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    Default Singapore named best sports city in Asia

    Updated 01:41 PM May 24, 2012

    SINGAPORE - Singapore has been named the best sports city in Asia at this year's Sport Accord International Convention in Quebec.

    CEO of Singapore Sports Council Lim Teck Ying said, "We are pleased to be named the best sports city in Asia and we are committed towards building a diverse events strategy, one that will help us create a dynamic and sustained sporting culture in Singapore."

    Globally, this year's top spot went to the 2012 Olympic host city, London, who ended Melbourne's reign as the number one sports city for the past three consecutive awards.

    Melbourne finished second, while fellow Australian city Sydney came in third.

    The cities were assessed on a diverse range of criteria, which include the number of federations hosted, the calibre of events currently being bid for, facilities and venues, transport, accommodation, government support, security, legacy, public sports interest, quality of life and marketing.

    Cities are also graded according to the number of annual sports and major events held or won between 2008 and 2016.

    Since 2008, Sporting Singapore has hosted a series of high-profile sports events, including the Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix. CHANNEL NEWSASIA






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    Default Five days in a learning nation

    There's a lot the world should learn from S'pore's school system - and some things the Republic can learn from the world, says OECD's special adviser on education

    by Andreas Schleicher
    04:45 AM May 25, 2012

    I had always been interested in Asia's success story of Singapore, that transformed itself from a developing country to a modern industrial economy in one generation. Last year, I had the opportunity of a visiting professorship at Singapore's National Institute of Education (NIE) to learn more about this country.

    If I had to summarise what I learned in one sentence, this is a story about political coherence and leadership as well as alignment between policy and practice; about setting ambitious standards in everything you do; about focusing on building teacher and leadership capacity to deliver vision and strategy at the school level; and about a culture of continuous improvement and future orientation that benchmarks educational practices against the best in the world.

    At the institutional level, both policy coherence and fidelity of implementation are brought about by a strategic relationship between the Ministry of Education, the NIE and the schools.

    Those are not just words. The reports I received from policymakers, researchers and teachers were entirely consistent, even where they represented different perspectives.



    MEET-UPS WITH THE MINISTER

    The NIE's dynamic director Lee Sing Kong meets the minister on a weekly basis. NIE professors are regularly involved in ministry discussions and decisions, so it is easy for the NIE's work to be aligned with ministry policies, and school principals learn about major reform proposals directly from the minister, rather than through the media.

    Teacher education programmes are designed with the teacher in mind, rather than to suit the interests of academic departments. Teachers typically go into the field with a first degree, the master's programme serves to frame the practical experience gained in schools within a coherent theoretical underpinning later in mid-career - and I met plenty of teachers who had taken that up and continue their education while in the profession.

    In recognising the need for teachers to keep up with the rapid changes occurring in the world and to be able to constantly improve their practice, every teacher is entitled to 100 hours of professional development per year. Teacher networks and professional learning communities encourage peer-to-peer learning, and the Academy of Singapore Teachers was opened in September 2010 to further encourage teachers to continuously share best practices.



    WHY SINGAPORE IS NOT LIKE THE US

    The usual complaint that teacher education does not provide sufficient opportunity for recruits to experience real students in real classrooms in their initial education is not unknown in Singapore.

    It is simply difficult, disruptive and expensive to get an annual cohort of 2,000 teacher recruits into classrooms. So what to do? Do like Stanford and establish the world's premier teacher education institution with clinical experience for a hundred students per year, and let the rest of the country sink?

    Singapore is not the United States, where teacher policy is a function of myriad decisions made by the local authorities who often have no idea how their decisions are actually affecting the quality of the teaching profession.

    So Singapore has gone the other way round - on top of school practicum attachments of 10 to 22 weeks, the NIE is bringing classrooms digitally into pre-service education, with technology enabling real-time access to a selection of the country's classrooms, in ways that do not distract schools from their core business and, at the same time, provide student-teachers with insights into classroom experience in many schools, rather than have a few idiosyncratic experiences only.

    The NIE also carries out an amazing range of classroom-oriented research to help teachers personalise learning experiences, deal with increasing diversity in their classrooms and differences in learning styles, and keep up with innovations in curricula, pedagogy and digital resources.



    TALENT NURTURED, NOT LEFT TO CHANCE

    It is also striking to see how teaching talent is identified and nurtured, rather than being left to chance.

    Like all government employees and many other professions in Singapore, the teachers' performance is appraised annually by a board and against 13 different competencies. These are not just about academic performance but include teachers' contribution to the academic and character development of the students, their collaboration with parents and community groups, and their contribution to their colleagues and the school as a whole.

    It was intriguing to see how teachers did not seem to view this as a top-down accountability system but as an instrument for improvement and career development.

    Teachers who do outstanding work receive a bonus from the school's bonus pool. After three years of teaching, teachers are assessed annually to see which of three career paths would best suit them - master teacher, specialist in curriculum or research or school leader. Importantly, the individual appraisal system sits within the context of great attention to the school's overall plan for educational excellence.

    Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that schools in Singapore have comparatively limited leeway in making hiring decisions. But I learned that the principal of the school to which teacher-students are attached will sit on the recruitment panel and weigh in on decisions about the recruitment of the people they could end up with - well aware that wrong recruitment decisions can result in 40 years of poor teaching.

