May 6, 2011

A Singaporean's Message for Polling Day

Today is Cooling Off Day and I wasn't going to post anything new. However someone forwarded me an article by one Ong Yi Xin, and it was also indicated that Yi Xin would like his message to be shared with as many Singaporeans as possible.

Yi Xin's article was well-written and extremely well-researched, and actually came with 15 footnotes and two annexes worth of supporting data ( one annex coming in the form of an Excel spreadsheet with lots of facts and figures).

I'm just giving you the main article itself. It's too good to miss:

Friends and fellow Singaporeans,

I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen, unaffiliated to any political party, to persuade you to vote wisely on May 7. I was and remain motivated by the increasingly large gap between the rhetoric we hear and the reality which all of us feel as ordinary citizens.

PM Lee has said that these elections are about our future, and that we should judge the PAP MPs on their track record. Plenty of ink has been spilled on various issues, but I want to touch on just three subjects: housing, socio-economic inequality and the electoral system.


We have been reminded time and again that HDB flats are affordable, a claim which we can examine most simply by comparing income to price . From 2000-2010, median monthly household income of residents rose from SGD3,638 to SGD5,000 (a 37% increase), while the resale price index for HDB flats rose from 108.3 to 164.0 (a 52% increase). Examining the data more carefully, we find that from 2005-2010, median incomes increased by 30%, but the resale price index leapt by 62%, i.e. HDB prices rose twice as quickly as median incomes in the last 5 years. Claims of affordability and progress don’t hold up when our parents took less time, with less income, to buy an HDB flat.

I would be less concerned if rising prices were not buttressed by the economically illiterate policy of “asset enhancement”. When the ministers speak of “asset enhancement”, they conveniently neglect the fact that leased assets (such as HDB flats) are by definition depreciating assets . Now repeat to yourselves the phrase “depreciating asset enhancement” – does that sound like a sustainable policy? Many have said that there is an implicit promise to renew the leases (e.g. via SERS , where the new flats come with new 99-year leases), but that comes with a cost: either the Singapore Land Authority forgoes income (in their words, raiding the reserves), or HDB pays to extend the lease (in my understanding, robbing taxpayers) . This is textbook fiscal irresponsibility.


Socio-economic equality is important – the PAP has highlighted that with its last three election manifestos: “A people united – secure future, better life” (2001), “Staying together, moving ahead” (2006), and “Securing our future together” (2011). The statistics make for grimmer reading than taglines: the Gini coefficient , a measure of inequality, rose from .430 in 2000 to .452 in 2010 . The top 10% of households now earn close to 17 times what the bottom 10% do . More tellingly, the average real income of the bottom 10% of employed households dropped by 6.6% from 2000 to 2010, which indicates that we are leaving our weakest and poorest ever further behind.

This trend is unlikely to change, because our policy-makers are not incentivised to do so, no matter what the manifestos proclaim. Their base pay is determined formulaically by referencing it to a benchmark of the top earners across six professions . Their bonuses are pegged to absolute GDP growth and boosted by a discretionary component, presumably based on a subjective performance evaluation by the Prime Minister. Simply put, our Cabinet is paid more when the best-paid earn even more, when absolute (not per capita) GDP grows, and when they are judged favourably by their own peers. That does not strike me as a pay package which attracts those who truly wish to serve, nor motivates them (once elected) to listen to and speak up for the faintest voices in society.

Electoral system

In 2006, just over 1.1 million citizens cast valid votes for 47 contested seats . A PAP candidate was elected for every 16,625 PAP voters; the 375,143 votes cast for opposition candidates saw only two representatives returned to Parliament . While the British first-past-the-post (FPTP) system does lead to such outcomes , our unique, winner-takes-all GRC system has skewed it even further. This year, it is conceivable that as many as 85,000 voters will vote for the opposition in a single GRC, only to see 6 PAP MPs elected to Parliament .

