Friday, March 23, 2007

Poor politicians and civil servants

Hi friends,

I am sure all of us do not want our civil servants and political leaders to go hungry.

Or be tempted to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains like corrupt third world politicians that we hear about ad nauseum.

But no right-thinking person looking at the salary-scale of our ministers and civil servants will likely feel that they are hard done by.

If I am not wrong, our politicians get many times the salaries of first world politicians. The main argument for such astronomical remunerations has been that these American and European presidents and ministers get rewarded after they leave office. They even write books, give talks to rich audiences and get invited to sit on exotic company boards! Shocking!

I wonder if ex-Singapore politicians do any of the aforementioned after they leave office?


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


My rebutal to the YoungPAP's views on this policy (see below)- these comments were from my comments page

Hi youngpap,

It is regrettable that the PAP/government is not able to persuade the ablest and best to serve the people on the platform and basis of public service. Instead the only way to secure these loyalties is the time-honored method – Greed and the love of money! There is NO sacrifice unlike what we have been told.

Idealism in any form is dead and buried in Singapore and pragmatism and “looking after oneself” is the name of the game. If even the young people of the Youngpap cannot see the false dichotomies and fallacies in the govt’s logic, we the people of Singapore do not have much to look forward to when these young people go on to be our future leaders.

It is the realm of “groupthink” when you the YoungPAP all begin to believe that Singapore is unique, our leaders are unique and that they should be uniquely rewarded. That we are so vulnerable that to have an independent media would cause our collapse and that to have freedom of expression and other freedoms like freedom of association and assembly would lead to our inevitable demise. Ironically, I hope in time to come, when the young people of Singapore ( including you in the YoungPAP) see more of the world, you will realize that some values like fairness,equality, freedom are universal and we should not be afraid to have them.

There is much that is good and admirable in our system, but self-serving and selfish policies like this when our own political leaders use the system to reward themselves beyond reasonable limits is not one of them. I hope some in the YoungPAP will see the insanity in this and begin to form your own individual opinions of some of these unfair policies.

(end of rebutal)

YoungPaP's post on this issue

Bill Gates+George Soros+Mother Theresa - How Much $$

Posted by elaina olivia chong at 4:56 PM

Money is the proverbial carrot. No matter how many people put themselves on the moral high ground, Money still talks for most others. If you want to get a job done you can’t do well yourself, pay some one well to do it well. If you want to get a job superbly well done, pay superbly more. Similarly, if we want Singapore to stay on the “Best Of” world list for a lot of things, we jolly well got to pay top dollar for the best people who can keep us right up there.

I can’t see why some forumers in our local chatrooms are questioning Ministerial pay rises and pegging our Minister’s pay to those in other countries. Spore isn’t like many other economies like the States, Britain or even Hong Kong where their economies can still remain alive even if their politicians are not making the best decisions. Not only are these economies self sufficient, they have people resources - to the extent where Supply far Exceeds Demand for geniuses at the top.

In many of these first world nations (whose Ministers’ pays have been “pegged” to ours), their economic engines are matured and almost self-piloting. These governments have inherited the fruits of their political forefathers and are now able to concentrate on improving the social and non-economic welfares of its peoples and say, spend time to build international relations with countries like us.

This government put Singapore, a country with no resources, with no historical ties or allies to begin with, on the world map in less than half a century. But will this last forever?

It takes more than a few good men to make a tiny red dot like Singapore a shining star it is today. Not an easy feat, and is not a task that every man on the street can do. Only the very best in the 4-5million we have, can.

Everyday is a new challenge for Singapore to stay competitive and ahead of economies thousands of times our size. If Ministers at the top stop what their doing; or aren’t clever enough to devise policies to keep us ahead of the global league, our economy will crumble. There’s no two ways about it. Some one has got to do it and able to do it very well.