    So it is not all just about your school but about the success of the system.



    THE IMPRESSIVE ITE

    I could see how all of this plays out in practice in Qifa Primary School. It was the experience you would expect in Singapore, a charismatic school leader, an engaged team of teachers with a critical and collaborative mindset, and disciplined and yet cheerful students.

    But what impressed me most was a visit to one of Singapore's three Institutes of Technical Education (ITE), which cater for the bottom quarter of school performers. I had long wanted to see how the country deals with these students.

    I was received in the school's restaurant which, entirely managed and run by students, almost looks like an upgraded Lau Pa Sat with air-conditioning, serving dishes from a dozen countries and cultures, a symbol of a country that does not see culture as an obstacle but seeks to capitalise on its diversity.

    I visited a classroom where a visiting Australian chef was captivating a group of students with an interactive presentation on the latest research on preparing meat, in a first-class learning environment equipped with up-to-date technology. The facilities and amenities of the ITE were easily comparable to those of modern universities anywhere else.

    This is a country that invests the same amount of public money into every vocational student as the high school student going to its most prestigious university, that understands that the physical learning environment can shape the image of an institution, and that prioritises the quality of teaching over the size of classes.

    And the ministry provides the ITEs with full budgetary autonomy over a 10-year budget envelope to facilitate long-term strategic planning and investment.



    MORE THAN ONE ROUTE TO SUCCESS

    Clearly, Singapore seeks to break the East Asian mould where academic achievement is revered as the only route to success, recognising that students learn differently and differently at different stages in their lives.

    Once seen as a last resort, Singapore's ITE College West is now a place of choice for students, with 90 per cent of graduates finding jobs in their chosen field, up from 60 per cent decades ago. The ITE also sees a sizeable number of students who make it from the ITE to the polytechnic to the university and to anywhere in life.

    Principal Yek Tiew Ming explained how the ITE carefully follows its graduates for a decade to learn from their experience and success, and regularly brings successful alumni back to show its current students that the sky is the limit to achievement.


    The ITEs also provide good examples for building synergies between public provision and the business sector. Each technical field in the ITEs is advised by industries in that sector to keep it current with changing demands and new technologies.

    New programmes can be built for multinational companies looking to locate in Singapore.

    All this has changed the way in which political leaders and educators view those students, no longer considering them as failures but as experiential learners. And I was impressed by the students of the ITE as much as by its principal and teachers.



    LESSONS FOR THE WORLD

    I had taken the outgoing flight with a Western airline and the returning flight to Paris with Singapore Airlines. You fly with the same plane with the same technology, you eat similar food, but you experience how much the sense of responsibility, dedication and diligence of the people in charge can make a difference to your experience as a customer.

    There are lessons the world can learn from Singapore.

    To those who believe that systemic change in education is not possible, Singapore has shown several times over how this can be achieved. To become and remain high-performing, countries need a policy infrastructure that drives performance and builds the capacity for educators to deliver it in schools. Singapore has developed both.

    Where Singapore is today is the result of several decades of judicious policy and effective implementation. On the spectrum of national reform models, Singapore's is both comprehensive - the goal has been to move the whole system - and public policy-driven. I was struck most by the following features.


    - Meritocracy I heard not just from policymakers or educators, but also from students of all ethnic backgrounds and all ranges of ability, that education is the route to advancement and hard work and effort eventually pays off.

    The Government has put in place a wide range of educational and social policies to advance this goal, with early intervention and multiple pathways to education and career. The success of the Government's economic and educational policies has brought about immense social mobility that has created a shared sense of national mission and made cultural support for education a near-universal value.


    - Vision, leadership and competency Leaders with a bold long-term vision of the role of education in a society and economy are essential for creating educational excellence. I was consistently impressed with the people I met at both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Manpower. These Ministries are staffed by knowledgeable, pragmatic individuals, trained at some of the best universities in the world.

    They function in a culture of continuous improvement, constantly assessing what is and is not working using both data and practitioner experience from around the world. I was speaking with Minister Heng Swee Keat about our Skills Strategy, only to realise that he had already studied most of my slides.

    They also respect and are respected by professionals in the NIE as in the schools. The close collaboration between policy, research and practice provides a guiding coalition that keeps the vision moving forward and dynamic, expecting education to change as conditions change rather than being mired in the past.


    - Coherence In Singapore, whenever a policy is developed or changed, there seems enormous attention to the details of implementation - from the Ministry of Education, to the National Institute of Education, cluster superintendents, principals and teachers. The result is a remarkable fidelity of implementation which you see in the consistency of the reports from different stakeholders.


    - Clear goals, rigorous standards and high-stakes gateways The academic standards set by Singapore's Primary School Leaving Examination and O- and A-levels are as high as anywhere in the world, and that is also what you see from their results in PISA.

    Students, teachers and principals all work very hard towards important gateways. Rigour, coherence and focus are the watchwords. Serious attention to curriculum development has produced strong programmes in maths, science, technical education and languages and ensured that teachers are well-trained to teach them. Having been very successful as a knowledge transmission education system, Singapore is now working on curriculum, pedagogy and assessments that will lead to a greater focus on high-level, complex skills.