The GRC system does not just mute a larger number of voices, but it also forces difficult choices on voters, who need to assess the entire slate of candidates. The contest in Aljunied GRC has thrown this into stark relief: is a single excellent candidate enough reason to vote in four others of hugely varying quality? What if one of the other candidates is rotten to the core? What if the excellent candidate passes away or steps down before the next General Elections ?

‘Cooling-off day’ is supposed to be a time to reflect, to help us make rational choices at the ballot box. The PAP’s track record and self-engineered compensation scheme leaves me with little doubt about the direction it will take our country towards should it even receive a shadow of a mandate. The electoral system tilts the results in their favour before a single vote has been cast.

I ask you, friends and fellow citizens, to vote wisely this Saturday: not for the PAP, but for Singapore and Singaporeans.

A friend and fellow Singaporean,
Ong Yi Xin


Eaststopper said...

Perhaps to look at things from both sides of the coin and not base one's analysis purely on a single factual evidence.

Good affordable education said...

i grew up in a 1.5 room rental flat with my parents, and 3 brothers. my father was a taxi driver and my mom a home maker. i managed to get into NUS, moved out of the rental flat at age 21 and now have a good job at the moment.
while i appreciate what PAP has done, good and affordable education then, and have seen my lifestyle improved over the years, i also see a lot of hardships happening.
if i were born 10-20 years later, i would never have made it.
what type of singapore do i want to leave behind for my child ?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I find it very difficult to see what good things the PAP has achieved over the past 5 years. Meanwhile I can see lots of bad things.

The education system also disturbs me, although I have not blogged about it in recent weeks. My children are now in primary school and I think that the system is unnecessarily stressful. I also wonder how lower-income families can cope with the considerable costs.

While school fees are nominal, the miscellaneous fees for other things add up to a substantial sum. Things like CCAs; enrichment courses; and compulsory materials such as subscriptions to educational magazines and websites.

Furthermore, it's increasingly the case that teachers assume that all the kids have tuition, and accordingly the teachers adjust their teaching, assuming that the private tutor will have covered the basics already.

This really hurts students from lower-income families who cannot afford tuition, or cannot afford so much tuition.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Also feeling rather disturbed by the inequities caused by NS, in the workplace.

Example - I went for a job interview in 2007 and all the interviewers were foreigners. My CV was very suitable for the job and they looked keen and interested, yet something seemed to be holding them back from making me the offer.

Finally they asked if I would need to take an extra 2 or 3 weeks off every year, to go for NS training. They were concerned that this would be very disruptive to the work that I was supposed to be doing.

I said that, no, in fact I was exempted from annual ICTs etc, as I have a congenital heart problem.

After that, they almost immediately made me the offer. They didn't even bother to ask any questions about my heart condition and whether it might affect my work performance.

What does this show? It is worse to hire an employee who is an NSman than it is to hire an employee with a heart condition!

That is how badly disadvantaged male Singaporeans are, in their home country, and in a job market that is increasingly being flooded by foreigners who do NOT have to serve NS.

Anonymous said...

talk about NS makes my blood boil. I have to specially free up time for annual ICT and IPPT trainings. Not to mention the 2.5 years spent as NSF.

Now Singaporean males are clearly disadvantaged in the workplace due to NS liability, and this fucking govt is still turning a blind eye to it.

I will not vote PAP and neither will I spoil my vote. I will even vote for TPL type if she is in opposition. A party that does not take care of its citizens deserved to be voted out.

Anonymous said...

Would really love to see the original article. Is there a link to it?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

No link, as Yi Xin did not put it up on any blog or website. The full article (including footnotes + annexes) is being circulated by email.

If you want the whole package, please let me have your email address by emailing me at and I will forward the article to you.

Anonymous said...

One thing that no one ever talks about is how difficult the PSLE is becoming. And we all know how important that PSLE is - it is the gateway to a secondary school and that can shape your whole life, especially now that there is a 6 year through train program.

