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Thread: Singapore Also Can
08-28-2012, 11:32 PM #6444
5th, 6th publicly-funded universities to pioneer system of "learning on the job"
By Monica Kotwani | Posted: 28 August 2012 1158 hrs
A model of Singapore Institute of Technology's (SIT) campus at Singapore Polytechnic. (Photo: SIT)
SINGAPORE: Up to half of Singapore's student cohort each year will have access to a publicly funded university place by 2020.
The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and SIM University (UniSIM) will offer the additional places.
With both on board, publicly funded full-time university places for Singaporeans will go up by 3,000 to 16,000 by 2020.
This will benefit 40 per cent of each cohort, up from the current 27 per cent.
Add to that, a rise in the number of Singaporeans pursuing a part-time publicly funded degree.
That's up from 7 to 10 per cent of each cohort.
The Education Ministry (MOE) said this brings the overall publicly-funded cohort participation rate to 50 per cent by 2020.
SIT and UniSIM - Singapore's fifth and sixth university - will offer degrees that are industry-focused.
Together, they will pioneer a system of "learning on the job".
The committee tasked with reviewing the university sector said the expansion in university places was carefully calibrated.
Senior Minister of State for Education, and Information, Communications and the Arts Lawrence Wong said: "We were very mindful of the risk of expanding too rapidly, and compromising quality as a result of over expansion.
"This came across from many feedback that we had. We were aware of the risks when we looked at other countries, but we also had feedback from students themselves, who were worried that an over expansion of degree places would erode the value of the degree.
"From parents, from our international advisory panel, which cited the experiences of other countries which had expanded too rapidly, resulting in a mismatch between the degrees the students had, and the needs of the economy. Or some countries which had expanded very rapidly without adequate resourcing of the university sector, and without ensuring quality, and so you have outcomes like underemployment of university graduates, or unemployment of university graduates.
"During its year-long deliberations, the committee stuck to three guiding principles. One, that the quality and value of university education is maintained; two, that there be judicious use of public funds and; three, keeping university education affordable, while ensuring fiscal sustainability for the government."
In announcing enhancements to the university sector, Mr Wong said Singapore is trying to pioneer a distinct applied degree pathway, after extensive consultations with stakeholders, as well as looking at various models, but at the end of the day, applying in a way that fits Singapore's needs.
So, SIT will be given autonomous status and award its own degrees.
It will take in A-level, International Baccalaureate and polytechnic students and offer what's called a Cooperative Education Programme which could see undergraduates taking on prolonged work attachments.
SIT said this will be quite different from the usual internship programme as students will be paid wages like regular employees.
Professor Tan Thiam Soon, President-Designate of SIT, said: "When a student of this actually gets involved with a company, they're not just there to do an internship, just to gain some experience. They'll actually be doing some real job. So we have to work with the industry so that they actually get real wages as well, because they're doing a real job. So it's not an internship - you go in, just sit around, observe a few things and then write a report. These people will be expected to work on real projects."
UniSIM will also help to expand the university sector via the applied degree pathway.
UniSIM's full-time degree programmes will be publicly-funded and admit fresh school leavers and working adults.
Both universities said it will take some time before details on their programmes and intake numbers are finalised though SIT hopes to get autonomous status within two years.
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President of UniSIM, said: "It takes a little bit of time to look into this and refine; we don't want to just do it for the sake of running a programme. We really need to look at industry and businesses, and see what do they need, how can we shape our programmes that will fit the needs of business and industry. And I think it's something we're working on. And we need to work with Ministry of Education on numbers and timings and indeed we need to work with SIT because I think we have two new institutions bringing this kind of programmes. How can we coordinate so that the offerings to the public (and) the new students will be comprehensive, will be useful for industry as well as meet the aspirations of the students."
And emphasising on life-long learning, the government will also provide more funding for part-time degree courses.
It will also get the industry to provide more scholarships for those who want to upgrade after gaining work experience as well as improve access to part-time degree programmes through greater recognition of relevant work experience and alternative qualifications in the admissions criteria.
The Education Minister stressed though that the various initiatives are not about the paper chase.
Mr Heng Swee Keat said: "A degree by itself doesn't guarantee a good job. In fact, it does not even guarantee a job if you look at what's happening in Europe, in America and different parts of the world."
Better jobs, Mr Heng said, can only be created if the economy stays vibrant, and grows in breadth and depth.
08-28-2012, 11:44 PM #6445
S'pore Global Dialogue 2012 on Sep 20-21
By S Ramesh | Posted: 28 August 2012 1925 hrs
SINGAPORE: This year's Singapore Global Dialogue will focus its discussions and attention on US-China relations and world economic governance.
Organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), the event will see some of the world's distinguished political leaders and diplomats take part.
The third edition of the Singapore Global Dialogue will take place on September 20 and 21.
They include former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy, and Ibrahim Gambari from the United Nations.
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will open the session.
The conference seeks to create an Asian-oriented platform where contemporary global issues and strategic challenges are explored and debated.
Organisers said over the past year, numerous questions on the future of international order have been raised by events such as the eurozone financial crisis, the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East, the continuing rise of China, and the new US pivot or rebalancing strategy towards Asia.
Transnational challenges such as climate change and resource management have also created new uncertainties, while the Fukushima disaster has cast doubts on nuclear energy as a clean source of energy for the future.