    - High-quality teachers and principals The system rests on active recruitment of talent, accompanied by coherent training and serious and continuing support that promote teacher growth, recognition, opportunity and well-being. And Singapore looks ahead, realising that, as the economy continues to grow and change, it will become harder to recruit the kind of top-level people into teaching that are needed to support 21st-century learning.


    - Intelligent accountability Singapore runs on performance management. To maintain the performance of teachers and principals, serious attention is paid to setting annual goals, to garnering the needed support to meet them and to assessing whether they have been met.

    Data on student performance are included, but so too are a range of other measures, such as contribution to school and community, and judgments by a number of senior practitioners. Reward and recognition systems include honours and salary bonuses. Individual appraisals take place within the context of school excellence plans.

    While no country believes it has got accountability exactly right, Singapore's system uses a wide range of indicators and involves a wide range of professionals in making judgments about the performance of adults in the system.


    BUT HOW TO UNLEASH GREATNESS?

    So is there nothing that Singapore can learn from the world? Actually, there are a number a points.

    You can mandate good performance, but you need to unleash greatness. Finland provides an example for how you can shift the focus from a regulating towards an enabling policy environment. Perhaps it was no surprise then that, when I met Minister of State Lawrence Wong for lunch, he had just returned from a visit to Finland.

    Singapore's educators realise that the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test, are also the skills that are easiest to digitise, automate and outsource - and that value is less and less created vertically through command and control, and increasingly so horizontally by whom you connect and work with.

    There is much talk about educational success being no longer about reproducing content knowledge, and efforts initiated to develop imaginative skills to connect the dots and to anticipate where the next invention will come from; about ways of working, including communication and collaboration; and about the tools for working, including the capacity to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies.

    And more than that, the centre of the current discussion is now on ethics, values and the capacity of students to live in a multi-faceted world as active and engaged citizens.

    But Singapore's educators, like educators elsewhere, struggle with finding appropriate answers to what students should learn, the ways in which they can learn these broader competences and how teaching and schooling needs to change to achieve this.


    AT A SOCIAL DISADVANTAGE

    Despite building many bridges and ladders across the system, PISA shows how social background still creates important barriers for student success.

    Like others, Singapore finds that the emphasis on meritocracy alone provides no guarantee for equity, and that it takes effective systems of support to moderate the impact of social background on student and school outcomes, and to identify and foster the extraordinary talents of ordinary students.

    Educators are inspired by the life-changing opportunities created at the Northlight School. There is also considerable interest in Shanghai's success with attracting the most effective school principals to the toughest schools and the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms; as well as in Ontario's approach to creating awareness of and addressing social disadvantage.

    While Singapore does so well in allocating public resources to maximise value for money, parents are spending significant resources on private tutoring. When measured in PISA metrics, private tutoring actually adds very little in value to the high-quality education in Singaporean schools - but it does, apart from the money, take up a disproportionate amount of student learning time.

    Singapore would make much better use of the country's economic and human resources by accepting, rather than ignoring, the demand for such more personalised learning; and perhaps building it into the regular school days of public schools, as countries like Denmark or Finland have successfully done.

    So, all in all, while there is a lot the world can learn from Singapore, there remain lessons too which Singapore can continue to learn from the world.



    Andreas Schleicher is the deputy director for education and special advisor on education policy to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Secretary-General. This article first appeared as a blog post, 'Singapore: Five days in thinking schools and a learning nation', at the OECD webpage EducationToday.




    The ITEs provide a first-class hands-on learning environment, with their facilities comparable to universities anywhere else. TODAY FILE PHOTO
    Last edited by Loh; 05-24-2012 at 09:08 PM.

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    Default First army open house in city set to draw record visitors

    By Monica Kotwani | Posted: 24 May 2012 1907 hrs



    A visitor to a previous Army Open House tests his sharp-shooting skill.


    SINGAPORE: The army is set to have its first open house in the city, at the F1 Pit Building.

    Themed "Army Open House@our city", it promises heartpumping activities for the young and old, as well as stories that will tug at your heartstrings.

    There is something to get everyone involved in this year's open house.

    The Combat Zone will let visitors display their sharp-shooting skills, while the Kidz Bootcamp in the Carnival Zone will keep younger ones occupied with obstacle courses.

    Regular favourites include an elaborate showcase featuring music and performances of the army's capabilities.

    With the open house being held in the city for the first time, organisers expect to attract a record number of about 180,000 people.

    And with generations of Singaporean men - fathers and sons - contributing towards the nation's defence for 45 years, expect some heartwarming stories told through multi-media galleries and exhibitions.

    Brigadier-General Yeo See Peng, chairman of the open house, said: "We're bringing in about 300 Nsmen to serve as ambassadors. Because they're more experienced soldiers - most of them are into their 3rd and 4th ICT (in-camp training)- we hope they can share their experiences (with) the younger ones and (convey) the importance of national service and national defence."

    To make the stories come alive, father-and-son pairs like Private Seow Yongzhi and his father will be on hand to relate the different experiences of National Service over the years.

    "For the older generation, it's really a reliving of their time, and for the younger generation, I'll be there as their mascot, to show them what it's like," said Private Seow.

    The public can go to the Army Open House on May 26 and 27.