This year, I am putting my 3rd child through PSLE. Some of the maths questions are so tough that I, an IT graduate, with a First Class honours degree am sometimes for a few minutes. My husband, who is also a graduate, though not mathematically inclined, has long given up trying to teach maths to his kids.

How does a child from a low income family who cannot afford tuition will fare in PSLE, you think ? Why does MOE insist on setting such tough PSLE papers ? What purpose does it serve ?

The whole "teach less and learn more" tagline from MOE is load of bullshit. The teacher more teach less, but guess who is picking up the slack at home ?

Can our children please have their childhood back ?!?

Anonymous said...

Nothing about politics since this is cooling off day. But education we are talking about competing with the HK, Zshanghai and Koreans. Singapore syllabus is not all that tough I assure you. I'm an IT grad with a masters and I have no difficulties teaching my 13 and 16 y.o. Go get yourself a teacher guide before you try to teach.

Eaststopper said...

Life is never easy isn't it. But whatever that doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
We all have stories to tell about the difficulties we faced in life, am really glad to have finally heard a slice of your life.
Cheers to life, to good health and to Singapore.

Anonymous said...

It is so easy to cheer to good life and to good living. My friends did that when we were all working and watching Malaysia Cup and cheering for Singapore.

It is toolong to gointo it though I promise one day I will write at length about this.

But my generation - among them lawyers. top civil servants, university lecturers, teachers, policemen, shipyard workers, bank officers, clerks and what have you - all feel a deep sense of betrayl by the PAP.

Oh life goes on. But the full story of that life is hidden, absent and unknown to many Singaporeans who blithely parrot the PAP's propaganda.

Anonymous said...

This is just one single factual account. I do not want topost other accounts because to me this is what matters most:

"My mother returned home one day from work in tears. Our familydepended on her. She was fearful because Lee Kuan Yew had asked them to go on strike for a better Singapore, a better tomorrow and for the dignity of workers. They were frightened because their boss had threatened to sak the whole lot.

They went on strike nonetheless.

Funny isn't it? one looks at life from one said and the oher side is missing. Many of her friends died in poverty because the government that had promised to uphold the dignity of labout left them by while cheering for Singapore.

This is just one single factual evidence. Donlt based anything on it but it is still factual and an evidence as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I think you may be the best person to answer this question that someone else brought up during a chat.

Is it true that even if George Yeo loses in Aljunied GRC, but garner the highest percentage of votes among the losers, becomes a NCMP, and can still be appointed Foreign Minister by Parliament and the President?

Anonymous said...

Don't cheer ourselves to death. We are sometimes so self congratulatory that it is frightening. Election is not some National Day mass display of whipped up sentiment or aschool cheer leader convention. It is a time to reflect wisely and calmly on the principles that created Singapore.

1. What is the basis of modern day Singapore? Why did we leave Malaysia?

It is to pay attention to democracy, equality and justice.

2. The meaning of our National Flag is spelled out on the MOE website,

Our National Flag consists of two equal horizontal sections, red above white. In the top left canton is a white crescent moon beside five white stars within a circle. The features of the flag were not arbitrarily chosen. Each feature has its own distinctive meaning and significance: red symbolises universal brotherhood and equality of man; white signifies pervading and everlasting purity and virtue; the crescent moon represents a young nation on the ascendant; and the five stars stand for the nation's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.'

What does it mean to be a citizen of Singapore?

3. Many Singaporeans and past citizens of our island have died in service. What did they die for?

It is a time for every citizen to choose wisely. Don't worry about being emotional. Heroes cry heroic tears. Mothers cry for their children. And children cry for their parents. What's wrong with being emotional? Passion and belief are the rocks of fiath that move Singapore.

Even PAP MPs cry! Or are we to say they are putting on an act?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Hi Anon 10:02 pm:

That was an interesting question.

I did a very quick check. Not 100% certain, but it seems the position is as follows.

NCMPs must come from a party which is not the ruling party. So in your scenario, as long as the PAP holds more than 50% of the seats, George cannot be an NCMP.

yh said...

