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  1. #5764
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    Default Paddlers strike gold in Macau

    Gao Ning and Yang Zi win Republic's first Asian Championships gold in 58 years


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    04:46 AM Mar 01, 2012

    SINGAPORE - It has been 58 years since Singapore last won a gold medal at the Asian Table Tennis Championships. At that time, the men's doubles pair of Poon Weng Hoe and Loh Heng Chew defeated their Vietnamese opponents 3-1 to claim a historic victory.

    Last night, Singapore tasted sweet success again, also in the men's doubles - this time from the combination of Gao Ning and Yang Zi, who beat South Korea's Jung Yung Sik and Kim Ming Seok 4-2 at the East Asian Games Dome in Macau.

    In a championship where Singapore's women were expected to prosper, it was Gao and Yang who came good against opponents who are ranked fourth on the ITTF Pro Tour doubles list.

    Against Jung and Kim, who had earlier upset top-seeded Chinese Ma Long and Wang Hao in the semi-finals, Gao and Yang drew first blood with a hard-fought 16-14 victory in the first game.

    The Singapore duo, who were the 2008 ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals Champion, claimed the next two games 11-5 and 13-11 for a commanding lead.

    The South Koreans mounted a late charge to claim the fourth and fifth games 11-8, 11-4, but an 11-9 victory in the sixth game saw Gao and Yang home.

    Speaking to Today in a phone interview from Macau, Gao said: "The feeling of winning is great, and I'm really very happy and very emotional after getting this gold medal.

    "This is a special moment and a breakthrough for us as it's been a long time since Singapore has won gold at the Asian Championships."

    "Before this we thought we were going to play the Chinese but, after they lost, we had a good chance as the South Koreans are about the same standard as us. The first game was very important because we were leading and really had to hold on to win it," Gao added.

    Team manager Eddy Tay credited Gao for his gutsy performance.

    "Gao Ning was very tired from playing in all four events here, but he is the overall best performer for us at these championships.

    "We had some luck here, and we knew we had to grab the chance after China didn't make the final, and it was the only final that didn't have any Chinese players in it."

    Lee Bee Wah, president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), was full of praise for the gold medal- winning effort.

    "I am proud of them for creating history. It has been a long time since Singapore won a gold medal at the Asian Championships, and I am extremely happy for Gao Ning and Yang Zi.

    "I spoke to Gao Ning after the final, and he is appreciative of what the STTA has done for men's table tennis in Singapore. Their gold medal winning effort is their way of saying thank you to the STTA.

    "I believe their win in Macau augurs well for the development of table tennis in Singapore and will help spur further interest in the game," said Lee.

    The final day of competition at the Asian Table Tennis Championships in Macau will see women's doubles pair Li Jiawei and Sun Beibei taking on Japan's Fukuhara Ai and Hirano Sayaka in the quarter-finals.

    Team Singapore have reaped a total of one gold (men's doubles), and two silver medals in the women's team and mixed doubles after a week of action at the championships.

    Gao Ning (right) and Yang Zi. Today file pho

  2. #5765
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    Shuttlers Yao Lei and Shinta score big upset



    by Low Lin Fhoong
    Updated 11:26 PM Feb 29, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Over a week after missing out on qualifying for the Thomas & Uber Cup Finals, women's doubles pair Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari made up for the disappointment on Wednesday with a first round victory over top seeded South Koreans Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung (world No 3) at the US$120,000 (S$149,300) Yonex German Open Badminton Championships.

    Chinese Taipei Open 2011 winners Ha and Kim looked on track to claim victory over the world No 12 Singaporeans after storming to a 1-0 (21-17) lead in the first game. But some deft net play from Yao Lei and Shinta saw them clawing back to clinch the next game 21-14 to set up a thrilling decider against the South Koreans. Cheered on by their teammates, the duo emerged victorious after a point for point battle to steal away with a 21-18 win.

    They will face either Sandra Marinello and Birgit Michels (Germany) or Hong Kong's Poon Lok Yan and Tse Ying Suet next in the Round of 16. Teammates Gu Juan and Ashton Chen will also contest Thursday's women's and men's singles Round of 16 respectively.

  3. #5766
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    Default Government to subsidise Lasalle-Goldsmiths degree programmes

    Posted: 29 February 2012 1419 hrs


    SINGAPORE: From August this year students can choose from 14 arts degree programmes to be offered under a tie up between the Lasalle College of the Arts and Goldsmiths College, University of London.

