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Thread: Singapore Also Can
08-17-2012, 02:19 AM #6410
2 more residential halls at NTU by July 2014
Published on Aug 17, 2012
Artists' impression of the new residential halls at NTU. -- PHOTO: NTU
By Kezia Toh
By July 2014, two more residential halls will house students and faculty at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The $82 million project will add an additional 1,250 places for students, and 30 apartments for hall fellows, faculty and their families.
The apartment blocks will be built around a central space with a recreation pond.
It will also include a 200-seat multipurpose hall, gymnasium and functional facilities.
08-21-2012, 09:19 PM #6411
New training scheme to attract locals to marine sector
By Dylan Loh | Posted: 21 August 2012 1711 hrs
The new training scheme will prepare locals for work in the marine engineering industry. (CNA file photo)
SINGAPORE: Singapore's Marine Engineering industry has started a new training scheme to allow locals with no technical experience to join the sector.
The scheme targets "N" or "O" level holders and allows them to begin work in the industry with a minimum monthly pay of S$1,500.
Senior Minister of State for Education and Information, Communication and the Arts Lawrence Wong, said: "There would be an increasing shortage of Singaporeans in the next 10 years if we do not do anything to attract new Singaporeans into the industry.
"It is critical that concerted efforts must be made by employers and the unions to attract young Singaporeans."
Those under the scheme undergo a nine- to 12-month training stint to become tradesmen or machinists.
The aim of the scheme is to attract 400 marine sector employees in the next two years under the program.
When training is completed, employers can continue sending workers for skills-upgrading so they can progress up the pay scale.
Companies like Baker Hughes, involved in the oil and gas sector, support the scheme.
Steven Pounds, director of manufacturing for Baker Hughes in Singapore and Malaysia, said: "The benefit for us is that it brings a trained, skilled, stable workforce, and a local workforce, which meets the objectives that we have for increasing our productivity and increasing the amount of localisation that we have in our factories."
Under the "Place and Train" scheme, employers are given funding support of up to S$600 a month as a training allowance, and on-the-job training support of up to S$6,300 per employee.
Unionised companies in the marine industry are also looking at recalibrating the sector's wage system.
The plan is for a worker's salary to consist of 70 per cent base pay , a 10 per cent monthly variable component, and 20 per cent in variable bonuses.
Currently, bonuses make up about 30 per cent of a unionised rank-and-file worker's total pay.
08-21-2012, 09:26 PM #6412
176 students receive Healthcare Scholarship Awards
By Vimita Mohandas | Posted: 21 August 2012 2003 hrs
SINGAPORE: More than 170 Healthcare Scholarship Awards were given out on Tuesday.
Some 60 more scholarships were given this year compared to last year.
Of these - 16 were recipients of the new Singapore-Industry Scholarship, a joint collaboration between the Education Ministry and various companies and statutory boards.
It aims to attract and retain a pool of talent to take on leadership roles as healthcare administrators in the various healthcare institutions.
The Health Ministry said the scholarships in nursing and health sciences are timely as there is a need to fill up more healthcare jobs.
For example, two new acute hospitals - Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital - will open its doors in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
These two new acute hospitals as well as three new community hospitals are also planned next to the current Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, said: "The scholarship will help to attract talented and dedicated individuals because first of all, by publicising this scholarship, we hope to raise awareness and interest in these professions; and of course the scholarships are given to individuals who have excelled not just academically but in also various other areas. It will also help to raise the profile of the profession through awarding these scholarships."
08-21-2012, 09:51 PM #6413
Record number of 176 health-care scholarships awarded
Published on Aug 22, 2012
A record number of scholarships have been awarded this year to aspiring health-care leaders of the future. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
By Melissa Pang
A record number of scholarships have been awarded this year to aspiring health-care leaders of the future.
A total of 176 health-care scholarships - 61 more than last year - were presented on Tuesday by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the six public health-care clusters, and MOH Holdings (MOHH).