Today, we have the PAP with a number of good men. Will we have the same people tomorrow and always? I’m not sure. I find it rather myopic and sadly presumptuous for so many of these forumers to assume that Singapore is forever going to be where it is, and that we will forever have exceptional geniuses willing to throw their lives to keep Singapore on its feet.

How many of our capable Singaporeans are willing to turn away high paying expatriate positions overseas? And choose instead, to stay home in Singapore, hold arms to protect and ensure the economic comforts for our families and posterity?

One of the ways and I'm not saying it is the only way, is to pay for them and pay them very well . To help keep them in Singapore, attract them into civil service or the PAP where they will join the “economic militia” and keep the Singapore flag flying high for a very long time

The life of a Minister is not attractive. How many are willing to sacrifice every evening either at Meet the People Sessions, chairing Review Committees and carrying another baby in a HDB kopitiam even on precious weekends?

A platoon with the acumen of Bill Gates, risk appetite of George Soros and the heart of Mother Theresa, I would think. And the compensation? Priceless. Haven’t we all heard this all too often, “Pay Peanuts Get Monkeys".

All that matters to me is for Singapore to stay ahead of the game becuase I choose to stay here. We sorely need more than a few Good Men to continue serving at the top so that our economy will continue its bull run. With a flourishing economy, Ministerial pay increments will pale in comparison to the prosperities and fortunes Singapore will be able to bring to its people. Because then, the man on their street will get his pay raise too.

Changes to Civil Service salaries to be announced on April 9

Channelnewsasia Mar 22

Civil service salaries are set to go up and details of this will be announced in Parliament on the 9th of April.

The salary review will be explained by Mr Teo Chee Hean who is the Minister-in-Charge of Civil Service matters in the Prime Minister's Office.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Administrative Service dinner on Thursday.

In his speech, Mr Lee said the government is also reviewing salaries for the political, judicial and statutory appointment holders.

He added that it is critical for Singapore to keep their salaries competitive so that the country can bring in a continuing flow of able and successful people to be ministers and judges.

The Prime Minister arrived at the Administrative Dinner with a clear message for his audience.

He said Singapore's Administrative Service is the core of the public service as it plays a central role in bringing about first class governance for the country.

And for the public service to remain an attractive employer, it must keep pace with the private sector.

The Prime Minister noted that salaries in the private sector have been progressing, with many good and well-paying jobs created in the last two years.

And demand for Singaporeans is not just coming from the local economy.

Mr Lee said: "We know from head-hunters that the entire top managements of some of our agencies are being targeted. The Middle Eastern countries are particularly interested. They have studied Singapore's success story. They want to tap our people to join them and replicate the miracle, and money is no object.

"Even foreign workers who have worked in Singapore shipyards here are in demand in the Gulf. We even received a feeler from one Middle Eastern country to buy the whole of JTC! All this will have an impact on the Public Service."

Mr Lee explained that there are two private sector salary benchmarks for the Administrative Service.

The lowest Superscale grade is where officers in the early to mid-30s enter the senior ranks.

For this group, the benchmark has climbed again but not for the second benchmark which is for the most senior Permanent Secretaries.

For this senior group, the yardstick is based on two-thirds of the median income of the eight top-earning professionals in six professions.

The private sector benchmark now stands at $2.2 million.

But in the Administrative Service, the salaries for this category has remained the same as the level in the year 2000.

It stands at $1.21 million, which is 55 percent of the private sector salaries.

Mr Lee said: "This is an urgent problem. We have experienced on previous occasions the painful consequences of responding too slowly when the private sector surged ahead. For example in the early 1990s, the Administrative Service lost entire cohorts of good officers. This showed up in the age profile of the Service - broad at the young and older age groups, but narrow at the mid- to late-30s range. We took many years to recover from the loss. This must not happen again.

"This is why the government is currently reviewing Civil Service remuneration schemes. The review will cover the Administrative Service as well as other services that are lagging behind the private sector, because every service is important, and each must be able to attract and retain good people."

