If there’s anyone still following this blog, you would know that I no longer actively write on this blog other than to do some maintenance from time to time. However, I did write that I will be starting a series of specialised blogs as part of restructuring of my blogging career, and the first one specialising in social commentary is up.
Please visit Chapter Two: Reload to continue reading about social commentary from me! Do remember to change your bookmarks or RSS feeds!
I hope to roll out the other specialised blogs soon. As I finish each, I’ll update this blog with the blog addresses.
I think the title says it all: blogging activity will cease on this blog soon.
No, it’s not because I’m disillusioned with blogging, the state of Singapore’s blogosphere, the state of Singaporean netizens, or the government. Neither is it because I’ve been “asked” by _________ (fill in the blank with a government security organization) to cease blogging.
Lots of things have changed since I started this blog in 2006. I graduated with my first degree, started on and am about to complete my second degree, got a job, got a house, got married, developed new interests and most importantly, grew older. It’s not that I’m no longer interested in blogging. It’s just that this blog reflects a chapter of my life and I think it’s time to bring that chapter to an end.
Looking back, I’ve dealt with many topics and issues on this blog, and in a fairly disorganized way. It’s going to be a huge mess to reorganize everything on this blog considering how much content there is, so I’m just going to stop updating this blog and start anew.
Over the next few months, I’ll most likely roll out a series of specialized blogs based on personal interests. There are a few interests I’ve been pursuing and I would like to blog about them in separate, specialized blogs. If you haven’t realised, I’m not turning in my blogging badge but rather, I’m taking my blogging activity in another direction.
This blog will be preserved. There are entries that people still read and comment on, and I want to keep the conversation going. So, comments are still enabled on this blog, and the content will be available for as long as I can afford a web server, but for fresh content, you’ll need to look somewhere else. Once I’m done with reorganization, I’ll update this blog one last time with the locations of the new blogs.
It’s been a great ride since 2006, but it’s time for some fresh air.
There will be an upcoming conference in June by the International Communication Association, and as part of the conference, there are a series of preconferences, of which this one about media literacy in Asia seems pretty interesting: http://www.icahdq.org/conferences/2010/preconference/cam.asp
Note that a registration fee is needed if you are interested to attend.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and it’s not because that I’ve been served with a gag order or something; it’s simply just that I’ve been busy doing loads of other things. I should be writing a little more often now.
There’s been quite a huge uproar over Education Minister Ng Eng Hen’s proposal to reduce the weightage of the mother tongue component in the PSLE. It seems to me that one of Ng’s priorities as education minister is to figure out how to reform mother tongue education in Singapore, and I’m most definitely against his current line of thought, which is to make the education path easier for students who are weak in their mother tongue.
The reason for me opposing his current line of thought is simple. Education is one of Singapore’s core competencies as a nation, and we cannot let education standards slide. Sure, I recognise the fact that some students have a genuine issue with bilingualism, but that doesn’t mean opening a backdoor for everyone because of a minority of students. Besides, if we have a problem, shouldn’t we solve the problem rather than changing the problem to make the problem easier or removing the problem altogether?
I’m wondering if MM Lee is privately rolling his eyes at Ng’s proposed ideas. When Singapore became independent, how many Singaporeans could speak and write English? English education was forced onto Singaporeans in order to get Singapore to succeed. Imagine if Singapore had decided to abandon learning English because Singaporeans felt that it was difficult to learn.
Besides, I think we shouldn’t be going soft on students. They have to learn that nothing in life is easy. If something is tough, then we should strive to be tougher. Imagine if your boss hands you a difficult task and you tell your boss it’s too difficult for you. Do you think he’ll make the task easier for you? I don’t think so. It’s either you find out how to do it, or he’ll get someone else to do it.
If we don’t find out how to effectively teach our children to be bilingual, other countries will find out how to do it for their own children, and guess who loses?
This is a pretty interesting blog entry from a Today journalist about the evil things rogue employers of migrant workers do to those they hire.
Some of the ridiculous terms in the contracts, according to that entry, include:
- A $100 fine for raising one’s voice at the employer.
- A $500 fine plus a trip to the police station for not surrendering passport to employer.
- Worker to be liable for legal, transport and administrative costs to the employer if the worker files a complaint against the employer, which can amount to $300 a day.
Apparently, many employers seize information booklets prepared by the manpower ministry containing information about rights accorded to migrant workers when they have a chance to in order to prevent migrant workers from being informed of their rights.
If such practices are true, then I think it is necessary that the manpower ministry do more to ensure fairer standards for migrant workers. The easiest way is to make it mandatory for employers of migrant workers to attend a short talk about the rights of migrant workers within a week of arrival to prevent rogue employers from denying information by seizing information booklets. You can seize booklets, but you can’t seize information that’s already in the mind.
And, the manpower ministry doesn’t have to send an officer to give the talk. Local NGOs that work with migrant workers can be tapped on to give the talk.
Migrant workers have their rights too, they should not be denied the right to know their rights.
Sure, Jack Neo did have an affair, and that’s not socially acceptable for a married man. However, is he the perpetrator or is he the victim? My belief is that to a large extent, he’s more of a victim.
That 22-year-old Wendy Chong actually had the gall to turn up at Neo’s home to apparently demand meeting Neo’s wife. And wow, she actually alerted the media to a meeting between Neo, Neo’s wife and herself. I can think of plenty of impolite terms to describe such a woman but let’s just say that I think the actions of Wendy Chong indicates that she’s not completely innocent. I do believe that Neo was psychologically vulnerable at the point in time when he started the affair for whatever reason, and he just fell into a honey trap.
Even if Neo wasn’t psychologically vulnerable at that time, the fact that Neo tried to end the affair showed that he came to his senses, but guess what, the spotlight is on his moment of indiscretion rather than his moment of discretion. Well done, Singapore newspapers!
My personal convictions aside, I just hope that the entire Singapore shut up about this topic, especially the mass media. His dirty linen has been hung out to dry for all and sundry, and what other lurid details do ordinary citizens need to know? If anyone wants lurid stuff for kicks, just go to google.com and do a search. I assure that you’ll find much better stuff out there.
Right now, I’m glad that there’s at least a silver lining: Neo’s wife has been very calm and gracious about the matter, and I really applaud her for that. Seriously, this whole affair is the domain of Neo and his wife, so the rest of Singapore should stop sticking their fingers into the pie of someone else. Do we really need to devote more attention to his affair and put their marriage at further risk? If at all possible, Neo’s wife should issue a statement to the media and tell the kaypoh Singaporeans to shut up.
The topic of public housing seems to be really hot these days. There was a news report about skyrocketing cash over valuation, and the Law Minister weighed in on how he thinks permanent residents are not to blame for skyrocketing prices. The Minister for National Development, Mah Bow Tan, seems to be reassuring Singaporeans pretty often these days that the prices of HDB flats will be affordable.
Public housing has always been at the heart of Singapore politics. Right from the early days of independence, the PAP has always used public housing as one of its key offensives against rival political parties, and public housing has always been to be a reliable ally at the ballot box. Food, jobs and shelter are the basic necessities of life, and if the ruling political party that cannot provide these adequately, it can almost be assured of decimation at the ballot box.
Whether public housing can continue as a reliable ally for the PAP in the next election remains to be seen. Skyrocketing HDB prices are causing lots of concerns, especially among the young and newly married. While Mah has constantly assured Singaporeans that public housing are, and will remain, affordable, my chats with peers indicates a general consensus that HDB flats are too expensive. There seems to be a disconnect between what the PAP thinks and what the average person on the street deems as affordable public housing.
I think the other political parties are going to have a field day at the next elections with the issue of increasingly costly public housing. If I don’t recall wrongly, Chiam See Tong said he intends to contest in a GRC in the next election, and it is mouthwatering to imagine him going to Tampines GRC, the turf of Mah, who, as a political rookie, lost to Chiam. Mah now seems to be one of the more politically vulnerable ministers with the on-going concerns about public housing prices.
I do think that the government should try and hold public housing prices steady. Right now, it seems that there’s a vicious cycle of greed going through the public housing open market. Sellers are trying their luck as to how cut throat they can be, and those who desperately need a roof over the head simply have no choice but to give in. Of late, I have been seeing fliers and posters by property agents advertising up to $50,000 cash over valuation in my area, Jurong West, by so-called “serious and immediate” buyers who are PRs or new citizens.
I do understand that these folks need a roof over the head too, and it is an urgent need since they’re already here in Singapore. The problem is that when such high cash over valuations are blatantly advertised and newspapers continually publish pieces of news on record home prices, many who own a HDB flat will think that this is the norm. As some people say, “If you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth”. So, the vicious cycle of greed will continually perpetuate as people believe the values of their homes will rise indefinitely.
And, most people should know the danger of believing that housing or stock prices will rise indefinitely: a bubble. I leave it to the economics experts to discuss this because I’m no expert on bubbles, but the rate of increase of public housing prices seems abnormal to me. I’m a little lucky, having bought my place at the tail end of the post SARS property market slump/start of the current property market boom. In a short span of less than three years, prices of flats in my area have almost doubled, and I doubt that salaries have increased that much (at least mine hasn’t).
Ok, enough rambling. What I really want to say is that I hope the government tries to keep public housing prices steady. I do think it’s time for some form of intervention in the public housing market, especially when elections could be round the corner. The reliable public housing political ally seems to have developed an Achilles heel, and it would be a good idea to do something about that heel.
The moment I thought about writing on the topic of the Malay-Muslim underclass issue after reading this article by Zul Othman in TODAYonline, I knew that I’m going to have to walk the tightrope really carefully. Some people might not take kindly to someone of an ethnic group commenting on the problems of another. So, before I continue, I would like to clarify that what follows are comments based on the standpoint of an outsider, and if my observations are wrong, I am more than happy to stand corrected.
In his article, Zul Othman notes the many problems of the Malay-Muslim underclass, such as “the high number of Malay-Muslims in drug rehabilitation centres and prisons, or rampant youth delinquency, promiscuity and teen pregnancies.” A social worker who was interviewed for the article said despite their best efforts, there are just too many families to help and too few resources available to help everyone.
I guess the problem is pretty much overwhelming, but I do think the situation is going to get worse in the future, unless something can be done about the size of the families of the Malay-Muslim underclass. It is my personal observation that, relative to other Singaporean ethnic groups, Malay families tend to be much bigger, and it is going to be much more difficult to give necessary parental guidance to a large number of children, especially for the poorer families where the parents probably have to spend most of their time working to make ends meet in the family.
I’ve talked to Malay-Muslim friends about the relatively large size of their families, and hearing their explanation, I appreciate why Malay-Muslims value large families. However, from a pragmatic outsider standpoint, it seems to me that having many kids is likely to result in insufficient parental supervision, and that is a probable reason as to why the Malay-Muslim community is currently experiencing such issues.
I personally see no reason why the Malays should lag other ethnic groups in areas such as education. I think the biggest problem really is that resources within the Malay-Muslim underclass family have been stretched too thin, thus hindering the development of the children in these families to their fullest potential. A generation ago, the Chinese folks had pretty large families too, but it appears there was a paradigm shift (largely helped by the stop at two policy) and Chinese families tend to be very much smaller nowadays, so each child gets more resources to develop his/her potential.
If there is one thing that must be done now, it is to encourage the Malay-Muslim underclass to have a more manageable family size. All things being equal, a smaller number of kids will mean that each child will get more resources and attention, which may reduce the number of delinquent youths. In fact, it’s not just the Malay-Muslim underclass that should keep family size manageable; everyone who’s intending to start families should give some thought about what’s a manageable family size.
And personally, I think three kids, plus minus one, is a nice number.
The most common reasons cited by Singaporeans for not wanting to have more children are that they are too busy with building a career and that it is expensive to raise kids in Singapore. It is clear that economic realities of living in modern day Singapore makes couples think a lot more about having kids. However, the other costs of a low national fertility rate to the native Singaporean is much higher.
The main reason is simple. Low birth rates means that the government will continue to be more liberal in allowing foreigners to come here as PRs or citizens. And, unlike the times of our forefathers, Singapore today is unlikely to allow the naturalization the peasant, the construction worker or the cleaning lady. The Singapore government wants talents, or in the absence of talent, rich people.
The natural result is that native Singaporeans get squeezed in the job markets and the housing markets. Young Singaporeans like myself are now squeezed particularly hard in the housing markets because these PRs or new citizens come in either not knowing the local real estate market or having too much cash to burn, start offering high prices for property, driving property prices upwards. As for the employment landscape, that doesn’t need much explaining; it’s a demand and supply problem.
It’s not just the jobs and ever rising property prices. Later on, the kids of native Singaporeans are going to face fiercer competition for good Singaporean schools. Parents will have to end up forking more money for tuition classes and other enrichment classes to improve the odds of their kids getting into a good school. The PRs and new citizens will probably do the same thing too, so the only winners will be tuition teachers.
I am not against a liberal immigration policy, nor is this blog entry intended to engender any form of discrimination against PRs or new citizens. In fact, I like a more diverse Singapore, but the speed at which we are allowing immigration in order to counter low birth rates is certainly detrimental to native Singaporeans, especially those on the lower rungs of the education ladder or the workforce, and the best solution is to bring Singapore’s fertility levels back up.
So, if you want your kid to have a better chance of going into a good school in future, to have more affordable HDB flats and to get good jobs, do him or her a favour by giving your kid a few more brothers and sisters.
Reading what Law Minister K Shanmugam is proposing for our education system, the alarm bells went off in my head. He’s proposing to educate Singapore students about politics, and while he has added a disclaimer that he is not in favour of championing a political system over another, it seems to me that ultimately, the aim is to influence students to think that the liberal democracy practised in Europe and America is not applicable to a city-state such as Singapore.
Part of Shanmugam’s remarks can be found here: http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_467653.html. For the full story, you’ll need to buy a copy of the Straits Times.
Please leave political education out of the mainstream education system. The reason why I say this is simply because no matter how well meant the intentions are, I believe that it will turn into political propaganda, and putting politics into the classroom is very dangerous. I’m sure the PAP leaders know this very well from Singapore’s experience with communism and Chinese schools a few decades ago. I firmly believe that sensitive topics such as politics and religion should be left out of the mainstream education system.
And besides, engaging in political education is a double edged sword. The PAP seems to be getting unsettled and nervous at how younger and better educated Singaporeans are embracing the liberal democratic style of governance in other countries. The way to tackle this is not political education, but rather to understand the reasons behind such a trend and address those reasons. Otherwise, the PAP is risking a backlash of magnitude that is unpredictable, especially if people perceive the education effort to be propaganda and increase their resistance to the political status quo.
Political education in schools is not the magic bullet to resolving dissatisfaction by younger Singaporeans with the current style of governance. This approach is fraught with huge political risks and openly hands other political parties a loaded gun to shoot the PAP with, especially when it’s so poorly disguised.