    These programmes are designed and developed by Lasalle and validated by Goldsmiths, one of the world's top universities for Arts and Humanities.

    Fees for the programmes will be subsidised for Singaporean and permanent resident(PR) students.

    Singaporeans pay S$10,000 per year, down from S$18,000 while PRs pay S$13,200, down from S$19,000.

    Speaking at the signing ceremony on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the partnership is an important step forward for Singapore's arts and cultural landscape.

    He said the government will continue to facilitate and encourage Singaporeans to contribute to the arts.

    He added that the government subsidy for the Lasalle-Goldsmiths degree programmes is an example of the government's commitment to giving every Singaporean the best opportunity to succeed.

    Mr Lee said students now have a wide choice of institutions and music and arts programmes to choose from, such as the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory at the National University of Singapore, the School of Art, Design and Media at the Nanyang Technological University, the Royal College of Music programmes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and the Goldsmiths programmes at Lasalle.

    These include music programmes at the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, as well as art design and media courses at the Nanyang Technological University.

    Mr Lee said: "All these reflect our commitment to build many peaks of excellence in our education system, and not merely a single pinnacle of achievement.

    "And even within the arts, to provide many alternative routes, alternative possibilities, alternative programmes and courses, so that people with very different talents and interests can each find their own niche, their own avenue and their own success."

    - CNA/ck

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    Default A*Star scientists make discovery on stem cell regulation

    Published on Mar 1, 2012

    Scientists here have found one of the factors essential for embryonic stem cells to keep on dividing. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

    By Grace Chua

    Scientists here have found one of the factors essential for embryonic stem cells to keep on dividing.

    Embryonic stem cells can be encouraged to turn into any type of tissue cell, which means they carry the potential to help repair any diseased or damaged tissue.

    In their studies of mice, a team from the Institute of Medical Biology here showed that high levels of an enzyme called Amd1 keep embryonic stem cells from turning into other cell types, and keep them dividing.


    Their research also suggests that manipulating the levels of Amd1 and other related chemicals could help guide embryonic stem cells to turn into other, clinically useful cell types.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    Default Cameras for all HDB blocks, car parks by 2016

    by Amir Hussain
    04:46 AM Mar 02, 2012

    SINGAPORE - All 10,000 Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks and multi-storey car parks will be fitted with police cameras by 2016, as part of efforts to upgrade the frontline policing model, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran in Parliament yesterday.

    The cameras, which will aid in post-incident investigations, will be installed with the support of town councils at locations such as ground-floor lift lobbies and stairwells. A pilot will be conducted in May, which will cover 300 HDB blocks and multi-storey car parks across the island.

    The new Community Policing System, which will cost about S$160 million to implement, seeks to keep up with "demographic trends and changing needs in the community, while harnessing technological developments", to better deal with future challenges in keeping neighbourhoods safe, said Mr Iswaran.

    Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs) will also be reorganised. Each NPC will have a Crime Strike Force set up "to bring the police's crime-fighting capabilities closer to the community", he added.

    In addition, the current Community Liaison and Preparedness team at each NPC will be expanded into a full-fledged Community Policing Unit, with community policing officers assigned to specific beats and conducting foot and bicycle patrols to "cultivate a more extensive network of relationships with community stakeholders", said Mr Iswaran.

    Punggol and Woodlands West NPCs will be opened later this year, bringing the total number of NPCs to 35. An additional 450 officers will be recruited, resulting in each NPC receiving 13 more officers.

    To attract high-quality police officers, starting salaries for diploma holders were raised last month by S$100 and a S$10,000 sign-on bonus was also introduced. A S$200 monthly allowance will also be introduced for frontline officers.

    Starting July, some 14,600 Home Team officers will move from a system of fixed annual increments to merit increments based on performance. These officers can expect a 10 to 15 per cent increase in their monthly pay, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean.

    The Singapore Police Force will also be creating more senior officer posts to meet the need for better-trained and able officers at the frontline. By 2015, one in four police officers will be in the senior officer cadre, as compared to one in six now.

    In response to queries about youth offenders from Members of Parliament Alex Yam, Dr Intan Azura and Mr Hawazi Daipi, Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli informed the House that the police would establish a Youth Offenders Unit next month which will coordinate and drive youth crime-related policies and programmes with partner agencies.