Mr Lee reminded the Administrative Service officers that what they do affect how Singaporeans work, live and play.

And if everyone does their job well, the result will be a Singapore that everyone can be proud of. - CNA/ch


1.Today -

2. Perpective of other countries' politicians' salaries (

4. David Marshall's thoughts about Public Service and Noblesse oblige

Some baffled bloggers below








Tuesday, March 20, 2007

On education: A Touchy subject for some!!

Hi friends,

Mdm Lam Mun Wai’s letter (Which school would students rather be in? 17 Mar 07) seems to have touched some raw nerves.

Steffen Toh Hai Chew (A different - positive - view of S'pore schools) and Kenneth Cheng Jing Wen (This student is happy to be in a local school) were moved to write with a stout defence of the status quo. But why?

Our education system good but…

No one would argue that our education system has not done well. After all, do not we hear of the Yanks using our Maths textbooks? Also do not our kids top many maths and science Olympiads? It is not a secret anymore that RJC has more successful applicants into Ivy League colleges than many very expensive and exclusive “prep” colleges stateside.

So, is Mdm Lam just talking nonsense? Does the end justify the means and hence, we should continue educating our kids the same way we ourselves were taught?

Although I personally feel that Mdm Lam was a tad generous in her praise of the International school system, (and conversely made some sweeping statements about local schools), there is much that she has written that holds true for some parents ( at least anecdotally).

Only anecdotal evidence?

How many times have I heard from my friends that their children have actually started to look forward to going to school after they transferred out of the local school system.

(NB: Some non-local schools that I am talking about include United World College/Overseas Family School/S’pore Amercan School (now famous for having educated MM Lee’s grandson)/ ACS ( International) etc).

Of course, if one is mean, one would claim that such positive comments from these parents are biased as they probably would not tell you that transferring the child was a move that they have regretted and that it was all an expensive mistake. Perhaps, just like a punter who only tells about the 4-D winnings and never ever mentioning how much he had lost on a regular basis over the years.

My personal gut feelings

I am in sympathy with Mdm Lam on many points and would recommend the following:

We should allow more individual expressions and not “worship” conformity. We should pay more attention to the process of learning more than just the accumulation of facts that students regurgitate in the examinations.

How many questions did you ask today?”

Teachers should welcome questioning students and not wish them away like pests.

I read somewhere that Jewish parents would ask their children ,” How many questions did you ask today?” in contrast to “ Did you get 100 marks today?” or “ Did you answer all your questions correctly today?”

And what’s wrong with loosening up? And why is it that with so many single-session schools that lessons still have to start at 7.30 am ?


Fatal attraction for TUITION?

Why do our parents spend millions ( at least) on tuition for the same subjects that our teachers are already paid (well) to teach? Extra classes should be for enrichment of the arts/music and other stuff that schools do not have time or resources for.

What say you?


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: I am posting this via email as my blogger is really and truly screwed-up. So some features ( like links etc) may not work. And… I can’t edit it once I post it!!

Lam Mun Wai (Mdm)’s letter that sparked this debate:

Which school would students rather be in?

LET me contrast the approaches taken by an international school and an autonomous school in Singapore.

Guess which school offers customer-service orientation to parents and students (teachers respect students and do not scream at them); later-starting school hours; curriculum that allows learning to take place (teach less, learn more); good and motivated teachers; small class sizes; no pressure on students/

staff to win accolades (the journey is more important than the destination); minimal homework and tests/

exams; hiphop dancing exercise for PE and, best of all, cellphone and laptop usage.

Students and parents are welcome to see the teachers and the principal himself whenever possible - no bureaucratic system to block access, even the security is friendly.

The typical Singapore school's philosophy is that 'children should be seen and not heard'. The moment they arrive in school, they have to sit down quietly in the hall to read. During recess, there is no time to play. They are not allowed to talk in class (too noisy). Small wonder many do not grow up articulate and find school to be, at best, a forgettable experience.