    - CNA/cc
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    Default Financial District Changes

    Even now when we have the new financial district at Marina Bay fully operational, the 'old' financial, civic and cultural districts at Raffles Place continue to hum. Nearby Boat Quay still remains a popular watering hole to many pub goers in the evenings, especially the expatriate community.

    Tourists continue to ply the Singapore River and visit the Asian Civilisations Museum.
    And locals are found in large numbers at Boat Quay to while away the night. The ice-cream vendor continues to make good business, satisfying the ever appreciative customers with his relatively cheap drinks and ice-cream.

    Physical changes and refurbishments to some of the old buildings are taking place in earnest to catch up with those at the nearby Esplanade and especially the Marina Bay. The famous grand old lady, Victoria Memorial Hall, is having a makeover. So too is the old Supreme Court across the road which will be converted into a world-class arts museum.

    So it seems Singapore never stands idle and continues to make improvement in good as well as bad times.
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    Last edited by Loh; 05-25-2012 at 01:42 AM.

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    Default NBA eyes Singapore

    Today Exclusive




    Basketball's premier brand gets behind Vision 2030


    by Ian De Cotta
    02:51 AM May 28, 2012



    SINGAPORE - The world's top basketball property, the NBA (National Basketball Association), is planning to establish a permanent base in Singapore to reach out to the more than half-a-billion people in South-east Asia to develop the sport.

    As part of an aggressive multi-pronged campaign to help basketball grow, executives of NBA, which according to Forbes magazine had revenues of US$4 billion (S$5.13 billion) last year, have also been in talks with the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to support the country's Vision 2030 for sports.

    In an exclusive interview with TODAY at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last week, NBA Asia senior vice-president and managing director Scott Levy said that with the sport getting more attention in the region, the opportunity to get more people into the game is "tremendous".

    The New Yorker said they will put out more events to attract fans and while he declined to reveal the details, TODAY understands this includes the Singapore launch of an annual NBA-organised 3-on-3 tournament later this year for local teams, with top NBA stars in attendance.

    It is a step up from the one-off Basketball Without Borders Asia camp here in 2010 that was conducted by such big names as Trevor Ariza, Al Horford, Taj Gibson, Francisco Garcia and Corey Brewer.

    But Levy stressed their interest in Asia goes beyond promoting the NBA property and that they have a long-term commitment to help basketball federations in the continent develop the sport.

    "Our strategy from media and merchandise to events is unique and specific to each country," said Levy, who makes regular trips here.

    "In Singapore, we sit down with the SSC and STB (Singapore Tourism Board) to understand what they are trying to achieve and which programmes we do around the world are the right ones for Singapore, so that we can jointly benefit from what is going on here.

    "We have been talking to the SSC in detail for three years because we hope to support the growth of sport here through their Vision 2030.

    "They were a major part of our Basketball Without Borders Asia event two years ago."

    While the NBA has been conducting events in Asia for two decades, its aggressive push into South-east Asia only started in 2010.

    Last year, it launched the 3-on-3 tournament in Thailand and the Philippines, and Levy wants to get more countries on board to pave the way for a regional championship in 2013.

    With governments in the region increasingly supporting sport, Levy said the time is right for NBA to do more to promote basketball.

    Said the 45-year-old: "We've got 600 million people in South-east Asia and with infrastructure development and new arenas like the Sports Hub in Singapore coming up, this is an up-and-coming region.

    "The urban development puts basketball in a good spot and the potential for growth is tremendous."

    The NBA operates from a regional headquarters in Hong Kong, with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, South Korea and Mumbai, but Levy sees Singapore as an ideal base to reach the markets surrounding it.

    He said the Lion City offers opportunities for all of the brand's business lines and could potentially host a centre for it as well as stores, restaurants and bigger NBA events.

    "We need people on the ground and it is in our business plan to have an office at some point in Singapore from where we can roll out to other regions," Levy said.

    "Given the infrastructure, the facilities, ease of transport, the airport and the airline, it is a city where you can definitely demonstrate your product.

    "If we have to bring talent to Singapore, there is a tremendous amount on offer here like the Sports Hub and state-of-the-art facilities for every major sport that allow us to show our event or property the way we want to."





    NBA Asia vice-president and MD Scott Levy





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    Default Amateurs give the pros a scare

    First XI lose to S-League All Stars, but impress many


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    02:51 AM May 28, 2012



    SINGAPORE - Turnstiles at stadiums during this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League have hardly been busy, with average crowds of only 932.

    But for 70 minutes last night, the 7,500-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium was transformed, as the First XI, MediaCorp Channel 5's sports reality TV series, ended with a night of football, entertainment, and even a touch of drama with a dancer's wardrobe malfunction reminiscent of Janet Jackson's act at Super Bowl XXXVIII.

    The loudest cheers, whistles and roars, however, were reserved for the night's celebrity footballers from the First XI, who took on an S-League All Stars outfit that included veteran Tampines Rovers forward Aleksandar Duric, Hougang United's Jordan Webb and 2011 S-League Player of the Year Mislav Karoglan of SAFFC.

    The action may not have sizzled the entire game - the match was played in 35-minute halves - but that hardly dampened the atmosphere, with over 7,000 spectators cheering each lung-bursting run, tackle and attempt on goal.

    With Duric shackled by First XI captain John Spackman, it was SAFFC forward Fazrul Nawaz who finally broke the deadlock after 63 minutes, capitalising on a goalmouth melee for the match's only goal.