    The Central Narcotics Bureau's Supervision Division has also been converted into a dedicated Young Persons Reporting Centre since the start of this year for supervisees aged 21 and below, to reduce opportunities for interaction and influence by more experienced drug abusers.

    Previously, all supervisees reported to the nearest Police Land Divisions from their homes.


    TODAY FILE PHOTO

  6. #5769
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    Default Singapore to host new SEA swim meet


    by Ian De Cotta
    04:46 AM Mar 02, 2012

    SINGAPORE - For more than 50 years, the SEA Games has been the only theatre for the region's top aquatic gladiators to come together and compete for flag and country.

    It takes place every two years but with the launch of the Southeast Asian Swimming Championships (SASC) here in May, the battles are set to become an annual affair.

    The SASC will be staged in the years when the SEA Games are not held, and for a start will feature four of the five aquatic disciplines, namely swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo.

    Jeffrey Leow, president of the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA), hosts of the inaugural event, said he had been toying with the idea of a swimming competition outside the SEA Games.

    He mooted the notion with neighbouring swim chiefs during a meeting at the Youth Olympic Games here in 2010.

    The idea, he said, received wide support and it was then that the Southeast Asia Swimming Federation (SASF) was born to take the idea forward.

    "But whether it will be successful or not, we will find out after two or three editions." said Leow, who is also president of the SASF.

    "Swimming is one of the more popular sports at the SEA Games and is even more intensely fought there than at the Asian level.

    "So why wait every two years, when we can have it every year?" he added.

    The championships this year, which will be held at the Singapore Sports School and Toa Payoh Swimming complex from May 28 to June 17, will have the added significance of being the last chance for swimmers to qualify for July's London Olympics.

    The SSA expect to attract about 300 athletes for the inaugural event and, according to Leow, the cost to stage it is in the "low six-figure range".

    He added that, like the SEA Games, only medals will be awarded for the first three places.

    But Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia secretary-general Edwin Chong does not discount the possibility of the SASC evolving to a level where it will attract sponsors and in the future be able to hand out cash as prizes as well.

    Said Chong: "We have to establish the event first. Swimming is popular with fans and there is a huge following in South-east Asia, so this championship has the potential to grow and attract sponsors.

    "It will be good for swimming in the region."



  7. #5770
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    Default No 'double-double' joy in Macau

    China duo edge past Singapore's Li Jiawei and Sun Beibei to denythe Republic their second gold at Asian Championships


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    04:46 AM Mar 02, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Team-mates Gao Ning and Yang Zi had notched a historic win at the Asian Table Tennis Championships on Wednesday night after beating the South Koreans in the men's doubles final to claim the Republic's first Asiad gold in 58 years.

    On court yesterday at the Macau East Asian Games Dome for the women's doubles final, veteran paddler Li Jiawei and Sun Beibei were hoping to make it a "double-double" joy for Team Singapore.

    However, the pair had to settle for the silver after a 4-2 loss to China's Ding Ning and Guo Yan.

    With three matches packed in the final day of competition at the Asian Championships, the Singaporean duo began with a 3-1 victory over Japan's Fukuhara Ai and Hirano Sayaka in the quarter-finals.

    Next up in the top four were Lee Eun Hee and Park Young Sook of South Korea, who took the battle to a seven-match thriller before Li and Sun triumphed 4-3 to earn a final berth against the Chinese.


    Ranked sixth on the ITTF World Tour rankings, Ding Ning and Guo Yan turned on the heat from the get-go, winning the first and second game 11-7, 11-4.

    Li and Sun fought back to clinch the third, then lost the fourth before winning the next one to close the gap to 3-2 against the mighty Chinese.

    But it was a case of too little too late for the Singaporeans, as they were eventually beaten 11-3 in the sixth game. Li and partner Gao Ning had also lost the mixed doubles gold medal match to Xu Xin and Guo Yan on Tuesday.

    With a total of one gold (men's doubles) and three silvers in the women's team, women's doubles, and mixed doubles, this is the Republic's best medal haul at the Asian Championships to date.

    Speaking to Today in a phone interview from Macau, team manager Eddy Tay delivered a glowing report on the paddlers, saying: "These are the best results that we've ever gotten at the Asian Championships.

    "We've got to give Gao Ning credit for playing four events here and winning one gold and one silver ... Yu Mengyu was also one of the highlights of the championships after coming back from 2-0 down to beat Liu Shiwen (China) in the women's team final."

    But there is still much work to be done as the team heads to Taiwan for centralised training ahead of the World Team Table Tennis Championships from May 25 to April 1 in Germany.

    Tay added: "The only blip was in the women's singles, and maybe (Feng) Tianwei could have gone further.

    "Maybe people have a lot of expectations and this added a lot of pressure. But it's not a total slump.

    "We will do a review with the players ... we have only two weeks in Taiwan this time because of the Asian Championships, so every training session will be important."




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    Default Singapore's population at "demographic turning point": DPM Teo

    By Imelda Saad | Posted: 01 March 2012 1626 hrs


    SINGAPORE: The Singapore government is taking a comprehensive look at its population policies in view of the country's changing demographics.

    Even as it does this, it is introducing measures to better help parents with the cost of raising a child and helping foreign spouses sink their roots here.

    Speaking in Parliament during the Committee of Supply Debate for the Prime Minister's Office, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced enhancements to the Child Development Account.

    Under the scheme introduced in 2001, parents set up a deposit account for their child.

    The government matches the deposit one-for-one, up to a cap of S$18,000 per child, depending on the child's birth order.

    The money can be used for the developmental needs of the child, up to age six, in areas such as child care, kindergarten and health care.

    The enhanced scheme will expand the scope of this account to cover expenses at pharmacies, opticians as well as assistive technology devices for children with disabilities
    .

    The account will also last the child up till the age of 12.

    The changes will be implemented in the second half of this year.

    Another announcement - the introduction of a Long Term Visit Pass Plus (LTVP+) for foreign spouses of Singaporeans, especially those with Singapore children.

    The new pass will be introduced from April 1, 2012.

    Currently, most foreign spouses who have yet to be granted Permanent Residency or citizenship, qualify for a Long Term Visit Pass.

    Under the new Long Term Visit Pass Plus, they will have greater certainty of stay.

    The new pass will last for three years in the first instance and up to five years for each subsequent renewal, instead of the current shorter periods of typically one year.

    Holders of the new pass will also receive health care subsidies for inpatient treatment at public hospitals, pegged at a level close to that for PRs.

    That is, about the same rate as PRs even though they have not yet been granted PR status.

    Holders of the Long Term Visit Pass Plus will also find it easier to work to supplement the family income.

    They need only get a Letter of Consent from the Manpower Ministry to work.

    This can be obtained easily online.

    To qualify for the new pass, factors such as the length of marriage and whether there are citizen children in the family will be considered.

    Even as Mr Teo announced new initiatives, he stressed on the need for Singapore to attract new immigrants.

    He described 2012 as a "demographic turning point" for Singapore.

    That's because the first cohort of post-war Baby Boomers, that is those born between 1947 and 1965, will start turning 65 from this year.


    So Mr Teo said, from now till 2030, Singapore will experience an "unprecedented age shift, as over 900,000 Baby Boomers, more than a quarter of the current citizen population, retire from the workforce and enter their silver years.

    Mr Teo said at the current birth rates and without immigration, more than 1 in 4 citizens will be aged 65 and over in 2030.

    The median age of Singapore citizens will rise to 47 from 39 today.

    And to 53, post 2030.

    Fewer working adults will also support citizens aged 65 and above.

    While those entering the working-age pool will shrink.

    "Without immigration, we will face a shrinking workforce and the prospect of a shrinking economy. This challenging situation is compounded by the need to support a significantly larger elderly population at the same time," said Mr Teo.

    Mr Teo said the most critical long term issue is to "develop a sustainable population strategy that will maintain the vitality of Singapore, strengthen our harmonious multi-ethnic society, and enable Singaporeans to achieve their life aspirations".

    To this end, the National Population and Talent Division will release a White Paper by the end of the year, setting out the issues important to Singaporeans and strategies for a sustainable population.

    The division will consult various stakeholders over the course of the year.

    - CNA/cc/fa

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    Default 9 students top A-levels with 9 distinctions

    Published on Mar 2, 2012


    Nine students achieved a perfect score of nine distinctions in the A-levels results released on Friday afternoon. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

    By Amelia Tan

    Nine students achieved a perfect score of nine distinctions in the A-levels results released on Friday afternoon.

    Six of them are from Raffles Institution, two are from Hwa Chong Institution and one from River Valley High School.

    The overall A-level results were the same as last year.

    Of the 14,262 students who sat the exams in 2011, 90.8 per cent of students had passes in three or more H2 subjects and passed General Paper or Knowledge and Inquiry
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    Default

    S'pore hosts 2nd Joint Judicial Conference
    By Claire Huang | Posted: 03 March 2012 1426 hrs


    SINGAPORE: The country's top legal eagles have met their counterparts from Malaysia and Brunei in a one-day conference hosted by Singapore, to share their experiences in recent legal developments, as well as to forge closer ties between the countries.

    Held at the Supreme Court, the 2nd Joint Judicial Conference, was attended by about 60 judges and judicial officers from Singapore, Malaysia and new joiner Brunei.

    In his opening address, Singapore Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong said the session will focus on recent trends in judicial review and the court's role in the arbitral process.

    "The importance of this conference, lies as much in the judges of the three countries, being able to exchange views on judicial matters, as it does in enabling the judges to meet, to get to know one another, and through such interaction, acquire a better appreciation of how each of us deal, decide cases, under different socio-economic and political circumstances."

    With the three countries sharing the English Common Law inherited from the British, such a conference would not only facilitate the exchange of ideas between the top and bottom levels of judiciaries, but also the best practices.

    Chief Justice of Malaysia, Arifin Zakaria, said: "Whatever that happens in Singapore courts will have an influence on Malaysian courts, as well as in Brunei. Apart from that, we also look into innovation in Singapore or Malaysia, and in our exchanges... we will share our common practices and see how best we can improve."

    Brunei, with a very young judiciary, hopes to learn from its counterparts.

    Brunei's Senior Registrar, Hazarena Poksj Dp Hj Hurairah, said: "Judicial review in Brunei has actually been abolished, so if it were to be implemented back into our Constitution, then it's interesting to see how Singapore and Malaysia have taken steps and how they conduct their cases, so it's more of a learning process for us."

    The idea of the conference was first mooted by Judge of Appeal, Justice V K Rajah, to strengthen ties between the different judiciaries and the inaugural session was held last year, in Kuala Lumpur.

    - CNA/cc

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    Default Mandatory weekly rest days for foreign domestic workers from 2013


    by Esther Ng
    Updated 11:51 PM Mar 05, 2012

    SINGAPORE - From January next year, it will be mandatory for employers to give their foreign domestic workers (FDWs) weekly rest days, announced Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan Jin in Parliament yesterday.

    Employers and FDWs can work out a compensation in lieu of a rest day, but this is only if the FDW agrees. Otherwise, the FDW has the right to take her rest day. To give employers time to adjust, FDWs with work permits issued or renewed from now to Dec 31 will not be affected.

    This move comes on the back of a decades-long call by human rights activists for rest days and from an increasing trend of employers giving days-off. As Mr Tan puts it: "The debate has been long-standing and contentious.

    Yet, he noted Singapore is "one of the very few FDW destination countries" that lack provisions for weekly rest days. Only about 10 per cent of maids here have weekly rest days, and half have at least one rest day a month.

    "This has led to us becoming less attractive to FDWs compared other destinations that provide weekly rest days, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. Malaysia, too, has recently included this provision in a MOU signed with Indonesia," said Mr Tan.

    "A weekly rest day is regarded internationally as a basic labour right. More than physical rest, it is an important mental and emotional break from work," he said, adding that improving the well-being of FDWs with regular rest days, may have a "positive impact" on the quality of care that employers and their loved ones receive.

    Conversely, between 2007 and 2010, a "significant majority" of FDWs who suffered work-related injuries or committed suicide did not receive rest days, Mr Tan noted.

    Addressing employers' concerns, among which include misbehavior, Mr Tan stressed the MOM does not forfeit employers' security bonds if the FDW violates her Work Permit conditions, such as moonlighting or by getting pregnant.

    "In extreme cases where the FDW absconds and cannot be located, only half the security bond will be forfeited if the employer has made reasonable effort to locate the FDW," he said.

    Last year, 22 security bonds were "partially forfeited" for missing FDWs. "This is not large considering that we have over 200,000 FDWs in Singapore," he pointed out.

    The Ministry is also reviewing employer's obligations for medical and repatriation costs in "exceptional circumstances" that employers have little or control over, for instance, if the FDW commits a crime or if she gets pregnant.

    Families who are most likely to offer compensation in lieu because they have elderly members who require constant care, can get a S$120 monthly grant if their monthly household income is less than S$2,200, added Mr Tan. This is on top of the existing S$95 levy concession for households with elderly, young children and disabled members.

    The compensation for each rest day must be at least the worker's daily wage - the monthly wage divided by 26 days - and paid on top of her monthly wage. Employers and FDWs have to mutually agree on the number of rest days before the contract is signed.

    "The measure gives both parties flexibility. Some FDWs prefer to be compensated because they need the money," said Best Home Employment Agency's director Tay Khoon Beng.

    The Association of Employment Agencies Singapore's president K Jayprema and other agencies TODAY spoke to said the move would increase Singapore's attractiveness as a destination country.

    NGOs such as Transient Workers Count Too and Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) welcomed the move. But SCWO was concerned that FDWs, in a bid to repay their debts, would opt for no days-off, thereby diluting the purpose of this measure. Instead, SCWO proposed that a guideline or limitation of no more than two days-off a month be compensated by pay rather than time off.

    As the new regulation only applies to contracts issued or renewed next year, SCWO urged employers to "do the right thing" now, which is to give their FDWs a day-off or compensate her.

    The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics was concerned that the provision may be abused by unreasonable employers and agents who may place pressure on her to work without any days off. "The bargaining power of migrant domestic workers is weak because many of them are indebted to recruitment agents from the moment they arrive in Singapore. Employers also have the unilateral right to cancel a work permit and terminate her employment without justification," said the group's founder and president Bridget Tan. "As a result, workers who wish to claim their right to a weekly day off may end up losing their jobs instead. In a situation where a domestic worker is wrongfully dismissed because of this, she should be given the right to switch to a new employer.

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    Default HDB purchase reprieve for divorcees


    by Joanne Chan
    04:46 AM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Divorcees who get full custody of their children will no longer be subjected to a five-year debarment period when buying a second subsidised flat from the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

    Neither would they have to get prior consent from their ex-spouse to give up their right to a subsidised flat, announced National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament yesterday.

    However, the ex-spouse with no children will still be subjected to the five-year time bar, said Mr Khaw.

    He was responding to a question from Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah, who asked if his ministry would consider reviewing regulations that may be obsolete, such as asking divorcees to get a letter of confirmation from their ex-spouse.

    Under current rules, a divorcee with children is barred for five years from buying a second subsidised flat from HDB after the matrimonial home is sold.

    This policy was put in place to prevent people from exploiting the system, said Mr Khaw.

    There have been cases where couples filed for divorce and split custody of the children, so they could then qualify for two subsidised flats, he said.

    "It was an abuse. They were never seriously divorced.

    "They just wanted to take advantage of these two subsidised flats and they remained 'married'... This was an old case that prompted this policy," said Mr Khaw.

    The Government therefore put in place a rule that only one divorcee is allowed a subsidised flat within the five-year period, provided the other spouse gives up his or her right.

    But as many MPs had pointed out, it was not easy to get consent from the ex-spouse.

    Mr Khaw said the aim of the policy change was to put the interest of the young children first.

    The HDB will also be reviewing whether the five-year debarment period is too long.

    The minister noted that the HDB must balance between deterrence against abuse and minimising hardship on genuine divorcees. Joanne Chan




    TODAY FILE PHOTO

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    Default Aussie kids learn the Republic Poly way


    by Ng Jing Yng
    04:46 AM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - At Parramatta Marist High School in New South Wales, Australia, classrooms defy the traditional design of a single whiteboard and students sitting in a single file, with their teacher at the front. There are now whiteboards around the classroom after a major redesign of the all-boys school. And instead of individual learning, students now learn through group work and often huddle over circular tables to discuss the topics of the day.

    This change was inspired by the Problem-based Learning pedagogy used in Singapore's Republic Polytechnic (RP). The polytechnic, which has been using this pedagogy for the past 10 years, also acts as a centre to help other countries adapt the concept and assist in training overseas teachers in the pedagogy. Besides Parramatta Marist High School, RP has worked with 10 overseas institutions to implement problem-based learning in classrooms. As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, RP will launch its Problem-based Learning Institute tomorrow.

    The teaching method works by students dealing with real cases and finding ways to solve the issues. Students learn in a collaborative team setting where they handle unfamiliar information during discussions and come up with feasible solutions together. Under such a setting, the teacher takes on a facilitator role.

    For Parramatta Marist High, which adopted the method in 2008 after learning about it from RP, the results have been positive.

    For the first batch of students under the pedagogy, its Higher School Certificate Examinations last year saw an increase in scores as compared with the previous year.

    In mathematics, for instance, there were 10 per cent more students achieving the top bandings. English, too, saw a 6 per cent increase in students' achievement for the top bandings.

    Besides academic improvements, teachers also witnessed fewer disciplinary issues among their pupils and students are now more eager to ask questions in class.

    Said Parramatta Marist High English Coordinator Shereen D'Souza: "The boys are more engaged during lessons now and when they get to work together, they learn about others."

    Other teachers interviewed said that it took some months for the students to get used to working with others and exchanging ideas. However, with group work, students are pushed to contribute and to display traits like responsibility and maturity that will prepare them for the future workplace.

    Parramatta Marist High student Mark Elias, 16, was sceptical of the teaching method at first, as he was used to individual learning and he was worried about working with others.

    Now, he is convinced after receiving help from his peers in his weakest subject, ancient history, in which the entire class participated to provide content.

    He said: "Everyone ended up learning together and it also helped others who might not understand the topic as well to better grasp the concepts."



    Parramatta Marist High School students in group learning. PHOTO COURTESY REPUBLIC POLYTECHNIC

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    Regular Member Loh's Avatar
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    Default Leadership programme to boost Asian universities

    by Amanda Lee
    04:46 AM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - An inaugural leadership programme was launched yesterday to propel Asian universities to be among the world's elite, as well as to share best practices in the education sector.

    About 60 university presidents and the senior leadership of 17 ASEAN universities are here to discuss issues and challenges confronting Asian universities, under the Temasek Foundation-National University of Singapore Programme for Leadership in University Management.

    Over the next four days, the university leaders will discuss challenges facing Asian higher education in the 21st century, such as faculty appointment, development and retention, educational philosophy and curriculum reform, and entrepreneurship in academia.

    Temasek Foundation, which is providing a S$700,000 grant over two years, hopes that the participants will use the platform to develop new approaches in tackling challenges in university leadership, strategic planning and faculty management.

    "Many Asian universities are investing heavily in higher education and we are seeing more universities rising in standards and profile in the global arena," said Temasek Foundation chief executive Benedict Cheong.

    NUS president Professor Tan Chorh Chuan said with globalisation, societies are fundamentally changing the higher education landscape and higher education has an increasingly critical role to play in driving economic and societal development.

    "In the past few decades, many Asian countries have embraced modern technologies and innovative approaches that have enabled them to leapfrog ahead in the global economy," he said.

    Going forward, Associate Professor Peter Pang, assistant vice-president (university and global relations) at NUS, said the university would engage the participating universities to sustain dialogue on the development of Asian higher education.

    "Through this engagement, we hope that the ideas that are generated will be developed further and can benefit more Asian universities," he said.


    University Cultural Centre at NUS. Photo by wong khing chong

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    Default CPF Life scheme to be simplified from 4 to 2 options

    Published on Mar 5, 2012

    By Tessa Wong

    The CPF Life annuity scheme, which provides retirees with a lifelong monthly payout, will be simplified to make it easier for Central Provident Fund (CPF) members to choose what scheme they want. From next year onwards, the number of options will be reduced from four to two, Manpower Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told Parliament on Monday.

    He said the change was done based on feedback and the popularity of the four current plans - Plus, Balanced, Basic and Income.

    The new default option for CPF members will be the Standard plan, which combines the popular Plus and Balanced plans. The Income plan will be scrapped, as the take-up rate has been low. Mr Tharman said the new Standard plan should meet the needs of most members, giving them a slightly higher payout while still allowing them to leave a bequest.

    A Simpler CPF LIFE

    The other option is the Basic plan, which will remain unchanged and cater to those who want to leave behind a higher bequest while receiving a slightly lower payout.
    Last edited by Loh; 03-05-2012 at 08:40 PM.

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    Default HDB flats to get elderly-friendly enhancements

    by Sumita Sreedharan
    04:46 AM Mar 06, 2012

    SINGAPORE - To enhance the safety and comfort of seniors, the Ministry of National Development (MND) is introducing a new scheme to implement elderly-friendly improvements to Housing and Development Board (HDB) homes, Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan announced in Parliament yesterday.

    This includes implementing slip-resistant treatment to toilet floor tiles and grab bars within the flat. Also, where technically feasible, ramps will be added to help the elderly person negotiate level differences in the flat and at the main entrance of his flat.

    To be rolled out as optional improvements under the HDB's enhanced Home Improvement Programme (HIP) from July, the Enhancement For Active Seniors (EASE) scheme is expected to benefit around 130,000 households with elderly and vulnerable residents. It will cost the Government about S$260 million.

    The Government will provide a subsidy of up to 95 per cent of the cost. The resident would pay an amount ranging from S$100 to S$250, depending on his flat type. Residents pay only for the improvements they choose.

    It will apply to all future HIP projects from July and extend to ongoing HIP projects that are not completed by July.

    For seniors like Madam Loo Wai Heng, 90, whose Marine Parade home was part of a similar pilot programme, moving around at home will become much more convenient.

    Before the grab bars were retrofitted in her flat, Mdm Loo would grab anything within reach to move around. "When she was trying out the new grab bars, she was all smiles and happily said "not bad, not bad, it's more convenient for me now", recounted Mr Lee.

    Elderly and vulnerable residents who want the improvements earlier, or whose blocks do not qualify for HIP, can apply for EASE through the HDB branch offices directly. They must meet certain criteria to qualify.

    The HDB will start direct applications from July 1 in several HDB towns with more seniors and will study feedback before rolling it out to all estates. More details will be announced later.

    To further enhance accessibility for HDB residents, the HDB will roll out a lift installation programme for the remaining 548 multi-storey car parks without lifts, subject to feasibility studies. There are a total of 740 multi-storey car parks. This programme is estimated to cost S$120 million and will be rolled out from this year to 2016.

    The HDB is also planning to roll out pilot projects under the Greenprint concept. A neighbourhood in Jurong East will see water and energy-saving solutions and a Pneumatic Refuse Collection System, which uses air to move refuse through pipes to collection points. The Greenprint will also look at supporting greener living by piloting a Green Home Package, where residents can choose to use energy-saving appliances.

    Madam Loo using grab bars installed by the HDB to get around her flat. Photo by DON WONG

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    Default Most welcome new Long Term Visit Pass-Plus for foreign spouses

    Long Term Visit Pass-Plus may relieve labour shortage, benefit those who need help most

    Published on Mar 6, 2012


    By Jessica Lim & Ng Kai Ling

    Everything was going well for Mr Clement Kang and his wife from China after they married in July 2010. Their future plans included having a child.

    But despair set in a year later when Madam Fu Shiying's Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) was up for renewal. The first attempt to do so failed and so did the next five tries.

    In January, Mr Kang, 54, a taxi driver, finally secured a one-year pass after appealing through Hougang PAP adviser Desmond Choo. 'The reason they gave was they were afraid that I could not support my wife because my income was irregular,' said Mr Kang, who earns an average of $2,000 a month.

    Background story

    The Long Term Visit Pass-Plus at a glance

    THE Long Term Visit Pass-Plus (LTVP+) scheme will take effect on April 1, 2012.

    Not all foreign spouses will be given the new pass. Couples who have at least one Singaporean child from their marriage will be eligible to apply. For those without children, factors such as the duration of the marriage and the sponsor's ability to support a foreign spouse will be considered.

    It will last for three years in the first instance, and up to five years for each renewal. The LTVP lasts a year.

    LTVP+ pass holders can get health-care subsidies for inpatient services at restructured hospitals, close to levels that permanent residents enjoy. Those on the LTVP do not benefit from such subsidies.

    LTVP+ pass holders can work to supplement the family income.
    The prospective employer has to apply online to the Ministry of Manpower for a letter of consent. Those issued with the letter will not be counted in their employers' foreign worker quotas, or as part of the local workforce. Their bosses will not be required to pay a foreign workers' levy for them.

    Those on the LTVP cannot work unless they have an employment pass, S-Pass or work permit.

    From next month , things could get better for people like Mr Kang. The Government said last week it is introducing a Long Term Visit Pass-Plus (LTVP+) that will allow foreign spouses of citizens to stay for three years in the first instance, and up to five years for each renewal.

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