If George Yeo is really that important, they can always get someone to resign after the election and call a by-election to get him in.

Amused said...

Most countries have cities where cost of living is high and rural areas where it is affordable.

In Singapore, everyone lives in a big city that is as expensive as Tokyo, New York, and London. If you are not among the highly compensated, life is difficult. Your income is barely sufficient to feed and shelter your family. The government's objective is to build a world class city (e.g. F1, Flyer, Casinos) for the rich, not a country for its less fortunate.

YiXin said...

YiXin here. Gilbert, thank you. Perhaps I could have phrased it better, but one of my key concerns is that our electoral system produces results which do not reflect the will of the people. This discrepancy is carried over into policy-making, as we have seen and felt the past five years.

When the signal:noise ratio is poor, then it's up to us to amplify the signal in hope of making a difference.

If anyone wants source material (e.g. Singstat's dataset) on top of the endnotes and annexes, let me know.

Anonymous said...

vote not only wisely, vote bravely and vote for a change!!

ladybird said...

I agree with anon (8:47) about the difficult maths questions. Just the other day my P6 boy asked for help to solve a sum on speed. It took me 30 min and lots brain power to finally solve it.

I questioned the purpose of setting such difficult questions that even some teachers might be unable to solve. To this my son replied that his teacher was glad that model answers for such questions are provided to them.

Wouldn't it be demoralising to the school children who do not have help at home or from their tutor? What is MOE trying to do to our kids?

Anonymous said...

that's what you get when you get a military man at the helm. They are trying to stress your kid to differentiate them. They care more about picking winners than about the losers.
Let's say you have a hundred horses, in order to pick the top three horses for international competition, they will put all the horses into various stress tests. Twenty horses may die as a result and another forty gets injured. All that is acceptable to the animal trainer whose goals are to pick the top three horses to win huge sums of money later on.
No sympathies to the twenty dead horses or forty injured ones. Winner takes it all.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Hi YiXin,

You're welcome .... I've also received many requests from readers for the full article + annexes, and this morning I've forwarded the stuff to them accordingly.

sam/PRAY, it works said...

There is a tide in the affairs of man which taken at the head leads on to fortune. The time is NOW.The time is HERE. HIT pap where it hurts. At least give them a bloody nose to wake them up

Anonymous said...

Vote wisely. Only when the majority vote wisely, whatever that means.

Anonymous said...

I am very nervous today. I fear that our passion and bravery may be no match for the Empire and its clone army. I fear that our courageous men and women running in colours may all be martyred today. I fear for the aftermath of recriminations and steps taken to firmly shut the avenues through which we have been able to air our views. I fear for the dark days which will inevitably come if we lose this war.

Anonymous said...

"ladybird said...
I agree with anon (8:47) about the difficult maths questions. Just the other day my P6 boy asked for help to solve a sum on speed. It took me 30 min and lots brain power to finally solve it."

They are trying to sell you meandering complexity as quality. Sometimes, the framing of the problem can be so twisted that I am wondering whether they allow enough time for foundation building in depth in the whole subject proper (one topic at a time).

Anonymous said...

"That is how badly disadvantaged male Singaporeans are, in their home country, and in a job market that is increasingly being flooded by foreigners who do NOT have to serve NS."
Mr Wang May 6, 2011 5:14 PM

Yes absolutely, and nothing has changed much or at all since I ROD 30 years ago.

And surprisingly this was never was an election issue for PAP at elections all these years!

I suppose this is a sacrifice in the good name of national interest and survival local male NSmen have to make, just like income inequality, too many foreigners and with jobs for them, NS for locals, high cost of living, housing, million dollar minister pay etc etc for many others.

Anonymous said...

"Eaststopper said...
Perhaps to look at things from both sides of the coin and not base one's analysis purely on a single factual evidence."

Agreed totally. So how many oppositions do you need should be voted into parliament as you probably have many years of looking @ our situation from both sides of the coin.