A new scholarship, the Singapore-Industry Scholarship (SgIS) for health-care administration, a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and MOHH, was awarded to 16 students.
Recipients of scholarships in the other categories will study nursing, physiotherapy, podiatry, medical social work and speech therapy, among other fields.
08-22-2012, 02:49 AM #6414
NTU scientist wins global award for innovators
Posted: 21 August 2012 1701 hrs
Assistant Professor Zhang Baile from the Nanyang Technological University. (Photo: NTU)
SINGAPORE: A young scientist from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has won a top global award for up-and-coming innovators.
Assistant Professor Zhang Baile from NTU's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences has been recognised by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review as one of the top 35 young innovators in the world.
The 31 year old, who joined the university in 2011, was honoured for his work in developing an "invisible carpet cloak".
Through the use of Calcite crystals -- an inexpensive natural mineral -- he created an invisibility cloak which can hide objects such as a coin from visible sight.
This crystal carpet cloak is a major science breakthrough as all invisibility cloaks invented previously were made from nano-sized materials painstakingly produced in the laboratory.
Asst Prof Zhang came up with the idea of joining two blocks of Calcite to form the cloak as it had a unique way of bending light.
By immersing this crystal cloak in a liquid called laser oil and putting it over a piece of rolled-up pink paper, light is bent over the pink paper by the crystal, making the paper invisible.
His work was published in the academic journal Physical Review Letters, a highly cited publication.
Asst Prof Zhang studied at the Tsinghua University, one of China's top two universities and went on to receive his PhD from MIT where he dabbled in the cutting-edge field of optical cloaking.
He joins an illustrious global league of past winners, which include Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook; Jack Dorsey, the inventor of Twitter; and Konstantin Novoselov, the inventor of Graphene, who was later given the Nobel prize in 2010.
08-22-2012, 02:56 AM #6415
Novel membrane distillation technology for desalination unveiled
By Valerie Chang | Posted: 20 August 2012 2115 hrs
Sea water distillation system by a group of researchers from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
SINGAPORE: A group of researchers from Ngee Ann Polytechnic has created a sea water distillation system using a first-of-its-kind nanofibre-based membrane.
Called Distil, the system can produce up to more than 200 litres of desalinated water per hour or 5,000 litres per day.
Most membrane distillation systems work on the basis of water transfer, which may generate products that are not as pure.
But not these nanofibre-based membranes.
These "water-repelling" or what is scientifically known as hydrophobic membranes allow only pure water vapour to pass through.
The system even earned the team two patents - one for the novelty of the membrane, another for the highly-efficient process of its technology.
With two other core staff members Antony Prince and T S Shanmugasundarum, and supported by a group of students, the team feels that there is great potential for Distil.
Principal researcher Dr Gurdev Singh said: "Singapore like most countries globally are looking at water sources that they could tap on, to augment their existing water supply. The oceans offer huge potential as an area that could be tapped to generate water. Our system allows us to do just that - desalinate sea water but at a lower energy consumption of less than 1.5 kilowatts an hour per metre cube."
To be exact, it's using almost half the energy to recover about twice the amount of pure water from sea water.
The system is able to recover 60 to 80 per cent of pure water from sea water, as compared to the recovery rate of between 30 and 50 per cent using conventional reverse osmosis systems.
Sea water will first enter the system, which is powered by solar energy.
Solid particles are filtered away while the sea water is being heated by solar thermal collectors.
Then it's channelled through the membranes where only pure water vapour can pass through, and is condensed and collected.
Rather than being seen as a competitor, the system can complement existing reverse osmosis processes.
Director of the Environmental & Water Technology Centre of Innovation at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Tam Li Phin, said: "This system can be used as a small scale for small communities. For example, in less developed countries, where there's no power electricity to run treatment systems, we can use this to produce drinking water."