    Despite the loss, First XI coach R Sasikumar - who shared duties with former Liverpool midfielder Steve McMahon - was happy with his players.

    "They were excellent and played according to the game plan," the former Singapore international told TODAY.

    "We knew we had to soak in their attack and we played to our strengths. I've worked with them for 10 weeks ... and I couldn't have asked for anything more."

    The First XI will head for a training stint at Real Madrid in September, and last night's performance has encouraged Mohamad Helmi Mohamad.

    "As an amateur team, we did very well against the professionals, were disciplined and kept possession," said the midfielder, now undergoing trials with SAFFC.

    "Of course, we are disappointed with the result, and we could have beaten them if we played the full 90 minutes. It's really been an awesome journey for me with the First XI."

    Captain Spackman was equally delighted with his team-mates' gritty display.

    "We always knew it was going to a tough match, and I'm very proud of them today. I was also very surprised by the turnout in the stadium and the atmopshere and noise really pushed me on," he said.

    Veteran Tampines forward Duric also felt the atmosphere generated last night was something the S-League could do with.

    "I'm surprised by the numbers as we don't get that for Singapore football," said the 41-year-old, who praised Spackman and Helmi.

    "The S-League definitely needs something like this. The people who came really enjoyed themselves because it was not only football, but music and entertainment."

    "There are definitely some good players, but now the reality show is over, and they have to get back into the real world and try to be professional players."







    First XI defender John Spackman (left, in white) gets the better of S-League All Stars' Fazrul Nawaz (right, in blue) during their sides' match at the Jalan Besar Stadium on May 27, 2012. Photo by WEE TECK HIAN

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    Default More opportunities for young table tennis talent


    by Low Lin Fhoong
    02:51 AM May 28, 2012

    SINGAPORE - There may soon be more opportunities for young table tennis talents in Singapore to further their development.

    Yesterday, the winners of the Crocodile Challenge Cup were crowned at Velocity@Novena Square, which included nine-year-old Chia Jun Yuen of Nanyang Primary School, who won the boys' (Primary 3 & 4) title.

    And now, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) could be looking at sending the winners of the various categories at next year's Crocodile Challenge Cup to compete in the International Table Tennis Federation's Junior Pro Tour or for an overseas training stint.

    "I'm happy to see the growth in popularity for this event. We want more schools to join ... We would like to use this platform to cast our net as wide as possible to catch young talents," said Lee.

    Organised by the STTA, the four-and-a-half hour finale at Velocity@Novena Square saw a total of 252 local participants from 41 schools competing in six categories - Primary 1 & 2 Boys' and Girls' singles, Primary 3 & 4 Boys' and Girls' singles, Primary 5 & 6 Boys' and Girls' singles - for the total prize money of S$18,000.

    Spectators were also treated to a special exhibition match between the Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, and STTA president Lee Bee Wah, who sparred with Jun Yuen and Ai Tong School's Sean Ang, 10.

    However, the table tennis chief declined to comment on the recent performances of Singapore's women paddlers, who were ousted from the quarter-finals of the women's singles and doubles at the China Open on Saturday.

    The loss could cost them valuable ranking points for the London Olympics, which start on July 27.

    While there have been concerns about their dip in form, Lee said the paddlers' performances will be addressed at a media conference next month. LOW LIN FHOONG







    Spectators were treated to a special match at the Crocodile Challenge Cup. PHOTO COURTESY STTA

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    Default The pleasure of serving NS

    by From Tang Li
    02:51 AM May 28, 2012

    Reading the letters "Examine answers of new immigrants" and "NS is the least they can do" (May 24) reminded me of an incident at a birthday party a few years ago.

    One of the guests asked a renowned ophthalmologist: "Are you a Singaporean?" His reply: "If you're asking me whether I served National Service (NS), the answer is yes."

    I always think of this incident when the issue of NS crops up. If there is an experience that unites Singaporean men, regardless of race, religion and, more importantly, family financial status, NS has to be it. I take my own experiences as an example.

    One could say that I come from a privileged background. I spent most of my formative years abroad in an English boarding school.

    What I knew of Singapore was "condo-heartland", and the people I knew were like me, part of the educated elite who understood that going to university was a given.

    The army opened my eyes to the "real" Singapore. I met people who thought that secondary school, let alone university, was a privilege. I was dubbed "kantang" (westernised) for the way I spoke.

    My perspective on money changed: I mixed with people whose parents earned what mine spent on holidays.

    Despite this, I regard this period as one of the most important of my life. It taught me to look beyond who a person was and to look at what they are instead.

    Life in the 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery was not a bed of roses by anyone's standards. However, it was where I made some of my best friends, including one whose father owned a plastic factory and the son of a single mother who ran a fish stall.

    This was the beauty of the real Singapore.

    Would I have rushed to serve in the army? No. If I could have avoided it, I would have.

    However, I went through it and accepted the lessons it taught me.

    When I returned in 2000 to start life, I came back knowing Singapore for what it is, warts and all, rather than what someone would want me to believe it is.

    I respect anyone who volunteers for NS or insists that their sons go through it. This tells me that they want to be Singaporean for what it really means rather than what it can buy them. These are the people who should be welcomed as Singaporeans.

