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Thread: Singapore Also Can
03-05-2011, 11:15 PM #4098
Water sculpture collects $22,000
The Straits Times
Mar 6, 2011
Many people throw coins into the 'wishing well' at Marina Bay Sands
By Shairah Thoufeekh Ahamed
Called Rain Oculus, the sculpture (above and below) at Marina Bay Sands looks like a big bowl of swirling water, leading many people into thinking it is a wishing well. -- ST PHOTOS: TED CHEN
A BOWL-LIKE sculpture with a swirling whirlpool has been pulling in the crowds at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) - and sucking in serious cash as well.
The acrylic and stainless steel art installation is part of the integrated resort's Art Path of giant works by renowned international artists.
But passers-by view the sculpture as a wishing well and have tossed in a remarkable $22,000 in coins since the installation opened late last year.
It is not known how much the artwork, titled Rain Oculus and by American artist and sculptor Ned Kahn, is worth.
But it is awash with cash, going by the number of shiny coins LifeStyle spotted over three visits in its see-through bowl perched above the central retail atrium of The Shoppes at MBS.
The bowl, which spans 22m, has a hole through which water flows down into the atrium.
03-05-2011, 11:36 PM #4099
IDA's 4-year roadmap aims to develop Singapore's infocomm workforce
By Vimita Mohandas | Posted: 05 March 2011 0101 hrs
SINGAPORE : Developing Singapore's infocomm workforce for high-end, high value-add jobs to meet the industry developments - that's the aim of the new four-year infocomm manpower roadmap announced by Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew at the Singapore Computer Society gala dinner on Friday.
The Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap, Version 2.0 (MDEV 2.0) aims to deepen the capabilities of infocomm professionals, attract and groom infocomm talent and ensure Singapore's role as a leading infocomm hub in Asia.
Mr Lui said about 8,000 professionals will be trained over the next two years under the Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme (CITREP) that covers training in areas like cloud computing.
The authorities Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) will also work closely to promote computing amongst pre-tertiary students.
From 2012, first-year junior college students will see a revised computing syllabus for 'A' levels, focusing on computational thinking.
A Computer Science Reloaded Programme will also be offered to all pre-tertiary students.
IDA and its partners will develop and deliver courses in computational thinking and computer science concepts to help deepen their infocomm skills.
A new "Hybrid Skills Development Programme" will also be implemented to provide professionals with the necessary skills and expertise.
"This programme will support the provision of specialised courses incorporating practical training in sectors like financial services and healthcare, such that infocomm professionals trained through the programme can better impact the business sectors they serve," said Mr Lui.
03-06-2011, 08:04 AM #4100
In pictures: Pele, Cantona sign autographs
The Straits Times
Mar 6, 2011
Eric Cantona signing autographs for a fan. -- PHOTO : THE NEW PAPER
FOOTBALL legends Pele and Eric Cantona are in town to promote Courts' recently announced partnership with the New York Cosmos for the New York Cosmos Asia Tour 2011.
On Saturday, football stars signed autographs for 100 fans at the Courts Megastore.
Picture gallery compiled by Amanda Tan
03-06-2011, 08:46 AM #4101
STTA line up 28 meets ahead of 2012 Olympics
by Low Lin Fhoong
05:56 AM Mar 05, 2011
SINGAPORE - Last year's ITTF Pro Tour Grand Final champion Feng Tianwei and her team-mates may have yet to strike gold on the professional circuit this year but that has not stopped sponsors from coming on board in aid of the team's gold medal cause at the Olympic Games next year.
Runner's World, distributors of Asics SEA, are the newest addition to the table tennis family, after inking a three-year sponsorship deal worth S$200,000 with the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) on Friday. National paddlers Feng, Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei, Yu Mengyu, Yang Zi and Gao Ning will receive custom-made Asics shoes as part of the cash and product sponsorship.
Said Mr Andy Zhao, chief executive officer of Runner's World: "We look forward to seeing the national team do Singapore proud with a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics."
The company is also exploring partnerships with the Singapore Athletic Association and Netball Singapore. Just last year, Asics signed an S$11 million deal to sponsor the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore for three years.
STTA president Lee Bee Wah was delighted with the tie-up, taking their sponsorship to more than S$2.2 million over the past 14 months. "This year, our players will take part in 28 tournaments as part of their preparations for the Olympic Games ... these Pro Tour circuits and championships are great platforms for Asics to build corporate branding and reach out to millions of sports fans."