Shoes, socks and hair pose no big issues in the international school (don't sweat the small stuff). Students are free to show individualism (and do they look good). But not the stern Singapore school - it wants the students to look like factory-produced robots. I do not think this is the only way to instil discipline. I recall the time I had to go out late at night to buy white school shoes with laces for my child (velcro not allowed).

Education should reflect changes in the workplace and society - including cellphone usage. Everyone is using cellphones everywhere, except in our conservative schools. How do you expect students to learn to use their phones properly in public if they are not allowed to do so in school? Education is also about teaching them responsible use of the phone during lessons.

Ultimately, it boils down to mindset and how a school manages the students. It is time for the local schools to loosen up.

By the way, ask the international school students if they are happy and the answer is an affirmative 'Yes'. The students also do reasonably well academically, in case you wonder.

Lam Mun Wai (Mdm)

And two responses that I feel where “knee-jerky” and excessively “defensive”

March 20, 2007

A different - positive - view of S'pore schools

IN THE letter, 'Which school would students rather be in?' (ST, March 17), Mdm Lam Mun Wai made a comparison between an international school and an autonomous school in Singapore, and concluded that the former was superior to the typical Singapore school in every respect.

The picture that she paints of this international school is indeed very appealing.

Yet, as someone who has been on both the receiving and delivering end of this system, I find her observations to be overly negative and sweeping.

I offer my perspective of local schools instead: students are encouraged to talk in class, if they do so productively; they often play during recess; they express their individualism even while adhering to the dress code; and school, for many of them, is an unforgettable experience.

Also, should one judge the system that an international school has adopted against one that has to serve all Singapore schools?

It would make a lot more sense to compare the said international school with other international schools, or perhaps with Singaporean international schools abroad.

Having taught in a commercial school abroad, I have noted that there are fundamental differences in philosophy between the two.

They have different amounts and sources of funds, different priorities and cater to a different segment of the population. A customer-service orientation is practised, not as a matter of principle but out of necessity, as parents are paying a lot more to keep their children in school.

Singapore schools, even autonomous ones, need to fulfil national needs to a certain extent. Our education system and philosophy is the way it is today because a workforce that was skilled and efficient, if slightly programmed, was essential to our survival.

It is true that the workplace has evolved and education should also change to keep up, which is why changes and new initiatives have been introduced.

It is perhaps easy to be cynical about initiatives such as Teach Less, Learn More, but we have to start somewhere.

Schools have been given more autonomy, but it would be unfair and unrealistic, not to mention dangerous, to expect a revolution.

The subject of use of cellphones in the classroom will likely pit two equally passionate camps against each other.

In the meantime, we should allow schools the time to come to their own conclusions based on their own sets of criteria.

Steffen Toh Hai Chew

March 20, 2007

This student is happy to be in a local school

I REFER to the letter by Mdm Lam Mun Wai, 'Which school would students rather be in?' (ST, March 17). As a student in a local secondary school, I would like to correct some of the misperceptions the writer has about local schools.

She wrote that students and parents of international schools 'are welcome to see the teachers and the principal himself whenever possible - no bureaucratic system to block access, even the security is friendly'. It is no different in local schools. In fact, many principals are now encouraging students and parents to give them feedback about the school directly - something which I do constantly.

The writer also bristled at the stern rules and regulations in Singapore schools, while 'shoes, socks and hair pose no big issues in the international school'. I shudder to think what would have become of our schools if these stern regulations were non-existent. We certainly would not want to see students sporting outlandish hairdos or tinting their hair bright pink, would we?

The writer also questioned how students can learn to use their phones properly in public if they are not allowed to do so in school.

I beg to differ. If the use of mobile phones in schools is allowed, students would be too distracted to pay attention in class.

Moreover, there is no 'responsible use of the phone during lessons'. To use the phone during lessons already indicates a serious lack of respect for the teacher.

School rules shape students to become morally-upright, law-abiding and socially-responsible citizens.