08-22-2012, 03:00 AM #6416
Marine Life Park reaches out to young to promote conservation
By Ng Puay Leng | Posted: 19 August 2012 2258 hrs
Students from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.
SINGAPORE: The Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa is reaching out to the young to promote conservation even before it opens at the end of the year.
It's organising tours to its Marine Aquaculture & Research Centre in Lim Chu Kang.
The facility is the temporary home of the sea creatures that will call the Marine Life Park its home.
And students from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science are the first to check out how the centre is looking after its residents.
Chu Yao Quan said: "Before I came to this tour, I didn't know there are so many conditions that have to be taken care of for the fishes."
Director of Conservation & Education of Marine Life Park, Biswajit Guha, said: "It's really a self-contained world-class facility. And currently it's being used as a quarantine area for animals that will eventually be at Marine Life Park. But what's also very key is the systems that we have in place.
"Marine aquaculture and essentially maintaining fish in a managed situation has a lot of science behind it. And that is something which our experts and specialists, aquarists, life support specialists, veterinarians, have many years of expertise in."
08-22-2012, 10:19 PM #6417
Pioneer batch of students complete Singapore's first humanitarian course
By Saifulbahri Ismail | Posted: 22 August 2012 1835 hrs
SINGAPORE: A pioneer batch of students has completed Singapore's first course in humanitarian affairs.
A total of 34 students from Singapore Polytechnic received their certificates from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday evening in conjunction with the 4th World Humanitarian Day.
The two-year diploma-plus certificate course is a joint programme with local humanitarian organisation Mercy Relief.
The three-module course includes overseas practical assignments for sustainable development, disaster risk mitigation and post-disaster relief works.
With Singapore's increasing involvement in regional Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) through the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Mercy Relief and Singapore Polytechnic are working on a professional certificate programme in HADR.
In addition, they will offer a full-time diploma programme in the area of international and sustainable development.
08-23-2012, 02:46 AM #6418
6 S'poreans awarded the Chevening Scholarship
Posted: 22 August 2012 1934 hrs
(From L-R) Guest of Honour Mr Thomas, Ms Sum Kun Shan, Ms Kirsten Han, Ms Karen Tay, Ms Melanie Pennefather, Mr Justin Keh, British High Commissioner Antony Phillipson.
SINGAPORE: Six Singaporeans were awarded the Chevening Scholarship to pursue their postgraduate studies in the UK on Wednesday evening.
Justin Keh, Karen Tay, Kirsten Han, Melanie Pennefather, Oh Wee Kee and Sum Kun Shan received the scholarship at a ceremony hosted by British High Commissioner Antony Phillipson.
The Chevening Scholarships - previously known as the Raffles Scholarships - are funded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
The bond-free scholarships are offered in about 110 countries, to promising graduates across a wide range of fields.
The six would be studying in various universities of their choice, such as Cambridge University, Cardiff University, the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh.
More than 300 Singaporeans have received the scholarship since it started in 1984.
Last year, the scholarships were awarded to five Singaporeans.
08-24-2012, 12:03 AM #6419
For the love of swimming
Muscular dystrophy has slowed Yip down, but it cannot slow her passion
by Alywin Chew
04:45 AM Aug 24, 2012
SINGAPORE - It is a cruel disease that speeds up the breakdown of her muscles when she slows down.
That's muscular dystrophy, an incurable genetic condition which Singaporean Paralympic swimmer Yip Pin Xiu has. It is also the reason why she is the world-class swimmer that she is today.
When she was five, Yip's parents started letting her join her brothers during their weekly swimming sessions in an effort to slow down the rate of deterioration of her muscles.
A few years later, she was talent spotted by Danny Ong of the Singapore Disability Sports Council. Ong was spot-on - because Yip went on to outclass her opponents when she made her competitive debut in a local meet soon after, winning six gold medals from six events.
Since then, her swimming journey has been laden with medals and accolades, including the honour of becoming the first Singaporean to win a Paralympic gold medal.