The national table tennis teams have competed at the Slovenia, English, Qatar, UAE and German Opens since January, with the best result coming from the women's doubles pair of Sun and Wang at last week's German Open, where they finished in second after a 4-1 loss to China's Guo Yue and Li Xiaoxia.
Runner's World CEO Andy Zhao handing over the sponsorship cheque to STTA president Lee Bee Wah. Photo by WEE TECK HIAN
Last edited by Loh; 03-06-2011 at 08:49 AM.
03-06-2011, 09:24 PM #4102
Teck Ghee Wellness Programme launched
By Evelyn Choo | Posted: 06 March 2011 1808 hrs
SINGAPORE : The National Wellness Programme is well underway, with another district coming onboard the active ageing initiative.
Teck Ghee is the latest of 42 constituencies to reach out to senior residents.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the programme at the Teck Ghee Community Club, which will now host activities aimed at keeping the elderly physically and socially active.
They can look forward to health screenings, mass exercises and enrichment courses.
Riding on the event on Sunday was the launch of the Safe Roads Singapore campaign.
The nationwide effort by the Singapore Road Safety Council hopes to cultivate good habits among road users, including senior citizens.
Last year, the Traffic Police reported 29 elderly pedestrian fatalities - an increase from the year before.
03-06-2011, 09:54 PM #4103
Pele, Cantona plant Cosmos' flag in Singapore
By Shamir Osman, TODAY | Posted: 07 March 2011 0700 hrs
Pele puts his special mark on a truly special jersey at Queensway Shopping Centre. (TODAY pic).
SINGAPORE: "Who's Pele, who's Pele," asked four-year-old Jordan as he rolled around on the floor of the Weston Corporation store at Queensway Shopping Centre on Sunday.
Decked in the gold and blue colours of the most storied footballing nation in the world, the youngster was soon to come face to face with the finest footballer to don the colours of Brazil; the man widely believed to be the best to play the game.
Along with Eric Cantona, one of the finest strikers, and Thespians, to grace the green of the Theatre of Dreams, Pele was in Singapore from March 3 as part of the New York Cosmos' Tour of Asia. And Sunday's launch of the Cosmos' jersey at Weston was the final public appearance of the duo in what has been a hectic schedule here.
From a breakfast to a gala dinner, an S-League match at Jalan Besar Stadium to the Singapore Sports School, Pele, the Cosmos' honorary president and club's director of soccer, and Cantona, put in a good shift in their five days in Singapore.
"We had a great time here, it was wonderful ... I hope to come back," said a rather tired-looking Cantona, before he slipped out the back entrance of the Weston store.
Pele, 70, looked a little worse for wear, with his tired eyes tinged red but his famous spirit was never wavered, even as he was walked out of the store.
Spotting a fan attempting to take a picture, Brazil's national icon grabbed the camera out of the lady's hands, passed it to one of his minders, and stood beside her for a final shot before addressing the media, yet again.
He said: "First of all, I thank all the people of Singapore who gave a beautiful welcome to us. I hope I see you soon. This is my third time here and I wish to come back many more times. And don't forget, New York Cosmos - we're back."
They came to Singapore with some of the Cosmos bigwigs as the club look to raise their profile in Asia while driving the team's entry into Major League Soccer in 2013.
They leave for Hong Kong today but the legacy left behind in Singapore could well endure, with the promise of a team tour and player attachments in the pipeline.
Last Thursday at Jalan Besar, Pele and Cantona watched as all 22 players of the Courts Young Lions and Geylang United played out of their skins in a thriller that saw the home side beat the Eagles 3-2.
More than 2,700 fans packed the stadium, many turning up to catch a glimpse of the two legends and they left with an S-League experience that could augur well for the competition, which has been plagued by dwindling spectator numbers.
Die-hard Cantona fan Kelly Lye told MediaCorp on Saturday at the Courts Megastore autograph-signing event: "That was my first-ever S-League match and what a game it was too! I came to see the legends and was treated to a great game."
A Singapore star in the making, Shahfiq Ghani, gave an inspired man-of-the-match performance, scoring two of the Courts Young Lions' goals and setting up the other. The match would have seen the 18-year-old's confidence skyrocket.