And just in case the writer wonders, I am happy to be in a local school.

Kenneth Cheng Jing Wen

Monday, March 19, 2007

Test posting

I am having great difficulty with my blogger.
I hope this posting via my email works as if it doesn't, then it means that I may need to migrate to another platform other than blogger.
Blogger is extremely unstable and their help pages unhelpful.

Here's keeping my fingers crossed.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Singapore tops for Expats only?

Dear Friends,

I have just despatched the following letter to both our MSM's papers.

March 15, 2007

Dear Editor,

I refer to ECA International’s poll that showed Singapore has again topped the list as the best city in the world for Asian expats.

I am not surprised as I have always felt that our low-crime streets, English-speaking retailers as well as an efficient service sector would be almost like heaven for expatriates whatever their origin.

However, the more important question to most of us is, “Is Singapore the best city in the world for Singaporeans?”.

I am afraid the answer is less obvious, especially for the lower income strata of our society.

When we see elderly Singaporean men and women, forced by circumstances to work beyond their economically active age, either collecting card-boards along back alleys or competing with our foreign guest workers for low-paying jobs as table cleaners in our food-courts, we cannot but feel sad.

The lower income strata would again be told by our political leaders that their plight is the result of globalistion. These uncles and aunties must be quite tired of hearing the same old story. Will Singapore ever be theirs to enjoy?

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
(letter ends here)

The letter is a response to the poll/survey as reported by Reuters:

Singapore tops list of best cities for Asian expats-survey

Mar 14, 2007 Reuters

SINGAPORE - Singapore's low crime rate, clean air and solid infrastructure helped the city-state top a list as the best city in the world for Asian expats to live in for the fifth year in a row, a survey showed on Wednesday.

Three Australian cities -- Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra -- took up spots in the top five while Kobe, Osaka and Tokyo in Japan made it into the top ten, according to ECA International, a human resource consultancy for multinationals.

But Singapore -- well known for its squeaky clean, safe streets -- claimed the spot as best place in the world for Asian expatriates for the fifth year running. "Singapore is consolidating its position at No 1 -- it's continuing to improve," said Lee Quane, ECA's Hong Kong-based general manager.

"I can't find another city that matches it in terms of personal security and safety. Singapore is pretty much the safest place in the world."

With more Asian expatriates being sent overseas for work, the ECA's survey can help determine suitable compensation packages and hardship allowances for expat employees.

The ECA report is based on expat surveys and country data for 254 locations globally on areas such as climate, air quality, healthcare, infrastructure and political locations. Language and proximity to home are also among the top concerns among expatriates around the world.

"Asia is improving at a far greater rate than anywhere else," Quane said, adding that cities in China and India had rapidly climbed up the rankings.

Within Asia, the gap between Singapore and Hong Kong has widened over the last five years.
"We have seen more and more companies and expatriates say they would prefer to relocate to Singapore because of the better facilities," Quane said. That's despite the fact that Singapore ranks lower than Hong Kong in terms of press freedom and recreation, he said.

The Hong Kong-Singapore rivalry is heating up as the Chinese territory's air pollution worsens, pushing it down on the global ranking list from five years ago.

The Southeast Asian city-state is working to improve its image as a place for fun and entertainment, with new restaurants and bars springing up and two multi-billion dollar casinos on the way.

Quane added that one of the most interesting findings in the survey was Macau which, thanks to heavy investments by casino resorts and a fast-growing tourism industry, had climbed to 56 in the global ranking for Asians, up from 80 just five years ago.

Top 10 best locations in Asia for Asian expats:

1 Singapore, Singapore 2 Japan, Kobe 3 Japan, Tokyo 3 Japan, Osaka 5 Hong Kong, Hong Kong 6 Macau, Macau 7 Taiwan, Taipei 8 Thailand, Bangkok 9 Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 10 Malaysia, Georgetown

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

“Sand” and now “Granite” tiff shows Indo-Singapore relationship not concrete!