Yip, who also has permanent blurred vision in one eye because of her condition, won gold in the 50m backstroke (S3) event at the 2008 Beijing Games in 58.75sec, after setting the then-world record of 57.92 in the heats. She also rewrote the record for the 50m freestyle during the heats, but finished second in the final.
"I think I was tired already," she said with a laugh.
The cheerful 20-year-old - who will be part of Team Singapore's eight-strong athlete contingent for next week's London Paralympics (Aug 29 - Sept 9) was equally carefree when speaking about the struggles earlier on in life, where she used to feel different from the rest of the kids until she was in secondary school.
"I don't feel different from them now. These days, thanks to my experiences, I wonder if I have achieved more than my able-bodied counterparts," she said.
"Sometimes I envy them for being able to run and I wonder what that feeling would be like, but such thoughts only last for a few minutes."
She attributed her success in the pool to having a passion for what she does, the mental preparation by her sports psychologists, and, in particular, her parents.
"I really think that I wouldn't be where I am today without them," she said of her parents. "My dad wakes me up every morning for training. Even when training was 6am, he would still drive me to the pool.
"When I was in Secondary 4, my parents didn't pressure me to study for my O levels because they know that I don't work well under stress."
Yip concedes her medal chances at the London Paralympics have dipped because of two factors: Firstly, she will not be able to defend her 50m backstroke gold as the event has been removed. She will take part in the S3 categories of the 50m and 100m freestyle instead.
Secondly, her condition has worsened in the past four years. "My core, grip and strength have weakened but I've had additional gym sessions to gain and maintain my muscular strength," she revealed.
That is why her main aim at the London Paralympics would be to set personal best times in her events. A medal would be a bonus.
It has been 15 years since Yip's first foray into the pool. Yet she shot me a look of disbelief when I asked her if she would ever stop swimming to embark on other things.
"I love swimming!" she said emphatically of her passion. "I may stop competitive swimming one day. But I will never stop swimming."
The same can be said of her unforgiving condition - that though it cannot be cured, it also stands a tough battle in trying to overtake the passionate Paralympian.
Catch the Paralympics on MediaCorp
MediaCorp is the Official Broadcaster of the Aug 29 - Sept 9 London Paralympic Games, and Channel 5 as well as HD5 will be airing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies live and commercial-free, with same-day Primetime encores. In addition, there will be 2-hour highlights at 5pm every day showcasing the best of daily action.
MediaCorp platforms TODAY, Channel NewsAsia and radio stations will also provide updated coverage through sports news bulletins. Those who miss the coverage on TV can also watch it on xinmsn Catch-Up TV.
Singapore will be represented in four sports at the Games - Boccia, Paralympic Swimming, Paralympic Equestrian and Paralympic Sailing.
Singaporean Paralympic swimmer Yip Pin Xiu will be taking part in the S3 categories of the 50m and 100m freestyle at the London Paralympic Games later this month. Photo by ALYWIN CHEW
08-25-2012, 06:46 AM #6420
Govt should be neutral facilitator in conversation on S'pore's future: observers
Posted: 25 August 2012 1840 hrs
SINGAPORE: Observers said a national conversation on Singapore's future is critical, as the nation evolves and faces new challenges. But they added that the government should be a neutral facilitator, and not lead the conversation.
A team of younger ministers, tasked to engage Singaporeans on the matter, is expected to touch on the issue at the National Day Rally on Sunday.
In Singapore, there is an overarching sense that times have changed. With pressing challenges ahead such as a greying population, a dwindling birthrate, and intense global competition, comes the need to re-think and remake the country.
MP for Jurong GRC, Desmond Lee, said: "During the time of independence, it was very clear what we needed to have, moving from third world to first - housing, transport, jobs. But now we've achieved many of these things. The question is, what's next?"
Observers said it is important for Singaporeans to chart their own future, and for that, the government has to embark on a genuine consultation.
Political scientist at the Singapore Management University, Bridget Welsh, believes it will not be a one-shot dialogue. The process, she said, will involve re-thinking, asking questions, looking at the answer, and asking more questions, over a period of time.
"You must give the government a certain amount of credit for engaging in this discussion. It's not an easy discussion to do," said Ms Walsh.
But what is important, many say, is that the rules of engagement have to change.
She said: "The government's role has to move from one of defining the problem to facilitating a discussion of the problem. This is a big transition, a transition that involves adopting new styles of engagement. There's a lot of talk of styles of engagement but we have yet to see real substance in this."
Dr Reuben Wong from the National University of Singapore added: "I think the government should play the role of an arbiter in this dialogue. If the government doesn't have the answers, it cannot afford to come across as paternalistic and patronising and coming down, talking down to people. It has to be seen as open to different ideas, ideas which might go against what they've always believed in and practiced."
Mr Lee said: "You ask ten people the question, you're going to get ten different answers. Singapore cannot be pulled in ten different directions, we have to move forward collectively. We need this conversation to forge a consensus. It's not just for government to listen to people's viewpoints, but also for people to listen to other people's viewpoints."
There is also the expectation for civil society to play a prominent role.
Laurence Lien, head of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, said: "Overall, we want to be equal partners at the table, perhaps at the steering committee. Perhaps civil society groups themselves, without permission from the ministerial committee, can start their own conversations."
For the conversation to be truly meaningful, many agree the government needs to cast its net wide, to include civil society and alternative voices.
"Opposition voices, like voices in the community, have to step up. They have to take part constructively as part of a global national conversation," said Mr Lee.
Last edited by Loh; 08-25-2012 at 06:50 AM.
08-26-2012, 09:29 PM #6421
Singapore the city of choice for UK bankers, over NY and London
Updated 09:07 AM Aug 27, 2012
NEW YORK - Investment bankers in the United Kingdom favour working in Singapore over New York and London, where they face lower wage growth and higher taxes, according to recruitment firm Astbury Marsden.
Thirty-one per cent of respondents chose Singapore as their most favoured location, followed by New York (20 per cent) and London (19 per cent), the recruiter said in its annual Preferred Location Survey.
Hong Kong and Dubai got 16 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. The survey found 60 per cent of bankers expect the Asia-Pacific region to be the largest financial centre in 10 years.
"A fast growing, low-tax and bank-friendly environment like Singapore stands as a perfect antidote to the comparatively high-tax and anti-banker sentiment of London and New York," Mr Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden, said in the statement.
"Financial centres in the West have taken a real battering since the start of the financial crisis. Cities like Singapore and Hong Kong have been quick to capitalise on setbacks in London and New York, courting investment banks and reacting to demand from expats and tourists for facilities such as sporting, music and other international events," Mr Cameron added.
"This has made them popular destinations for expat investment bankers and hedge fund staff."
Astbury Marsden surveyed 462 people in late July. BLOOMBERG
A tourist poses for a photo in front of the Merlion, a mascot of Singapore, and the financial district skyline in Singapore. REUTERS
08-26-2012, 09:49 PM #6422
Feeling Singaporean first
Immigrant forefathers were strangers too, but they became neighbours and friends: DPM Tharman to new citizens
Updated 03:28 PM Aug 25, 2012
SINGAPORE - Nearly 3,000 new citizens will receive their citizenship certificates in island-wide ceremonies to be held by the different Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) over the weekend.
Speaking at the National Citizenship Ceremony held at the Supreme Court Auditorium this morning - where he presented certificates to 128 new citizens - Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam reminded Singaporeans old and new that the basis for the country's success was their immigrant forefathers working together.
"We are an immigrant nation that has built its own identity. The majority of today's generation of adult Singaporeans have either parents or grandparents who were born abroad, but eventually sank roots here," he said.
"Our forefathers were initially strangers to each other, did different jobs and often lived apart, in different parts of the island. They became neighbours and colleagues. Their children grew up together in our schools, did NS together for the boys, and became friends who rarely thought of the different countries their parents came from. They feel Singaporean first."