Anonymous said...

ya lor,

if PAP's track record for past 5 years was so good, then why did PM Lee apologised twice? Say sorry for fun, issit?

Low Thia Kiang has no track record when he was elected, yet look at how well-managed Hougang has been for the last 20 years.

Look at Dr. Teo Ho Ping's arrogance when he told people to be thankful for the small loss when his town council suffered a few million losses from investment in Lehman minbonds.

please vote wisely said...

I'm totally disgusted when i read this comment:

"will not vote PAP and neither will I spoil my vote. I will even vote for TPL type if she is in opposition. A party that does not take care of its citizens deserved to be voted out."

--> this is truly an irresponsible person whose only intention is to put down PAP simply for the sake of doing so. A responsible voter will choose a credible party to vote for, be it the opposition or PAP and not any tom, dick and harry

Anonymous said...

If the PAP had been fighting based on track records slone, and they are so good, why do they need to resort to threats, GRCs, handouts, upgradings, boundary redrawings and character assassinations all these years? How much of their victory is fought on a level playing field?

Take all these away, fight on track records alone and see what percentage of voters support their track records.

Anonymous said...

If there is an equitable electoral process,democracy is able to burgeon through the veins of a nation.Every vote casts is a mirror image of
the heart and soul of its people.
The aggregate of the votes is a collective wisdom that will propel
the nation to greater heights.
Do we have an equitable electoral

Anonymous said...

"--> this is truly an irresponsible person whose only intention is to put down PAP simply for the sake of doing so."

Not true. For some people, it is a deliberate calibration of the balance.

Let's do some mental gymnastics and let's say the incumbent loses power one fine day, don't you think that they can still provide themselves as an effective force of opposition given the system that they have helped build (behind whatever rationale that they have come out with). e.g NCMP, GRCs, etc, etc.

Even though singapore is safe, you still keep your gate locked and put your money in the bank - not leaving your gate wide open and not putting all your money under your bed..

Anonymous said...

To nervous anon 9.25 am.

Change is hard and you are right to be nervous.

But think about it: I don't know of anyone who has not been affected by all the recent hardships whether it is housing, traffic, MRT, jobs, expensive food.

And then we see our ministers and government being so insensitive and earning so much.

So do you think the clones in the empire will revolt?

Relax. People have common sense and will do the right thing when they are hurting. They will be brave like us.

Amused said...

"--> this is truly an irresponsible person whose only intention is to put down PAP simply for the sake of doing so."

Since you are so high minded, why are you not taking a stand against PAP for designing the electoral system to their advantage, giving so called 'Grow and Share' packages just ahead of polling day, upgrading estate only if their wards, and controlling the mainstream media to advance ONLY its own interests?

There are hundreds of thousands and perhaps as much as 20% of votes that would have voted for opposition on a level playing field.

Anonymous said...

"this is truly an irresponsible person whose only intention is to put down PAP simply for the sake of doing so. A responsible voter will choose a credible party to vote for, be it the opposition or PAP and not any tom, dick and harry"

Actually the person's thinking may be said to have a certain logic. Sometimes it comes down to having to choose between lesser evils.

An extreme hypothetical example will illustrate this. If you had to vote either for Adolf Hitler or Gurmit Singh as your Prime Minister, who will you choose? I think you will choose Gurmit, even though he has much less experience as a leader. At least Gurmit isn't evil and while he might bungle up public transport, he probably won't try to start wars and kill millions.