Another youngster who will one day realise the significance of his attendance at the Weston store yesterday is Jordan.
While waiting for Pele and Cantona, his mother, a Brazilian who has lived in Singapore for the last five years, was busy explaining the achievements of the country's greatest athlete to Jordan and his elder brother Julian."I'll never get to meet him in Brazil, I'm just so glad to see him here. My sons are probably too young to know how big this is but they will," said Gisela, who was starry-eyed when Pele signed on the Brazil jersey she wore.
There was no doubt what Pele meant to her, as she yelled out in Portuguese over the enthusiastic crowd: "Rei (King) Pele! Rei Pele! Rei Pele!" - TODAY
03-06-2011, 10:00 PM #4104
Serangoon Public Library to have gaming area
By Alvina Soh | Posted: 06 March 2011 2237 hrs
SINGAPORE : A new library at Serangoon is making reading come alive, by having a gaming area to complement its books.
The first of its kind, the National Library Board said this is to make reading relevant in the digital age.
For example, you can read all about the fighter planes of World War Two at the library, and even fly one of those mean machines.
The four game stations in the new Serangoon Public Library will allow you to do just that.
Yang Qinli, an associate librarian, said: "We feel that through gaming, gamers can actually relate back to the books. So for example, someone who is playing games like WWII, he might be interested to find out more about the happenings or what really happened during WWII."
The game stations are part of the library's digital media zone, which includes videos and a digital book display.
Other highlights include heritage exhibitions and even a food corner that educates children on local fare.
Those who can't afford some leisure reading need not worry; the National Library Board said the library has adopted a 'retail' concept, such as having a multiple display area to enhance convenience.
Jillian Lim, manager of Serangoon Public Library, explains: "This allows our users to easily pick up materials, and borrow them and leave the library. This is relevant, especially in our time-starved age when many adults find that they do not have time to visit the library."
The public library will open on March 11 at Nex mall in Serangoon.
03-06-2011, 11:19 PM #4105
Police arrest 9 at gangster's funeral
(I thought the picture of a Chinese funeral procession is becoming rare in Singapore and this hopes to remind many how it looks like.)
The Straits Times
Mar 7, 2011
By Carolyn Quek
Nine people were arrested at the funeral of a notorious gangster last Friday. -- PHOTO: WANBAO
THE police have arrested nine men who were among some 500 people attending the funeral of a notorious gangster in Clementi last Friday.
In a statement to the media yesterday, the police said the nine men, aged between 21 and 41, were arrested for suspected involvement in gang activities and that investigations are proceeding.
The men were among the huge crowd of family members and friends who had gathered at Block 611, Clementi Street 1, where the wake and funeral procession of Woon Eng Kong was held.
The 48-year-old Woon, better known as 'Amara Ah Chang', had died under mysterious circumstances in Johor after being on the run from the Singapore authorities for almost a year.
After he was arrested for drug possession in October 2009, he failed to appear in court in March last year. An arrest warrant was then issued.
Two weeks ago, he was caught by Malaysian police in Johor Baru for breaking into a church there. But two days later, he was found hanged in a psychiatric hospital and Johor police are now investigating the case as murder.
03-07-2011, 04:07 AM #4106
Education Ministry to spend S$134m to aid low and middle-income students
Posted: 07 March 2011 1640 hrs
SINGAPORE: The Education Ministry is spending an additional S$134 million a year on bursaries for post-secondary students; with the changes aimed at helping low and middle-income students further their education.
In Parliament on Monday, Minister Ng Eng Hen said social mobility will remain a hallmark of the education system.
However, MPs raised concerns about social mobility in today's society.
"The message to students is that all you need to do is to work hard, because the system will let you go as far as you are capable of regardless of your family background and circumstances. Does this message continue to hold true today?", said Ms Josephine Teo, GPC Chair of Education, and MP of Bishan - Toa Payoh GRC.
In response, Dr Ng cited figures showing that almost half of those living in 1 or 3-room flats went on to earn a diploma or degree.
"We cannot aim for equality of outcomes. That's not what we're asking for, not equality of outcomes because students are inherently different", said Dr Ng.
"What we must ensure is that opportunities abound for all students and that no student is denied a high quality education because he or she cannot afford it", added Dr Ng.
Subsidies will increase, with ITE students seeing the biggest change.
Previously, bursaries were given only to the bottom 20th percentaile of the cohort, or to those from families where per capita monthly earnings was S$500 or less.
The bursaries are awarded by Citizens' Consultative Committees (CCC) and Community Development Centres (CDC), and range from S$600 to S$800.
However, the CCC/CDC bursary now covers up to the 33rd percentile of students, or those where per capita monthly income is S$850 and below.
The bursaries awarded will also increase to range between S$750 to S$1,000.
Furthermore, those from middle-income families - where per capita monthly income is up to S$1,700 - will be eligible for a new MOE bursary scheme.
Polytechnics and public universities will also receive bigger bursary amounts for a bigger pool of students.
Students in polytechnics will get enough to cover up to 80 per cent of course fees, while undergraduates will receive bursaries to meet up to 40 per cent of fees.
For the first time, children in special education schools will now be eligible for the ministry's Financial Assistance Scheme.
The scheme pays for the school fees, textbooks, uniforms and 75 per cent of examination fees of those from low-income families.
In January, the ministry also announced a one-off top-up of S$130 to the Edusave accounts of all primary and secondary Singapore students.
An additional $100 million grant was also awarded to schools to pay for IT equipment.
03-07-2011, 04:11 AM #4107
Hutchison Port Holdings launches S'pore's largest IPO
Posted: 07 March 2011 1234 hrs
SINGAPORE: Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) Trust launched its initial public offer for a listing on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and planned to raise as much as US$5.8 billion.
This will be Singapore's largest IPO, topping SingTel's S$4 billion listing in 1993.
HPH offered 3.9 billion units (3,899,510,000 units) for the IPO and some 185 million units (185,185,000 units) will be issued to the public.
The offer price ranges from US$0.91 and US$1.08 per Unit.
However, investors subscribing for units under the public offer will pay S$1.383 per unit.
HPH said eight cornerstone investors including Temasek Holdings unit Aranda Investments have agreed to invest US$1.6 billion.
Based on the price range, the implied Distribution per Unit (DPU) yield for the forecast period is between 5.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent, and the implied DPU yield for 2012 is between 6.1 per cent and 7.2 per cent, the Trust said in a statement.
The Trust which is the first publicly traded container port business trust, registered its prospectus with MAS on Monday.
The public offer opens at 12 noon on March 7, 2011 and closes on March 14, 2011.
The units are expected to start trading on SGX at 2pm on March 18, 2011.
DBS Bank, Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Singapore are the joint bookrunners and joint issue managers for the IPO.
03-07-2011, 10:00 AM #4108
Hyflux to build Singapore's biggest desalination plant
The Straits Times
Mar 7, 2011
Hyflux will use membrane technology in the proposed plant and generate its own power on-site for the desalting process. All excess power will be sold to the power grid. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
HYFLUX will build Singapore's second and largest desalination plant, said national water agency PUB.
At a first-year price of $0.45 per cubic metre, Hyflux offers the most competitive tariff for the supply of desalinated water over a 25-year period from 2013 to 2038.
The plant is expected to commence operations in 2013 and will add another 318,500 cubic metres of desalinated water per day to Singapore's water supply. This will enhance the drought resilience of Singapore's water supply and ensure reliability for Singapore's water users.
Hyflux will use membrane technology in the proposed plant and generate its own power on-site for the desalting process. All excess power will be sold to the power grid.
The open tender attracted a total of nine bids.
03-07-2011, 09:11 PM #4109
Lessons from Singapore's fair, not welfare, approach
The Straits Times
Review & Forum
Why S'pore succeeded, where welfare has failed
Its Confucian path out of poverty has avoided the multiple failings of US and British models
by Noel Pearson
05:55 AM Mar 08, 2011
After 10 years looking to North America and Britain for reform inspiration in the fight against poverty, I've come to the conclusion we are looking in the wrong places. There is a country in our own region from which we have more to learn: Singapore.
When we began our crusade in Cape York Peninsula, we were in part inspired by the reforms in the United States under President Bill Clinton when Congress enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996. Conditionality in welfare and strong work obligation requirements were obvious lessons from the US experience.
We also looked to Prime Minister Tony Blair's less conclusive attempts in Britain, where the rhetoric of social inclusion was resonant but little concrete reform ensued. In Australia, Ms Julia Gillard is an enthusiast of such New Labour concepts and as Deputy Prime Minister established a Social Inclusion Board soon after Labor came to power in 2007.
The problem with Australian policy-makers and leaders looking to the US and Britain for solutions to problems of poverty and social misery among disadvantaged people is - there is scant evidence of success.
The Clinton reforms reduced welfare rolls at a time of high employment and a buoyant economy but the US is hardly a paragon of poverty elimination and mobilisation of the lowest classes. The same goes for Britain. Why are we looking to these countries for policy solutions when the story of decades past shows they are struggling with the same problems without making much of a fist of them?
Yet when you look at the story of Singapore since 1965, when it gained independence, you see a society whose success in achieving the broad-based uplifting of its people is unparalleled. Income levels and rates of home and apartment ownership in Singapore speak of a people rising out of the Third World and into the First.
It is probably hard to think of a less analogous situation to remote and undeveloped Cape York Peninsula than that of the modern city-state of Singapore, peopled by an enterprising population of Chinese, Indians and Malays exploiting the special blessings of their geography, but I contend the policy lessons are germane.
Before I identify those lessons, let me outline the Singapore story.
MOBILITY FOR EVERYONE
In his fascinating memoirs, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew says he and his fellow leaders aimed to create for their country "a fair society, not a welfare society". Mr Lee recognised from the beginning the form of welfare provisioning the advanced Western nations were implementing would produce problems, and his country explicitly pursued a different philosophy and a different path.
He writes: "Watching the ever-increasing costs of the welfare state in Britain and Sweden, we decided to avoid this debilitating system. We noted by the 1970s that when governments undertook primary responsibility for the basic duties of the head of a family, the drive in people weakened.
"Welfare undermined self-reliance. People did not have to work for their families' wellbeing. The handout became a way of life. The downward spiral was relentless as motivation and productivity went down. People lost the drive to achieve because they paid too much in taxes. They became dependent on the state for their basic needs."
The great difference between the Singaporean approach and that of the welfare states of the Western world was, as Mr Lee writes: "We chose to redistribute wealth by asset-enhancement, not by subsidies for consumption."
There is in fact a great deal of redistribution in Singapore: It is just that it is strictly aimed at the asset and wealth development capabilities of its citizens.
Central to the entire approach is the compulsory savings system of the country's Central Provident Fund. The leaders of Singapore built around the CPF an array of individual and family solutions for home and apartment ownership, retirement funds and healthcare co-payment insurance funds. They mandated family-based solutions to welfare while subsidising those things that enhanced the earning and asset accumulation capacities of individuals.
By mandating a universal approach to compulsory savings and home ownership, Singapore included everyone in the society. The denizens of the shanties were not left to their own devices. They, too, were obliged and supported into apartment ownership.
Mr Lee writes of the transition phase, when families used to living in shanties first moved into apartments, taking their ducks and chickens with them. Singapore did not lock a certain section of society out of the development pathway; it developed the support structures to allow a broad-based mobility.
LESSONS OF PATERNALISM
The following lessons can be drawn from what is sometimes called a Confucian approach to development.
First, the Singaporeans upheld the primacy of individual and family self-interest to climb to a better life. Mr Lee writes: "I work on the basis that all men and women first work for themselves and their families, and only then will they share a portion of it with the less fortunate."
Australians may find Mr Lee's philosophical starting point here a bit disturbing, but a proper self-reflection on our mundane motivations should disabuse all of us from of our moral recoil. In our cups, we are similarly motivated.
Second, they established strong supports to guide individuals and families to climb to greater prosperity. Our metaphor of the staircase of opportunity that individuals climb in pursuit of their own interests is supplemented by a set of railings. The railings represent a support system that requires everyone to make provision for a full range of fundamental needs, including the need to save and get into home ownership.
Third, the Singaporeans aimed to put everyone on the development path and did not want an under class to develop. The most astounding thing is how the former union lawyer turned founding father of modern Singapore maintained such a hard-nosed commitment to an egalitarian society based on market capitalism rather than socialism.
Fourth, they redistributed money to promote wealth and asset development, not consumption. The lesson here is subsidising consumption is fatal. By doing so you neutralise the most important incentive to strive and work.
Finally, they maintained a paternalistic approach to social order and responsibility.
It is this last feature that dominates the Western caricature of Singapore and obscures a proper appreciation of its achievement and, more importantly, how they did it in countries such as Australia. Mr Lee's paternalism is sourced in Confucius rather than Mao. Singapore is a story of paternalism, not authoritarianism.
Singapore's national success writes large the principle articulated by American welfare reform theorist Lawrence Meade: "He who would be free must first be bound." In other words, for Singapore to free itself from poverty the people first had to bind themselves to certain disciplines.
I will not persuade those who think Singaporeans' journey out of the mud of Third World poverty into the advantages of the First World should have been accompanied by the perfect freedoms and licences enjoyed by their Western contemporaries. Cosmopolitan liberals forget the freedoms they enjoy are the outcome of a struggle for development in previous times.
Conceding that Singapore-style paternalism is not feasible in a liberal country such as Australia, it is nevertheless imperative that we consider the applicability of a developmental paradigm to the problems endured by those parts of Australia where inter-generational disadvantage is entrenched.
Discrete indigenous communities are obvious but so are postcodes where white and immigrant under classes predominate. The context could not be more dissimilar but the reform principles underpinning Singapore's path out of poverty are universal.
Singapore went through stages of development over 50 years, and they were led by patriots who cared about the place and its people: The sacrifices, the thrift, the hard work and the determination were part of a national undertaking.
Western nations such as Australia that are developmentally mature nevertheless have people and places that suffer from unacceptable and unnecessary levels of stagnation and poverty. These require a people and place-based developmental approach. Can we conceive ways of tackling these postcodes of disadvantage by mobilising the patriots of these places to embark on the road to development?
Noel Pearson is director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. This is an edited extract from his 2011 Sir Robert Menzies Lecture delivered in Melbourne.
03-07-2011, 09:54 PM #4110
School system 'still best way to move up'
The Straits Times
Mar 8, 2011
Kids from poorer homes still emerge as top achievers: Ng Eng Hen
By Rachel Chang
Minister for Education Ng Eng Hen said the Singapore school system was 'still the best way to move up'. -- ST PHOTO: ALBERT SIM
EDUCATION remains the great social leveller in Singapore society, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen declared in Parliament on Monday.
He provided statistics to show that children from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to achieve academically, and emphasised that the 'Singapore story' - of rising from humble beginnings to first-world success - continues for this generation of schoolchildren.
Of students in the bottom third socio-economic bracket, about half score within the top two-thirds of their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) cohort, he said.
Achievement is broad-based, he added: Every primary school, whether neighbourhood or brand-name, has at least 10 pupils who score in the top one-third of the PSLE cohort.
And of students from families living in one- to three-room HDB flats, almost 50 per cent progress to universities and polytechnics - a figure that has held steady over the past decade, despite far fewer Singaporean households now living in such flats.
Dr Ng was responding to six MPs, including Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang, who rose during the debate on the Education Ministry's budget to question if the education system still facilitates social mobility.
03-07-2011, 10:46 PM #4111
New Chapter in Singapore Story - Social Mobility & Education
The Straits Times
Mar 8 2011
Minister for Education Ng Eng Hen spoke at the Committee of Supply debate on his ministry yesterday. Below is an edited extract of his remarks on social mobility and education.
From 1960 to 2010, Singapore's per capita nominal GDP rose 100-fold, from US$400 to more than US$40,000 (S$50,700) today.
This remarkable achievement has been variously depicted - "sleepy fishing village to world-class hub", "colonial backwater to economic powerhouse"', "Third World to First", and so on. But for me, "the Singapore Story" probably best captures the economic transformation. A massive rising tide lifted all boats, with a reach extending deep into the heartland. Stagnant pools turned into thriving lakes, for the tidal rise was sustained over 40-odd years.
As a result, social mobility occurred en masse. Families moved from kampungs and slums to HDB flats - the $6,200 HDB flat in Queenstown or Toa Payoh in the 1960s. By 1990, almost 90 per cent of households owned their homes, a dramatic increase from 30 per cent in 1970. The percentage of households who lived in one- to three-room flats fell too, from 80 per cent in 1970 to 25 per cent in 2010.
The rise in educational attainments was equally impressive. In 1980, only a quarter of those aged 25 to 39 had completed secondary school or above. This jumped fourfold to nearly 96 per cent in 2010. This means that most Singaporeans born in the 1970s and 1980s would have attained educational qualifications of at least one if not two or more levels above that of their parents.
Many of us aged 50 or older today do not need these statistics to convince us of the Singapore Story. My parents had six children. My first home as a young boy was a rental flat in Zion Road. We whared it as tennants with other families. It never occurred to me that I was poor, or that it was not the norm to share abodes. The flat overlooked Alexandra Canal, which was a far cry from what it is today. It flooded often, to the delight of kids living there. I can still hear my mother warning us to be careful lest we got swept away by the currents.
Upgrading meant moving to a three-room flat in Queenstown. This time we did not have to share and we could own the flat. But there were still hard times, with bills unpaid. I remember my mother sewing and cooking at home to earn extra income. I am thankful that my parents believed in a good education for me an my siblings. That changed our lives.
I am also grateful that I could become a doctor after studying at the National University of Singapore. I know my education was heavily subsidised as my family could never have afforded its full cost. Later, a government scholarship allowed me to train in the United States as a cancer surgeon.
This unique meritocratic Singapore system - this massive rising tide - lifted a boy from a three-room flat in Queenstown to top cancer centres in the US. Today, I am able to provide my children with a quality of life far better than I could ever have imagined growing up.
My story is not unusual. Many of my old friends who grew up in the same HDB neighbourhood have done well too.
03-07-2011, 11:15 PM #4112
New Chapter in Singapore Story - Social Mobility & Education (2)
I believe deeply that the same Singapore story can and must be written for every new generation. Indeed, Singapore must always be a land of opportunity and hope for all Singaporeans.
Have we kept faith with our founding fathers and ensured that opportunities continue to exist for all today? How do we continue the Singapore Story? What does social mobility mean today with a very different societal profile from that in the 1960s and 1970s?
The Ministry of Education believes that education can and should uplift individuals and families. We cannot aim for equality of outcomes, because students are inherently different. Neither can we stop parents who can afford it from spending large sums on preschool or private tuition for their children. What we must ensure is that opportunities abound for all students and no student is denied a high quality education because he or she cannot afford it.
How do we achieve this? As always, through good schools that students can have access to, wherever they live.
We must therefore resource all schools well, not just some. We must ensure that good teachers are spread out across the system, not only concentrated at the top few schools. We must ensure that all students have enrichment programmes that develop their full potential. This is exactly what MOE has been doing for the past two decades or so.
First, we have increased our investment in education significantly. Over the last decade, it has risen steadily, even during economic downturns. Our budget this year is $10.9 billion, almost double from a decade ago and 10 per cent more than last year.
The increase in spending has benefitted all students and not only a select few. Over the last 10 years, annual recurrent funding per pupil in primary schools saw the largest increase - up 110 per cent to almost $7,000 in 2010. In the same period, funding for secondary schools and junior colleges grew almost 75 per cent. All our schools receive equal per-capita base funding from MOE. Spending on ITE, polytechnic and university students has also risen.
Over the last decade, MOE has invested some $25 billion to nurture a first-class, highly educated and well-trained teaching service - five times more than the $4.8 billion that MOE invested in upgrading the facilities of 125 primary schools and 75 secondary schools over the same period.
Compared to 10 years ago, each school today has on average 30-50 per cent more staff - at least 20 more teachers on average and new allied educators and support staff. As a result, the pupil-teacher ratio has improved from 26:1 to 19:1 - nearly 30 per cent reduction in our primary schools and 16 per cent at the secondary and JC levels. Every school has its fair share of experienced and qualified teachers.
03-08-2011, 02:29 AM #4113
New Chapter in Singapore Story - Social Mobility & Education (3)
We have also expanded the range of programmes, in particular those catering to slower learners. These include: the Learning Support Programmes for both English and Mathematics at primary schools; the offer of Elective Modules that appeal to the learning styles of Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) studentsl; and the establishment of Northlight School and the Assumption Pathway School to help students who failed PSLE and had difficulties handling the mainstream curriculum.
These investments have indeed translated to better educational outcomes. Today we have almost 100 per cent participation rate of Singaporeans in our primary schools. Close to 99 per cent of each cohort complete 10 years of primary and secondary school - one of the highest completion rates globally. The 10 years build a strong foundation for progression to our ITEs, polytechnics and/or universities. As a result, 50 per cent more students now progress to our universities, 40 per cent more to our polytechnics and 30 per cent more to ITE when compared to a decade ago.
Our education system creates opportunities for all our students. Regardless of which school they are in or their backgrounds, our students are able to learn at a pace that they are comfortable with, develop in areas they are passionate about and can excel in, and achieve their maximum potential. Customisation and differentiation of educational pathways are key reasons for our robust and responsive education system.
Has it worked to ensure social mobility? Gratifyingly, our data affirms that the Singapore Story continues for this generation. Students of all social-economic backgrounds have been able to achieve good outcomes.
Take for example the PSLE: The top 5 per cent of PSLE pupils consistently come not only from a few schools with rich parents. Every year, they come from 95 per cent of primary schools and across all socio-economic backgrounds. Every primary school has at least 10 pupils who each scores in the top one-third of his or her PSLE cohort. Coupled with merit-based entry into secondary schools, these results mean that every pupil has a good chance of success regardless of which primary school he attends, provided he is willing to work hard.
When we look specifically at pupils who start from lower socio-economic backgrounds, the picture is heartening. About half of the pupils who are from the bottom one-third by socio-economic background score within the top two-thirds of their PSLE cohort. One in six scores within the top one-third. More importantly, these figures have remained stable over the past decade.
If we look at those who lived in one- to three-room HDB flats at Primary 1, we find that one in five of them score in the top one-third in the PSLE and the same proportion score within the top 30 per cent of every O- and A-level cohort. Almost half eventually progress to our universities and polytechnics. These outcomes have remained unchaned over the past decade, despite fewer households now living in one- to three-room HDB flats.
Let me emphasise this point: In the 1980s, almost 60 per cent of our Primary 1 pupils lived in one- to three-room flats. This had fallen to 30 per cent by 1995 and yet half of them still progressed to our polytechnics and universities. Those who lived in 1- to 3-room flats only made up 15 per cent of the 2005 Primary 1 cohort who took their PSLE in 2010.
03-08-2011, 03:08 AM #4114
New Chapter in Singapore Story - Social Mobility & Education (4)
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which conducts the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), has constructed an Economic, Social and Cultural Status (ESCS) index to measure the socio-economic background of students. The OECD found there was a general positive relationship: the higher the ESCS, the higher the Pisa scores. In all countries, Singapore included students from better socio-economic backgrounds did better academically.
Interestingly, the OECD then found that in some education systems - among them Singapore's, China's, Korea's and Finland's - a larger proportion of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds were able to perform better than predicted. OECD called them "resilient students" - students who excelled despite having come from less faavourable circumstances.
Singapore was ranked 5th our of 65 countries on this count: Almost one in two of our students was resilient, compared to one in three in the OECD. The Pisa average was 26 per cent - or one in four.
These figures are not mere numbers. They translate to hope for many students here. For example, of Northlight Sschool's first cohort who graduated in 2009, 14 per cent did not stay on to complete their education. This was a sharp drop from the 60 per cent dropout rate at the old Geylang Serai Vocational Training Centre (GSVTC) that Northlight had replaced. For the 86 per cent who did graduate frjom Northlight, 32 per cent had already exceeded both their parents in terms of educational qualifications! Seventy-one per cent passed all their modules and obtained an ITE skills certificate, and 31 per cent went on to ITE.
WHAT SOCIAL MOBILITY IS NOT
What of the future? Can we ensure the Singapore Story for the next generation? Here, I want to caution what social mobility should not be about.
* First, it cannot be about neglecting those with abilities, just because they come from middle-income homes or are rich. It cnnot mean holding back those who are able so that others can catch up. This will be detrimental to the whole society. We can and must provide opportunities to all, and develop all students to their full potential.
* Second, ensuring social mobility cannot mean equal outcomes, because students are inherently different.
* Third, while we seek to provide opportunities to all, no education system can replace the vital role that families and caregivers provide for an enriched learning environment.
Here, we must dispel the notion that only rich parents can provide the right environment for their children. Recently you must have read of the twins who were top students in the A levels from Hwa Chong Institution. Their parents - one a security guard, the other a cleaner - took home modest salaries, but they were stout- hearted and determined in wanting to provide the right, not necessarily the most expensive, environment for their kids. As their mother, Madam Soh (Soo Khim), said in Mandarin: "We've always been quite poor, so I saved on things like buying new clothes. But when it comes to things like nutritious food or things for their studies, we try to make sure they have it."
They succeeded! How many richer Singaporeans would dare to say that they could have provided a better environment for these twins?
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