Singapore's circumstances will keep changing, but its ability to keep improving as a nation and to overcome problems, will depend on the "same national virtues" that have brought the country to this point.
These include making the effort to work with each other regardless of diverse origins; providing "real opportunities" for every Singaporean to discover their potential and grow, "regardless of their starting points"; welcoming committed new citizens to contribute to the nation; and new citizens who make the effort "to integrate, understand our cultures and develop the unique Singapore spirit".
"That's still the basis for our success - Singaporeans who live and work as one united people to forge a better future for all. It is not so common a virtue in the world today," Mr Tharman said.
He urged the new citizens to form meaningful relationships with their fellow Singaporeans and join them in strengthening social harmony.
While cultural differences are only natural, he encouraged them to "engage within the community, especially in the neighbourhood where you live". He cited the example of Taman Jurong resident and new citizen Mr Wei Haiming, 40, who has been an active volunteer as a First Aider, a Dengue Prevention Ambassador and helper to the elderly.
Mr Tharman also urged the new Singaporeans to expand their social networks "in schools, at work and in your neighbourhoods". "Strike up friendships with the fellow Singaporeans whom you come into contact with. It helps to learn some English, if you did not learn it in school."
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam reciting the National Pledge at the Joint National Day Observance Ceremony on Aug 14. Photo by OOI BOON KEONG.
08-26-2012, 09:58 PM #6423
A national conversation about "Our Singapore"
Published on Aug 26, 2012
Minister for Education, Heng Swee Keat, 50, at the 5th Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council Meeting at Shangri-la Hotel Singapore, Island Ballroom in this Oct 24, 2011 file photo. The new national conversation will be about putting Singaporeans first. Speaking at the National Day Rally on Sunday evening, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat gave more details about the wide-ranging engagement effort that he has been tasked with. -- PHOTO: ZAOBAO
The new national conversation will be about putting Singaporeans first. Speaking at the National Day Rally on Sunday evening, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat gave more details about the wide-ranging engagement effort that he has been tasked with.
He also revealed, for the first time, what this effort will be called. It's name: "Our Singapore".
He said: "This national conversation will first and foremost be about putting Singaporeans at the heart of our concerns. It will be an opportunity for Singaporeans to come together, and ask: What matters most? Where do we want to go as a country, as a people?"
In his 10-minute speech, Mr Heng added that the conversation needs to accomplish three goals: to reaffirm all that is good and relevant, to re-calibrate areas where the country has gone off course and to refresh and innovate by charting new directions.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced two weeks ago that Mr Heng would be tasked to chair a committee of younger ministers to take a fresh look at the country's policies.
This is the first time that the National Day Rally has included guest speakers. Senior Minister of State for Education and Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts Lawrence Wong spoke first at 6.45pm. He was followed by Minister of State for Community Development Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob and then Mr Heng.
Singapore to get its 5th and 6th universitiesNew statutory board to oversee pre-school educationTime to say yes to paternity leave, says PM LeeAnti-foreigner vitriol can damage Singapore's reputation: PM Lee
08-26-2012, 10:20 PM #6424
PM Lee urges S'poreans to join him in writing the next chapter
By Imelda Saad, Julia Ng | Posted: 26 August 2012 2244 hrs
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has asked Singaporeans to join him in writing the next chapter of the Singapore Story that contains three broad themes -- Hope, Heart and Home.
It was a rallying call by the prime minister, in a National Day Rally on Sunday, which took on a different format this year.
Three other speakers -- Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong and Minister of State Halimah Yacob -- also spoke ahead of the prime minister.
Mr Lee said Singapore is in a new phase of development and the next 20 years will be full of opportunities as well as challenges.
To progress, Singapore needs to renew itself continually, and when necessary, re-invent itself boldly.