Back to the poster you were referring to. His line of thinking may simply be that the PAP has been such a bad party that the first priority must be to reduce their power and their grip on the nation. In other words, it is actually much better to have, say, 70 PAP MPs and 14 very mediocre opposition members, than to have 84 PAP MPs and no opposition at all.

teacherlet said...

mr wang, do elaborate on the flaws in the education system please.

i'm going to be a teacher next time, i hope. to really help and serve.

it'd be great if i know what i can look forward too, yup

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Wang about the inequities caused by NS, in the workplace.
Let me tell you a little story many years ago.(some 20-25 years ago). I was one of the 3 senior staff in a department that generate about 70 pct of the company income and it just happened that we were supposed to perform our ICT training at the same time.
We had a meeting with the boss of the organization and it was decided that the other 2 staff , being more senior ranking in the army should proceed while I was to approach my MP for ICT deferment.
The MP at that time was GY. I was told straight in my face that I was not supposed to see the MP for ICT deferment after waiting some 4 hours for him to arrive.( note: before that his assistant had took note of the case and indeed confirmed that I could seek the MP help). He did write the deferment letter for me after I told him that I was instructed by my
caucasian boss to seek his assistance. One week later, I received a standard reply from the than PS of defence Mr Lim Siong Guan that the deferment was rejected. Just before boarding the plane( it was an Overseas ICT) , I received a phone call from Manpower base that my deferment was approved.
( I do not know whether GY had made further intervention or someone in Mindef.)

After such an incident, It was quite clear to the
management that they could not place Singaporean
in important key position.

After that I wrote a letter to Mindef and explained
that ICT training is making us , Singaporean at a disadvantage in the work place.
Imagine if a MNC were to have an important position available and all the candidates have the same qualifications and if there were foreigners who do not have any ICT obligations than It is quite clear who would get the job. In those days, the influx of foreigners were not as much as it is now.

It must seem that the people in MIndef and or the PS at that time did not have a better understanding of the situation or turn a blind eyes to it .

We definitely must have some form of measures to mitigate the disadvantages of Singaporean who needs to perform ICT and also the quality of the influx of foreigners.

Anonymous said...

I have some basis for making a comment on education as I had been a teacher, taught civil servants, worked with adult education and also taught at one of our universities.

I put it this way. The batch of civil servants, permanent secretaries, ceos and government ministers as well as mps came through our education system in the 1950s and 1960s. I don;t think anyon would dispute that they did rather well for Singapore compared with this present lot that has, among its credit, running the present mickey mouse election with all its blunders.

what is the advantage that the 1950s and 1960s cohort has? This is a question that every parent should ask when looking at our present education system. Indeed, one major task of parents because of the defects of our present system is to supplement what is being taught. Sometimes this takes the form of enrichment clases, sometimes of tuition and at other times of attending creative classes. Parents also need to do a lot more to educate their children.

Let me be assertive: even if we said that the PAP is good in everything we would say that the PAP has failed in education.

Anonymous said...

The 2011 Election will soon be over. For parents the task of nurturing their young carries on.

Why is it dangerous for the Ministry of Education to fail and to make mistakes, hnest or otherwise? For that reason it is very important each parent looks at the child and educates the child not for life but to make his way in life.

Do you all know what happens when an education policy goes wrong? It is equivalent to trying to turn round a supertanker! It takes ONE generation to change and reform an education policy.

Let me share with you something from the 50s and the 60s. At that time the PAP made a conscious decision to devalue Chinese language and culture. The history of the Chinese schools and of Nanyang University is to well know to bear repeating. Many parents send their children to English schools because their children COULD not get jobs should they emerge from Chinese schools.

What are the consequence?

1. The standard of Chinese plummetted.

2. A whole generation of Chinese educated graduates and students had to migrate or become businessmen.

3. A great divide grew up between English and Chinese. ask yourself if you are Chinese how did your son/daughter grew up disliking Chinese?

4. A whole generation of Singaporeans grew up unversed in Chinese.

5. A whole generation of Singaporeans gre up unable to access Chinese culture or language.

TODAY the government seeks to emphasize bi-lingualism or mother tongue education. We are seriously disadvantaged with regards to foriegn talent from Malaysia for instance that an speak andconverse in English, Chinese, Malay and dialects. Oh we pride ourselves on the standard of our education but this defect is what the government has created. In ten years the mainland Chinese will be able to speak and write English better than us. They will also speak and write better Chinese than us.

So, if you look at education do think seriously for yourself. I have waited until today to write aboue this because I do not want this to be part of the 2011 election issues.

Nonetheless DO NOT BELIEVE everything you read and are told about education in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Today governement is very inefficient and very low productivity. They serve with no heart.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Your child's primary school teacher needs to assume your child (or weaker students) have tuition.

Teaching in an MOE school today has evolved such that 80% of a teacher's time after school is spent on CCA, staff meetings, department meetings, committee meetings, Action Research (writing of educational research paper), organizing school events, rehearsals for Speech Day or Performing Arts concert.

Vast majority of teachers have little time after school to tutor small groups of weak students, mark homework and prepare quality lessons.

Teachers either use their colleagues' teaching resources, photocopy materials wholesale from assessment books or simply rely on their own past years resources to prepare the next day's lesson.

As a teacher, I am disgusted at the way our education system has been shaped under Teo Chee Hean and Ng Eng Hen.

There is no point talking about decreasing classroom size and hiring more teachers, if the turnover rate continues to be high and if most teachers are so distracted from their core duty of teaching, nurturing, guiding and preparing quality lessons for their students.

To get students to think, teachers need time, lots of time to design such lessons, especially if each teacher teaches 4-5 different classes across different levels.

Since most teachers are heavily overworked and have no time to prepare quality lessons, sometimes, the easiest way is just to fall back on rote-memory type of lessons, which usually requires a lot less effort in lesson preparation.

The only exception is of course, when the principal and HOD decides to make a formal visit for a lesson observation.

Which is why I voted against PAP. If not, teaching in an MOE school will continue to suck, both for students and for teachers alike.

Anonymous said...

To: Anon, May 7, 2011 3:56 PM

can you please elaborate on what are the problems with the education system?

(I want to be a teacher, just ensuring that I know what I'm getting into)

Anonymous said...

i agree with Anonymous(7 may 5.57pm). I am an allied educator in a government-funded primary school (this new position was supposedly created to give provide more support to weaker students).

Teachers nowadays find themselves inundated with non-teaching duties such as attending meetings, fill in forms, prepare presentations etc. We are bogged down with admin tasks that require us to spend a ridiculous amount of time logging into various HR or admin systems online to update our CV or information for the ministry to review. These tasks and their deadlines fall during term-time and such online tasks often require the sch network and thus cannot be taken home to do.

When we discover and share useful teaching resources during sharing sessions, teachers are enthusiastic and excited to use these, but because we are bound by topdown instructions to stick to a standardised syllabus which MOE requires us to adopt, teachers end up not being able to use more interesting and useful resources in an engaging way. MOE provides us with what is meant to be a comprehensive lowerpri EL syllabus with guidelines on what is to be completed each week. however, the scheme of work fails to take into account public holidays and other sch events and celebrations. this leaves us with much less time to impart the required knowledge to the children and gives the children less time to take in all the information. don't forget, there is also hmwk to collect and mark. the ministry has many grand plans to include things like ICT into the curriculum, but with time constraints and an already tight schedule to follow, where do these initiatives fit in? it is not feasible to keep extending sch hours.

this kiasu curriculum is already challenging for 'normal' children; what more those who are slow learners and/or have disabilities and/or little or no home support? and by home support, i do not mean tuition or enrichment, but quality time spent with parents for children to tell dad about their day at school or share with mum new things he/she has learnt or for parents to show interest in their child's work and provide the very basic moral, emotional and financial support.

now the teacher is stressed because she is anxious for the kids to do well. our performance bonuses and promotions are also linked to our pupils' results. anxious and stressed teacher = less time for lesson planning and resource prepping = lower quality of teaching of already difficult material = clueless and stressed students = stressed and anxious parents = parent-teacher confrontation = even more stressed teacher = lower quality of teaching... i think you can see where this is heading.