Dear Friends,

Not a week go past without some surprising comments from Indonesian politicians about why more raw materials should be on the ban list to Singapore.

First it is sand, now it is granite. I wonder what is next?

“Whipping boy”- again

It is obvious that we are being used as a “whipping boy” again.

In the run-up to any political event (esply elections), we will inevitably be “it” again. Now even without any Indonesian elections in sight, we still get the honours!

We all understand why the Indonesians are anxious to get their extradition treaty so that they can get their hands on the “dirty” money stashed away allegedly in our monetary system, but there surely must be proper diplomatic mechanisms to sort out such bilateral issues.

Although I count myself as being very tolerant and always eager to see our neighbours prosper, (and I tell you that the Indonesians that I meet daily are without a doubt the nicest patients/clients that any doctor can ask for), I am getting quite irritated about the whole affair.

Why don’t SBY and LHL just go into a friendly “Four-eyes” huddle the next time they meet and trash out all our bilateral “unhappinesses” once and for all, so that we can be real good pals once again!

Who’s afraid of a Extradition treaty?

Or are we afraid to really put the extradition treaty on the table?

My fear is that too much is at stake here and only providence knows whether our economy will not get hollowed out if the Indonesians do get back every ill-gotten rupiah to their shores. Singapore’s inflated housing bubble would surely burst and our economic growth would be stymied.

For the above reasons, my “uneducated” guess would be that Singapore will continue to procrastinate whilst the Indonesian politicians kick up the usual ruckus on a regular basis.

But, once our economy has reached a different level , perhaps after the Integrated Resorts (euphemism for Casinos) have proven to be wild successes, only then will Singapore really sit down and sincerely deal with the extradition treaty. We have to sooner or later, tell me which civilised and developed nation ( apart from Switzerland) harbour their neighbours' fugitives and criminals? Of course they often cite human rights violations for not cooperating with their neighbours.

“Switzerland of the east”

After all, I am sure we do not want to be known as the Switzerland of the East for the wrong reasons. For those who are still puzzled, the Swiss are thought to be still harbouring Nazi gold, Marcos billions as well as trillions from past and present ( and corrupt) African politicians.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Ref: 1.Best answer to granite ban question is to seek clarifications: minister (Channelnewsasia 13 Mar 07)
2. Gerald's related post: Extradition Treaty with Indon will benefit Sg too

Sunday, March 04, 2007

About Anglo-Chinese School and why diversity is good

Dear Friends,

The ACS family of schools just celebrated its 121st Founder’s Day on March 1st 2007.

On thinking back, the 10 years I spent in ACS were indeed the best years of my life. Those who are mathematically inclined would have realized that 2 years are missing from my school-life. Those two years I spent at National Junior College (but that will be the subject of another post).

In the ACS of my time, boys were allowed to be boys. We lived life with abandonment and spent much time and energies on extra-curricular activities and friendships (and some on their studies).I was involved in Athletics, Rugby and several societies.

Our teachers were legendary for their dedication and love of the school.

There are few schools which can boast of teachers who have touched the lives of 3 generations of any family but ACS can. Many of my teachers taught my sons.

Kind acts and other Mushy stuff

I came from a poor family.

From the second day in Primary 1, I took the public bus by myself. My mother, who was a nurse, accompanied me to and from school on the first day (on the bus also of course).

Miss Tan, my Primary One form teacher, somehow found out about this later on, and volunteered to send me home every day. Of course, I sat in her Ford Anglia quiet as a mouse each day!

This skinny boy will never forget such acts of kindness nor take them for granted.

Miss Tan was later to marry Mr. Ong Ai Teik, another legendary teacher who influenced us ACS boys greatly. God bless you Mr. and Mrs Ong. Thank you.

These acts of kindness were by no means confined to my teachers only.

One day whilst rummaging through old stuff during spring cleaning, I came across a note from my son, C’s Primary Six teacher. In this note was written words of encouragement and prayer for his (then) upcoming PSLE examinations. They were truly inspirational words and must have spurred him during his stressful exam period.