He invited Singaporeans to join in the national conversation to map the next chapter of the Singapore Story.
Singapore's journey from Third World to First World is well known. But the days of rapid growth are over, not just for Singapore but for the three "Asian Dragons" -- Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
Mr Lee said all of them are at a critical juncture, searching for a stable new path forward, and no country can say for now that it has found the formula.
What Singapore needs are new strategies and new formulas.
The prime minister said: "To survive, we must be resilient -- tough as individuals, close as families, cohesive as a society, strong as a nation. And we have to be prepared to compete and to hold our own -- the competition is there, there's no place to hide.
"And when we encounter setbacks, we must have the spunk to pick ourselves up, dust off whatever's stuck to us, and press on."
Mr Lee called on Singaporeans to pitch in -- to define what sort of country they want, and how it can be achieved -- through a national conversation.
"Please join in this national effort! Think seriously about our future, contribute your ideas and work together to make it happen. So what should the next chapter of the Singapore Story be about? I think if I summarise it, very briefly, in three words: Hope, Heart, and Home," he added.
The next 20 years will see many changes in the world, but the prime minister is confident that Asian countries, especially China and India, will continue to rise, posing competition as well as offering opportunities for Singapore.
Citing global competition and fast evolving technologies, Mr Lee warned of a rough ride ahead.
He said the future is what Singaporeans make of it. So the country needs to set a clear direction, rather than set sail off course or drift with the tides.
Singapore, he said, must always offer hope for a better future.
Mr Lee said: "I know that our people sometimes worry about the future -- can our children really do better than us? But if you take a step back and look at where we are objectively, and see our situation in perspective, I think the answer is, 'we are in much better shape than we give ourselves credit for'.
"We have strong fundamentals -- a world-class workforce, sound finances, a system that works. It's not perfect -- every now and then something goes wrong, and every time an MRT malfunctions, we are reminded of this.
"But we will fix these imperfections, and we can keep on making it better. We may be very conscious of our shortcomings, but others have a high regard for what we have achieved."
Key in providing hope is the investment in Singapore's future generation -- thus, the emphasis on education and providing different pathways to meet aspirations.
In the area of higher education, more university places will be set aside, focusing on applied, practice-oriented degrees -- such as those for engineers, physiotherapists and social workers.
Two institutions, Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and SIM University (UniSIM) will be Singapore's fifth and sixth universities.
Come 2020, 40 per cent of each cohort will get a place in a local university, compared to just 27 per cent currently.
To help Singaporean families level up, Mr Lee said the government will play a more active role in pre-school education.
He said: "First of all, we'll establish a new statutory board to oversee pre-school education. Secondly, we'll provide and upgrade pre-school teacher training to raise standards. Thirdly, we'll bring in new anchor operators, in addition to PCF and NTUC.
"And fourthly, we'll upgrade the anchor operators -- the existing ones as well as the new ones -- so that they can improve the careers they can offer the teachers.
"They can offer structured development opportunities for the staff, they can introduce creative learning methods for the students but to raise the base -- the quality of the mass market."
Even singles can look forward to something. Mr Lee said the Ministry of National Development is looking into whether singles will be eligible to buy flats directly from the Housing and Development Board.
On the government's part, there has been a major shift to have a more inclusive Budget.
In 2011, the government collected S$8 billion from its net investment returns contributions, which funded 14 per cent of social programmes including special transfers like CPF top-ups.
Within the community, though, Mr Lee said there are "troubling signs". He spoke of disputes among fellow Singaporeans, and something a little bit more difficult to manage -- relations between Singaporeans and new arrivals.
The prime minister said: "I think it's fair enough to express concern or disagree with our immigration trends or oppose our immigration policies. That's part of the democratic debate.
"But I am worried by some of the nasty views which are expressed -- especially online and especially anonymously. When a foreigner says or does something wrong, especially to a Singaporean, response is overwhelming.
"But bad Singaporean behaviour often goes uncriticised and a good deed by a foreigner often goes unnoticed."
Mr Lee said such incidents reflect badly on Singaporeans, damage Singapore's international reputation and give the impression that the country is anti-foreigner and xenophobic.
He called on both Singaporeans and new arrivals to show a generosity of spirit to one another. "New arrivals must also embrace our values, commit themselves to Singapore and integrate into our community," he added.
And finally, on building the best home for everyone, Mr Lee gave broad strokes on measures the government is looking into to raise the country's low fertility rate.
These include some form of paternity leave and possibly Medisave for each child at birth.
Concluding his speech, Mr Lee shared stories from Singaporeans, and his own recollection about growing up in Singapore.
He said individually, the memories are life's experiences, but collectively, they are about the soul of the nation.
The prime minister wrapped up his rally speech, which lasted over two hours, urging Singaporeans to help build a better future and best home for everyone.
• In Pictures: National Day Rally 2012
08-26-2012, 10:40 PM #6425
More full-time places for applied degrees
SIT, UniSIM to be fifth and sixth universities
by Sumita Sreedharan
04:45 AM Aug 27, 2012
SINGAPORE - As part of the Republic's efforts to raise the annual university intake, SIM University (UniSIM), which currently offers only part-time programmes, will offer full-time degree programmes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced yesterday.
UniSIM will remain a private university. Nevertheless, more part-time places will be made available and government bursaries and loans will be extended to UniSIM's part-time students, so that they "get the same support" as part-time students in the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University, Mr Lee said.
The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) will also increase its number of places and award degrees in its own name.
SIT and UniSIM will become Singapore's fifth and sixth universities, said Mr Lee, as he noted that Singaporeans have "very high aspirations".
By 2020, the annual intake will be increased by 3,000, from the current 13,000 to 16,000. Correspondingly, 40 per cent of each cohort will go to university, up from the current 27 per cent.
Mr Lee said the extension of government bursaries and loans to UniSIM part-time students was in response to its students asking him if the Government would allow them to use the Central Provident Fund (CPF) to pay for their education, just like those taking full-time courses.
"I said no, you are working, you have responsibilities, your CPF is for your house and future, we will give you more support, I'll prefer the Government to help you, rather than you take from your CPF," he said.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is expected to release more details this week. And Mr Lee said he hoped Singaporeans will take advantage of the initiative - "not just to collect that piece of paper but to develop yourselves, learn something new and useful and make a contribution to society".
UniSIM President Cheong Hee Kiat told TODAY that currently, 55 per cent of the fees for its part-time students are subsidised.
"But for some of them it is still difficult to pay the other 45 per cent as they have so many other financial commitments," he said. He revealed that UniSIM has been working on offering full-time programmes for the "last seven years".
He added that it is committed to finding opportunities for "mutual learning" between part-time and full-time students.
On the SIT's expansion, its President, Professor Tan Chin Tiong, paid tribute to its partners and the staff who worked "so hard to bring SIT to where it is in just a few short years".
TODAY FILE PHOTO
08-26-2012, 10:44 PM #6426
Time to say yes to paternity leave, says PM Lee
Published on Aug 26, 2012
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday indicated that paternity leave may finally get the nod. He said that though the government has previously rejected the idea, it may be time for a change. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday indicated that paternity leave may finally get the nod. He said that though the government has previously rejected the idea, it may be time for a change.
"We have said no for a long time, but I think it is time we change to signal the importance of the father's role and your shared responsibility for raising children," he said.
He added: "So please use the paternity leave for the purpose it was given."
Paternity leave was one of the many suggestions that have been put forward since the National Population and Talent Division began a consultation on the population issue in July.
Other ideas put forward including having flexible work arrangements, giving priority to couples with young children for public housing, creating a Medisave account for each child at birth and to improve the Baby Bonus scheme.
It was unlikely, however, that suggestions to increase the maternity from four to six months would be taken up. He said the current length of maternity leave was about right.
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