    I know because my NS experience made me a Singaporean.
    Last edited by Loh; 05-27-2012 at 09:56 PM.

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    Default Hail the new-age hands-on dad

    Being involved in your child's life changes you both

    by billy ng todayonsunday@mediacorp.com.sg
    04:45 AM May 20, 2012

    In the midst of our busy work schedule after our marriage, my wife Peggy and I put in much effort to start a family. Eventually, to our great joy, my son Jia Jian came along.

    He was born premature, at seven-and-a-half months, with chronic lung problems. In those stressful five months immediately after his birth, I had to shuttle between work, home and the hospital on an almost daily basis.

    Twice, Jia Jian was warded in the Intensive Care Unit and we nearly lost him. It was a very difficult time for us.

    The experience of sitting helplessly in the hospital with my son as he struggled to breathe in the incubator strengthened my resolve to be a dad who would always actively be there in his life, so that I would not miss out on anything.

    It is much easier to be a hands-on father when the children are in their pre-primary years. Be it changing diapers or bathing my son, I think I did quite well sharing the joys of parenthood with Peggy.

    But when Jia Jian was due for primary school, I thought at first that the best father would be the one who made sure he studied for his spelling tests and taught him how to solve challenging mathematics problems.

    Then I joined the Parent Support Group at Tampines Primary School (TPS) - and it opened a whole new world of fatherhood to me. Organising weekend activities like sleepovers at school and CCA bazaars showed me the many different ways that fathers can be there for their kids.

    Later, I was nominated to head the team to run TPS Fathers@Schools group. Fathers@Schools is a programme under the National Family Council's Dads for Life movement.



    DADS FOR A NEW AGE

    One of the first events I organised for the dads at TPS was a viewing of Father's Love, a skit by theVoice, which touched on how the values and traditions of fathering are passed down from generation to generation.

    From my own experience, the reality is that, while many fathers want to be good fathers, we are quite clueless about how to go about it.

    From our own fathers, we learn that dads are meant to be the disciplinarians and sole breadwinners. But fatherhood of the past may not be enough in this day and age.

    While many mothers bone up on knowledge from motherhood websites and magazines, there is a lot less literature out there for fathers to learn from. The staging of Father's Love demonstrated this.

    One appreciative dad afterwards wrote to me sharing how the skit had helped bridge the distance between him and his Primary 2 daughter. She had never had much to share with him, he told me, and they seldom spoke beyond talking about what to have for dinner and how she did in her school tests.

    But after watching the play, when his young daughter took the initiative to have simple chats with him about her school life, he began to put in a concerted effort to give her his time and build their relationship.

    Then there was John (not his real name), a Primary 4 student known for being mischievous in class.

    When his dad joined him in a Father-Child Experiential Camp, we saw an immediate change in him. And after his father became more involved in his school life, John's teachers reported an improvement in his conduct in class as well.



    THE TWINKLE IN MY SON'S EYE

    Certainly, being involved in my son's school has helped me understand him much better. While helping him with his schoolwork is still largely Peggy's area of expertise, I'm glad to say that I help him build character and confidence by passing on some of my life lessons, including time management, focus and self-sufficiency.

    One of the big things I look forward to on the weekends is when we sit down to discuss his aims for the week and how much time he should spend on achieving them.

    Balancing my involvement in TPS and my job has not been easy. I'm glad to say that my immediate supervisor and peers are very understanding of what I do for the school.

    Peggy has also benefited from my active fatherhood. It has allowed her to take time out to attend personal development classes as she aims to re-enter the working world. I believe our shared parenting responsibility gives her the assurance that this is a partnership and not just a journey she makes alone.

    My biggest motivator is Jia Jian. I often overhear him telling his classmates about how I am involved in organising a particular school event. Recently at a camp at The Float@Marina, he said that, although his father was busy, he always made an effort to sit and talk with him, and that made him happy.

    To me, the twinkle in my son's eyes when we take part in activities together is the best reward and what really counts in my fatherhood journey.



    Billy Ng is a father of one who was appointed a Fathers@Schools Ambassador, along with 20 other volunteers, to help schools set up their own fathers' groups and to spread the message of active fatherhood.


    Last edited by Loh; 05-27-2012 at 10:18 PM.

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    Default Spanish as third language from 2014

    Posted: 26 May 2012 1229 hrs


    SINGAPORE: From 2014, secondary school students would be able to take Spanish as a third language while junior college students can do so from 2018.

    The Ministry of Education (MOE) said it aims to develop a core group of Singaporeans to be proficient in Spanish to support Singapore's efforts in exploring new growth opportunities and forging partnerships with Spain, Latin America and other Spanish-speaking countries.

    Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong announced this on Saturday at the opening of the second MOE Language Centre at Cairnhill Road.

    Mr Wong said the decision to offer Spanish is the result of an agreement on cultural, educational and scientific cooperation signed by Spain and Singapore during the official visit of former prime minister Zapatero of Spain in April 2011.

    MOE said having a ready pool of Singaporean Spanish speakers will facilitate and contribute to the growth of Singapore companies' interest in Latin America.

    It added that having a pool of Spanish-speaking executives, professionals and managers in Singapore will also increase the country's attractiveness as a hub for Latin American companies looking to set up operations in Asia.

    Spain is Singapore's 12th-largest trading partner in the European Union.