It is no wonder that C kept the note (and not discard it as is his habit).

Other teachers that have influenced me (for better or for worse) include:

Secondary school:
Mrs Lee Gek Kim, Mr. Ong Ai Teik, Mr. Ernest Lau, Mr.Ang Cheng Kim (deceased),Mr. Tan Soo Hian (my athletics teacher) (deceased), Mr. Ying ( with wry neck problems), Mr. Andrew Yuen, Mrs.Kee,Mr. Wee Kim Cheng.

Primary (Pr 1-2)/Junior school (Pr 3-6):
Mrs Ong ( Miss Tan), Mr. Ng Kim Liang, Mr. Navaratnam, Mrs Retnam, Mrs Huang ( who was also my aunt), Miss Ng (who wore mini-skirts).

There are numerous others that have touched my life but whose names just escape me now. Best wishes and good health to all.

ACS : according to my son

We, parents, are always wondering if we have made the right choices and have done the best for our kids.

It was after C’s O levels and we spent some time talking about his past and future.

I asked him, “Do you regret not going to Raffles Institution after your PSLE, as had some of your primary school mates?”

He answered, without hesitation, “The four years of my life in ACS ( ie secondary school) has been the best years of my life. ACS is the best school that any boy can hope to be in!” ( I vouch these are C’s true words and not some shameless plug for ACS)

I think those comments were only partly influenced by the fact that my alma mater takes a “balanced” attitude to academic results. Great emphsis was placed on character building.

For instance, I still remember who the champion athletes were but would have difficulty recalling who the top academic students were (ok, just sour grapes). But of course, the true blue heroes were the Scholar Athletes! Good in sports yet excel in studies!

I am sure that my other son, T will also have similar things to say once his days at ACS are done.

I agree with Philip Yeo! ( a rare situation)

Parents should diversify children's education experiences: Philip Yeo

(By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 23 February 2007 1941 hrs)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's top civil servant Philip Yeo said Singapore cannot afford to have its best and brightest students only in a few top schools receiving the same system of education. The Chairman of A*Star said the greater the diversity of backgrounds and talents, the better Singapore would be able to respond and compete in this new world. This is because children will face new and as-yet-unknown technologies, industries and jobs.
(click on link to read more)

Trend not promising

Schools will tell you that it is a lost cause trying to retain their top students.

ACS (Primary & Junior), St Michael’s (now called St. Joseph Jr),Catholic High, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, CHIJ all face the grim prospects of losing their ablest and best.

Many of their top Primary students (to different degrees) will continue their secondary education at the Raffles Institution or Raffles Girls’ School and later Raffles Junior College ( the R-schools). All the more since the “through-train” Integrated Programme allows them the luxury of skipping the O levels.

Many will argue ( with good reasons too) that this is after all what meritocracy is about. If you are good, you get to choose where you want to go. I do not disagree.

However, as Philip Yeo has alluded to, in the long run, the lack of diversity will not be healthy and the students exiting from these schools risk being trapped by “groupthink” and having a homogenous outlook to life and public policy. And many of these students in the R-schools are high achievers slated for prominent roles in government and industry.

We cannot (and should not) prevent parents from sending their children to schools that they feel may help their children fulfil their maximum potential. But the mainstream media can help highlight the achievements of other schools. This positive publicity can help them retain their better students as well as attract applicants from other schools. This would help prevent talents congregating only in a few schools.

Resources (manpower and capital) should be made available for schools to allow them to build on their strengths so that their programmes will be part of their unique brand (what marketers call USP- Unique Selling Proposition).

Hopefully in time to come, we will have a diverse population with varying outlooks to life’s challenges. With future leaders getting heterogeneous but rich school experiences, there will then be less groupthink in government and more willingness to try new ways of running this little red dot called Singapore.



The Best Is Yet To Be,

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan