Saturday, August 05, 2006

Violin Prodigy Ike See's case: Common Sense Prevails

Ike See's move to opt for 2-year programme at
Curtis Institute clears way for him (Straits Times 5th Aug 2006)


VIOLIN prodigy Ike See, 17,will get to study at the prestigious
Curtis Institute of Music in the United States after all.

The talented youngster, who was twice turned down by the Defence Ministry when he applied to defer national service training to pursue a three-year course has opted for a two-year diploma programme instead.

He will leave for Philadelphia late this month to make it in time for the institute's placement examinations, which decide which classes he will attend.

His studies are fully paid for by a Curtis scholarship, but his family will have to post a bond of over $75,000 for the NS deferment.

Ike's music career was the subject of much debate in May, when Mindef rejected an appeal to defer his military training until after his university studies.

Mindef's position was that it allowed students to attain educational qualifications up to A levels, polytechnic diplomas, or their equivalent before requiring them to do national service.

Deferments to pursue university studies were granted only under very exceptional circumstances, and such cases were rare and could only be considered for “exceptionally strong reasons''.

Mindef maintained that allowing Ike to defer his NS would have been unfair to others who put their personal aspirations and goals on hold to serve NS. There is no change in this position.

Colonel Benedict Lim, Mindef's director of public affairs, explained yesterday that in the latest appeal, Ike had sought deferment for a two - y e ar diploma programme which Mindef had assessed to be a non-degree course that is equivalent to GCE A levels or a polytechnic diploma.

The family was informed of the decision about a week ago. Ike's mother, Mrs I.S. See, 55, a retired teacher said: “Our family is just so grateful to all the people who rallied round and gave their support."

Among them was the chairman of the management board of the Singapore National Youth orchestra, Dr Kee Kirk Chin, with which Ike is the concert master, or the leader of the orchestra.
Said Dr Kee," I am very heartened. Curtis is like the Oxbridge or Stanford of the music world. You have to compete with people from around the world for a place there."

Ike, who started playing the violin at 3 ½ also received acceptances from other prestigious schools such as Juilliard and the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

My comments:
I am glad that common sense has finally prevailed.

On a technicality, Mindef has decided to allow Ike See to defer his National Service to take up the prestigious Curtis scholarship.

I guess this formula allows Mindef not to lose face and at the same time appear to be compassionate and reasonable.

Well, whatever it is, I am elated that a rare opportunity has not been lost for an even rarer talent like Ike.

If Mindef had continued on its bureacratic and obstinate way, what are the chances that rare gems like Ike would decide that (after his National Service obligations) since his own nation does not treasure him, he might as well look elsewhere for his long term future! ( I am talking about emigration!)

Now, at least there will be a modicum of hope that after his 2 year stint in Curtis, he may feel (rightly or wrongly) that Singapore is not too bad a place to stay in after all.

Good Luck Ike! Go for it!

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan


Anonymous said...

i'm so happy to see this!
but i can't see to find it at straits times online :(
[to think that i've been such a loyal subscriber :(]

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anonymous,
It is not!
I had to scan the article and used OCR software and painstakingly word by word edit it before posting it here.
Well, never too old to learn!
I am also pleased for Ike!

KiWeTO said...

Its a start,

but bureaucracies are not supposed to be flexible. They are executors of the system. The system has a fixed way of doing things, and after a few years, nobody even knows why things are done in such and such ways.

However, try to reconcile the concept of equality of treatment for all with individual uniqueness. We are all individuals, because no 2 of us are the same. Some of us may have the same color, or even the same taste in music and clothes; at the end of the day, we cannot have 2 "Lim Ah Beng" with the same IC number. They are still 2 different people!

Yet, the system expects to treat them the same, regardless of how different they may be in reality.

Our quest to give 'equal treatment' has gone overboard in our practices in government. To the extent that "white horse" label was to ensure NO special treatment for that individual, instead of special treatment.
(Hierarchies and the need for favour meant that it was taken in the latter context instead of the former by good-intentioned subordinates)

Most people (80/20 rule) will be comfortable following the dictates of the system (PSLE/O-level/A-level/uni?/work/kids/retire); some cannot fit in for various personal reasons. Our system fails these exceptional 20% because it demands that they act in the same way as the 80%, even when they can be clearly seen by their peers to be different.

Tyranny of Equality.
Maybe in that way, we are Uniquely Singapore. The country is UNIQUE, its constituents are faceless clones of each other.


Anonymous said...

This seems a win-win situation for both parties. What Ike could do after obtaining the diploma is to request for an additional year's deferment to complete a degree, and MINDEF could possibly agree to that at that time then.

Rowen said...

This is a good news and good development for rare talents in Singapore.

If Mindef would use him as part of the orchestra or millitary band as part of his service to his nation, he may help develop our local arts scene to a next high and develop our local culture.

Whispers from the heart said...

I am happy for Ike too.

I just thought Singaporeans are very unique indeed. The fact that there is no major uproar this round, I marvel at why suddenly Singaporeans think it is now ok to defer NS to pursue a diploma but previously defering NS to do a degree is not.

What happened to all those who demanded blood in the name of justice and equality?? Now they keep quiet because it is provided in law?? they will not shed blood to uphold their valued justice and equality.

I am all for Ike's going even if he chose not to return to serve his NS. He is no less a Singapore than any of us.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all:
anonymous 12.36pm: yes by allowing it on case by case basis (extending beyond 2 years), Mindef won't have to set precedence for other cases.

rowen: Hope they won't send him to dangerous vocations like combat engineers where there is also risk of injury to his precious fingers etc.

whispers: The new Mindef regulation is that any male is allowed to complete his pre-University education ( which includes A levels/poly/IB and in this case diploma of music).Any course that is considered of U level is not allowed. But as you know, whether a certificate is considered of U or pre-U level is very arbitrary. But that's how bureaucracies are. They like clear rules!
Dr. H

Anonymous said...

thanks for the hard work Dr H.
I'm shocked that there are articles that appear in print and not online, but i guess i shouldnt be shocked.

(the first anonymous)

Indi said...

do you think Singapore will ever change the law regarding NS?

If a young man does not want to be fighter and would prefer to be a lover, instead, the government should give him a choice.

life is about giving everyone choice.

nofearSingapore said...

anonymous: You are welcome.

Indi: Sg will in time probably tweak the law regarding NS but it is extremely unlikely to abolish it, even if the political situation around ASEAN improves.
My view is that NS serves more than provide manpower for a citizen army to act as deterrence against potential aggressor.
It is also an institution for the govt to "educate" ( some call this brainwashing) males and their immediate families into thinking as one nation. NS also serves to identify suitable people which the govt can induct into their political structure ( govt and GLC-companies). For the above reasons and more, NS will remain for a long time. ( I think)


visceral said...

it serves to lay the groundwork for a military regime. It also helps when you impose certain controls on male members of the population, bypassing the civil courts.

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