    There are more than 70 Spanish companies in Singapore and this number is set to grow.

    The other third languages offered at the MOE Language Centre are French, German, Japanese, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay.

    - CNA/wk

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    Default NUS team developing stem-cell plaster

    Published on May 28, 2012

    By POON CHIAN HUI

    A band-aid with a coating that can help repair wounds may soon hit the market.

    A patent has been provisionally filed for the local researchers to come up with a patch containing stem-cell material that can speed up the healing.

    The stem cells are obtained from a jelly-like substance coating the umbilical cord.

    A National University of Singapore (NUS) team has been looking into this type of cells, called Wharton's jelly stem cells, and its efforts are bearing fruit.

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    Default Creating a precise 3-D model of NUS

    Ready in 6 months, it can be used to conduct flood, fire-emergency simulations

    Published on May 28, 2012


    Last Saturday, scientists drove a car around the National University of Singapore (NUS) to collect data such as its terrain, roads and vegetation.

    In February, they had remotely flown a tiny helicopter equipped with a camera to snap 800 photographs of the campus' land use and buildings.

    Data from both sources will go towards the creation of a three-dimensional (3-D) computer model of the university so precise it will pinpoint even individual trees on the campus. The model will be completed in six months and can be used by government agencies to conduct, for example, flood and fire-emergency computer simulations.

    The work is being done by Future Cities Laboratory here - a collaboration between Singapore's National Research Foundation and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - to study urban planning.

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    Default NUS clinches No 2 spot in Asia

    It outperformed or matched the top-ranked university in seven of nine ranking indicators

    by Lin Yanqin
    04:45 AM May 29, 2012


    SINGAPORE - The National University of Singapore (NUS) is now one spot away from being ranked Asia's top university, according to latest rankings from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), an information provider for higher education.

    In fact, it outperformed or matched the top-ranked university - the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) - in seven of the nine indicators.

    However, in the papers published per faculty indicator - one of the two areas where NUS did not perform as well in, compared to HKUST - NUS placed outside of the top 50.

    The other area is in outbound exchange students where NUS' score was just a shade under HKUST's.

    The No 2 spot in the rankings is one spot up from last year and the university's best performance on the ranking since it was introduced in 2009.

    The Nanyang Technological University (NTU), meanwhile, retained its 17th spot.

    QS this year also published a new ranking of top 50 universities under 50 years old, which saw NTU rank fourth behind the Chinese University of Hong Kong, HKUST and the University of Warwick.

    In the 2012 QS ranking, universities were scored on academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, papers per faculty, citations per paper, the proportion of international faculty and international students, inbound exchange students and outbound exchange students.

    The NUS ranked first in Asia for employer reputation and second in Asia for academic reputation.

    It also saw improvement in three faculty areas: Arts & humanities (first in Asia); engineering & technology (second in Asia); and natural sciences (second in Asia).

    The university also retained its top ranking in Asia for social sciences and management.

    Said Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS deputy president (academic affairs) and provost: "Overall, this is a strong international recognition of the excellent work by our faculty and staff in both research and education."

    Meanwhile, NTU ranked sixth for employer reputation and 13th for academic reputation.

    In terms of faculties, NTU ranked 16th for Arts & Humanities, eighth for Engineering & Technology, 18th for Life Sciences, 19th for Natural Sciences, and 15th for Social Sciences and Management.

    Both NUS and NTU achieved top scores for its proportion of international faculty, along with three other universities.

    Professor Bertil Andersson, president of NTU, said: "This inaugural ranking of the QS Top 50 Under 50 provides a good assessment of fast-growing young universities like NTU. NTU's good performance in this ranking is a testament of the world-class quality education and research environment at NTU."

    Noting that Asia held six of the top 10 places in the Top 50 Under 50 ranking, QS said the prominence of younger Asian institutions could be due to a boom in scientific research.

    "China doubled its main scientific research budget between 2009 and 2011, while universities in Singapore and Korea have benefited from multi-billion dollar investment programmes," it said.




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    Default Singapore scientists lead discovery of liver cancer causing mechanism

    Updated 05:51 PM May 28, 2012

    SINGAPORE - The Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) today announced that its scientists, working together with others from around the world, had unravelled the mechanism that causes liver cancer.

    The institute said its scientists worked with researchers from the National University of Singapore, University of Hong Kong, Eli Lilly & Co USA, Merck Research Laboratories USA, Pfizer Oncology USA and Beijing Genomics Institute China on the discovery.

    GIS said one major cause of liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), was high exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV).

    Individuals who carry HBV have a greater than 100-fold increased relative risk of developing HCC.

    Due to technology and sample limitations in the past, only restricted results were found.

    But in this study, the scientists leveraged on massively parallel sequencing technology to survey the HBV integrations on paired tumour and adjacent non-tumour tissues in 88 HCC patients.

    They found high incidences of HBV integrations, with 76 of the 88 patients having HBV integration.

    They also discovered that HBV enhanced tumour growth.

    First author and senior group leader of computational and systems biology at the GIS Dr Ken Sung Wing Kin said the study showed that HBV integration affects the patient's overall survival.

    "This work improves our understanding of HBV integration in HCC, which may lead us to develop better therapies for this highly malignant disease," he said. CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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    Default Singapore's new medical school breaks ground

    By Vimita Mohandas | Posted: 28 May 2012 1654 hrs


    An architectural model of Singapore's third medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.


    SINGAPORE: Singapore's third medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, will help to create more opportunities for Singaporeans to pursue a local medical education at home.

    The joint medical school by Imperial College London and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), is due to start classes in August 2013 and will eventually have 150 students a year.

    The school held its ground-breaking ceremony on Monday.

    By 2030, one in five Singaporeans will be above the age of 65.

    To meet rising healthcare demands, the new Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine will play a key role in growing the pool of doctors in Singapore.

    The school will have one campus at NTU and another at Mandalay Road near Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

    Its campus at Mandalay Road sits on the site where a hostel for medical students was built in 1924 but is currently being restored for use as the school's headquarters. It will be equipped with training and administration facilities and will be ready by June 2013, just in time to welcome the first intake of 50 students in August 2013.

    This campus will also include a Clinical Sciences Building, which is in close proximity to Tan Tock Seng Hospital to facilitate students' integration into clinical settings.

    The campus at NTU's Yunnan Garden, called the Experimental Medicine Building, will be situated in the biomedical-engineering cluster and will have a link to the School of Biological Sciences to facilitate partnerships between researchers and students of both schools.

    The Experimental Medicine Building will be completed in 2015. It's also aimed at combining knowledge and application across different disciplines that will help to introduce breakthrough medicine.

    Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat said: "These interfaces are critical, because the challenges of medicine today are growing. Changing disease profiles, the barrage of new medical knowledge, technological advances and the speed at which information technology is changing have all affected the way healthcare institutions function."

    And with a fast ageing population, it's key that doctors in Singapore are groomed to navigate an integrated healthcare system to provide patients with seamless care across various healthcare settings - whether it's in polyclinics, acute hospitals or long term facilities.

    Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said: "The Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine medical students will have the opportunity to follow an elderly patient or a patient with a chronic condition over a period of two years to learn about how these patients live day-to-day and how they are cared for within the healthcare system.

    "This will develop the students' empathy towards their patients and train them to think about the care of patients not only from a systems viewpoint but also from a patient's viewpoint."

    The curriculum will be delivered using a wide range of methods such as e-learning modules and apprenticeships.

    It will also include seminars, problem-based and team-based learning as well as lectures.

    - CNA/ck
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    Default Temasek Poly launches youth character, leadership programme

    By Melissa Chong | Posted: 28 May 2012 1932 hrs



    SINGAPORE: Temasek Polytechnic has partnered with John Maxwell, an American leadership expert, to launch a new youth programme aimed at instilling good character and leadership skills in schools.

    Called YouthMax, the programme covers topics such as learning from failure and developing a positive self-image.

    It will be taught by staff from the polytechnic's Centre for Character and Leadership Education.
    The programme will be offered free to interested schools and youth organisations, with the curriculum customised to match specific needs.

    The initiative is the latest to support the Ministry of Education's focus on instilling values among students, to help them cope in a globalised economy.

    Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat said the more deeply Singapore youths internalised good values, the better they would be prepared to face a fast changing world.

    "(Internalising good values) will give them inner strength and confidence and the broader social and global awareness to make the right choices for themselves and to play a part in contributing to the broader community," he said.

    The ministry is also putting together a character and citizenship curriculum to align the efforts of Singapore's educational institutions, educators and students.

    Earlier this year, MOE also introduced the "Values in Action" programme which seeks to inculcate values through community involvement among students.

    - CNA/wm

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    Default Three children chosen to be "journalists" at London Olympics

    By Melissa Chong | Posted: 28 May 2012 1728 hrs


    The winners of McDonald's "Champions of Play" programme pose for photos on May 28, 2012.



    SINGAPORE: Three young Singaporeans have been chosen to be "journalists" for the London 2012 Olympics as part of McDonald's "Champions of Play" programme.

    Selected after three months of online voting and panel judging, the three children are all athletes in their own right who have represented their schools in fencing, tennis and squash.

    They are 8-year-old Clare Cheng Lin-Yi, from the Singapore Chinese Girls' School; 12-year-old Lau Ywen, from the United World College of South East Asia; and 11-year-old Sneha Sivakumar, from Methodist Girls' School.

    Accompanied by a parent, they will spend four days in London to witness the Opening Ceremony, watch sporting events and meet athletes backstage. They will also visit popular sites like the London Eye and Tower Bridge.

    They will then report on their experiences.

    Before departing for London, the winning trio will also receive two days of training by professional journalists.

    Lau Ywen, one of the winners, said, "I'm really excited to go to London and really excited to learn how to blog, and share experiences with Singapore.

    "I wanna see how the athletes, how they prepare for the competitions and their ideas and strategies because I want to use them in my own fencing to reach my goal of becoming an Olympian."

    Judy Harman, managing director of McDonald's Singapore explained that the children's love for sport was part of the reason they were chosen.

    "The criteria we were looking for were children that loved sport, and were passionate about the sport and who really wanted to go to London and had a story behind why that would be special for them," she said.

    This is the second time McDonald's is running the Champions of Play programme.

    In 2008, they also sent three young journalists to the Beijing Olympics. The programme was organised in partnership with MediaCorp, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and the Singapore National Olympic Council.

    - CNA/wm
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