be elected. What makes you think that is a good idea? Have you sat down and thought, what if there are not enough people interested to be in the board? What then? Knowing Singaporeans, many shy away from such posts – which suits the PAP fine, because they then can slot in their own men. In army hokkien they say, LPPL!

On the use of the cane, your logic is warped. The cane has been the DEFAULT punishment for generations. Just because it is replaced by another scheme in the west, you say it is barbaric?

NKF, Enron etc Fiasco – My friend, you have exposed yourself to be a narrow person. The Enron fiasco has been around for quite a few years, before it blew up. The accountants window dressed the company for a few years until they couldn’t window dressed it. Implicated parties not only included Enron directors, but their external auditors and the policing body of the US Financial markets. Nobody blew the whistle?

Today, we see Citigroup’s losses running into billions. Same path of Enron? Sub-prime rates have been in the news of late. But those sub-primes rates have been in existence FOR YEARS, yet no one sounded the alarm?

Come off your dream world in Lalaland of the Teletubbies that democracy is THE way. Every ideology has its faults. For your information, China is now the fastest booming economy. And their political system isn’t democratic.

On your point about race, I agree with you on that. Stupid system in Singapore demarcating race. I say let’s start abolishing the race identification in our IC. In fact, I made a post about racial discrimination in Singapore .

-ben said...

Apropos to the discussion:

Lesson one: no Orwellian language

By Mike Baker.
BBC News
16 February 2008

He urged everyone to stop talking about "delivery" in education and to return to talking about "teaching".

The speaker was Professor Richard Pring, of Oxford University, and he was not just being fussy about the use of language.

His point was that education has been taken over by an "Orwellian language" which has started to control the way we think and act.

Professor Pring is the lead author of a report, published this week by the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training, which looks at how the aims and values of education have come to be "dominated by the language of management".

So when judging schools and universities we now talk about "performance indicators" as a substitute for assessing the quality of their teaching.

Learning has to be measured by an "audit" of the qualifications achieved rather than a more qualitative judgement of what students have learned.


The rest of the article here.

Anonymous said...

I was one of those who was "asked" to drop my A maths during Sec Sch a decade ago. My principal was from a top junior college, and was tasked to head this new sec sch of ours. My cohort was the 1st to graduate, so all eyes were on us (and him, the principal).

My A maths grades were dismal, and never passed the subject before. It was all F9s, E8s all the way.

But after the principal's "good intentions, I managed to get a B3.

Bleah!