I remember when the issue of mother tongue (MT) teaching came up in the news not long ago, one of the ministers (either teocheehean or ngenghen), with reference to kindergartens: "if the children come from chinese speaking homes, then we just spend more time teaching them English. If they come from English-speaking homes, then spend more time teaching them Chinese."
What if half your class is chinese-speaking and a quarter speaks malay at home, 5 are english speaking and one or two speak tamil at home?? This is just one example of how those who run the education system from the top simplify solutions to problems they create with little (if any) knowledge of how things work on the ground.

Anonymous said...

as an allied educator, i do not have a form class but do parallel teaching and hold supplmentary classes for small groups of pupils. i have less teaching periods and less admin duties and more time to plan my lessons than my full-fledged teacher colleagues. i'm often asked by my colleagues to join as a full-fledged teacher but knowing how the system works and despite the chance of a better pay scale, i have to say that i love teaching too much to become a full-fledged teacher. the older teachers i've spoken to also lament that the maning of being a teacher has evolved to include an unrealistic amount of tedious non-teaching work.

i also don't agree with the belief that all teachers should hold a degree. while i admit that having gone to uni has served me well in terms of experience and knowledge agined, i have also met many passionate and capable diploma-holders with working experience who have tried many times to apply for teaching positions but were turned away because of one bad 'O'level grade.

so despite some merits of our education system, it's disppointing how leadership deprives willing individuals of a chance to serve and help develop the future of our nation, and continues to pile unnecessary work on the existing jaded teaching force (which i believe has a fairly-high turnover rate). have all our ministers of education been teachers or principals before? or just probably outstanding students in their time?

Anonymous said...

"i also don't agree with the belief that all teachers should hold a degree."

Academic competency does not necessarily translate to domain competency or expertise (which include the emotional attributes that come with it).

In our country, we tend to stress too much on academic achievement. We sometimes mistakenly confuse the above two.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the question:
"can you please elaborate on what are the problems with the education system?

(I want to be a teacher, just ensuring that I know what I'm getting into)"

I presume it is for meotherwise let me apologize first.

Beyond what is wrong with the education system I can put it another way to you.

1. Education is all about people - be it the student or the teacher. For, in education it is through human interaction that learning and teaching takes place.

2. So ask yourself: what kind of person are you? What are your aims in becoming a teacher?

3. When you are clear then ask yourself do you have a place in the educational system that you are entering.

4. An educational system is not a stand alone system; it does operate in a vacuum but is a mirror of society.

I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang

Now that the elections are over, and there are some good opposition candidates in Parliament (which makes me very happy!), I want to comment on your remarks on the general frustrations of the system.

As someone who grew up with very little, and made do with whatever I had and whatever I did not have, I can understand how it feels for a parent not to be able to level up the playing field for their children - afterall, I went through secondary school without the ten-year series and textbooks from an earlier edition (so whenever the teacher sets homework, I had to borrow my friends' textbooks to copy the questions), and I can forget about the school trip to Malacca because to ask my mother for $99 was unbearably difficult. Eventually, when I scored almost as high as one of our presidential scholar MPs for A-levels, she went to Cambridge while I was scrambling to find work to pay my school fees in a local university and supplement my mother's income as I sat for exams.

It was not easy but it definitely made me more resilient and more resourceful.

I've gone on to study in the US at the postgrad level - and I can't help admiring the students there for their sense of can-do and possibility - I feel that it is something that Singaporeans can learn from. Not sure that we should all get angsty about stressing out our kids or worried that we can't provide our children with every advantage in the world.

As for NS obligations, I won't comment much but as a former cancer patient, I assure you that companies care a lot about that. I've lost out at more than one job interview because cancer seems to be a non-negotiable issue. I'm thinking that they don't really know what is "congenital heart problem" but they definitely view cancer as more disruptive than NS - because I am a Singaporean female and don't need to serve NS.

Something curious, I had signed on as an army regular after my A-levels and it always elicited very strong reactions from my interviewers (Singaporeans and otherwise), some negative when I first started out, but now, mostly positive. So, perhaps I learnt to do a good marketing job about the time spent running around the jungle in my No 4's.