As the world's economic centre of gravity continues to shift eastwards, the Asia Pacific region has also become strategically significant as a key player in international affairs.
Participants will also discuss current developments in the Asia Pacific and beyond, and explore the most pressing challenges to the international order.
08-28-2012, 11:52 PM #6446
New antenna that increases Wi-Fi speed by 200 times
Posted: 28 August 2012 1729 hrs
SINGAPORE: Researchers from A*STAR's Institute of Microelectronics (IME) have developed the first compact high performance silicon-based cavity-backed slot (CBS) antenna that operates at 135 GHz.
About the size of a sesame seed, it is the smallest silicon-based CBS antenna reported to date for ready integration with active circuits.
IME's innovation will help realise a wireless communication system with very small form factor. It is almost two-thirds cheaper than a conventional CBS antenna.
The antenna can support wireless speed of 20 Gbps - more than 200 times faster than present day Wi-Fi.
This means there will be ultra fast point-to-point access to rich media content which is useful in online learning and entertainment.
08-29-2012, 12:04 AM #6447
S'pore to host Asian Netball Champs
By Alywin Chew
04:45 AM Aug 29, 2012
SINGAPORE - Netball enthusiasts in Singapore will be rejoicing after it was announced yesterday that the Republic will host the 9th Asian Netball Championship in 2014.
The event is expected to be held at the Singapore Sports Hub which will be ready in March 2014 and the championship will involve 10 to 12 countries. Singapore won the bid after Pakistan decided to withdraw and bid for the 2018 edition instead. Singapore last hosted the event in 2005, when they were crowned champions of Asia for the first time at Toa Payoh Sports Hall.
Newly-elected Netball Singapore President Jessica Tan said: "I am delighted at winning the bid and would like to thank the ANF for awarding the event to us. Following the success of the Mission Foods World Netball Championships 2011, we want to bring in another major event and the 2014 Asian Champs is the most important event in Asia.
"It is also the qualifier for the 2015 World Championships so it makes perfect sense to bring this event to Singapore."
08-29-2012, 09:29 PM #6448
Justice Sundaresh Menon to be appointed new Chief Justice
Published on Aug 29, 2012
Judge of Appeal Sundaresh Menon will take over from present Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong as Chief Justice from Nov 6. -- PHOTO: ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S CHAMBERS
Judge of Appeal Sundaresh Menon will be appointed the Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court with effect from Nov 6, replacing the present Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong who will retire on the same day after he reaches his 75th birthday.
A statement from the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday afternoon said that the decision to appoint Justice Sundaresh Menon was taken "in concurrence with the advice of the Prime Minister".
The President, acting in his discretion, and in concurrence with the advice of the Prime Minister, has appointed Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal of the Supreme Court, as the Chief Justice with effect from Nov 6 2012. The CJ said: "Being in the public service for 26 years, including serving as Chief Justice of Singapore in the past 6 years, has been a great honour and privilege given to few. I have found this opportunity to serve Singapore to be immensely meaningful and satisfying."
Paying a tribute to the CJ, Justice Menon said: "It is daunting to be faced with the prospect of taking over from someone who has been a towering figure in the Singapore legal landscape throughout the course of my professional career, but having known the Chief Justice for 25 years and having seen first hand his personal kindness and generosity as a mentor and his love for the law, I know he will remain available to help in any way he can. I pray that I will discharge this great responsibility with wisdom, courage, humility and honour.”
Sundaresh Menon is new Chief Justice
by Teo Xuanwei
04:46 AM Aug 30, 2012
SINGAPORE - When it was announced at the end of May that he was leaving the Attorney-General (AG) post to become Judge of Appeal - after a relatively brief tenure as AG - there was speculation among some in the legal fraternity that Justice Sundaresh Menon was primed to become the Republic's next Chief Justice (CJ).
As veteran lawyer Peter Low put it: When Justice Menon, 50, was appointed Judge of Appeal, "there was expectation at the Bar that it was a transitory appointment" because former CJ Yong Pung How and incumbent CJ Chan Sek Keong "both had experience on the Bench before becoming CJ".
Yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced that Justice Menon, who was sworn in as Judge of Appeal barely a month ago, would receive the gavel from CJ Chan on Nov 6, a day after the latter turns 75. PMO said that CJ Chan, who was appointed in 2006, will retire.
Justice Menon's appointment would see him - within a span of less than five months - go from being the State's "chief enforcer", to Appellate judge, to becoming the fourth man presiding over the Republic's highest court.
This meteoric rise was hardly surprising, legal eagles told TODAY.
Describing Justice Menon as an "excellent choice" for CJ, former AG Walter Woon, who is now the David Marshall Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Centre for International Law, said: "He has had extensive experience as an advocate, both here and abroad… Also, he has a first-class brain, so I expect that the quality of jurisprudence emanating from the courts will continue to be excellent."
Drew & Napier chief executive Davinder Singh added that Justice Menon's "sharp legal mind, integrity and deep sense of right and wrong will make him an excellent CJ who will command the universal respect and confidence of the legal community".
Law Society of Singapore President Wong Meng Meng noted that Justice Menon was "one of the leading members of the Bar", before his appointments as AG and as Judge of Appeal. Said Mr Wong: "He was one of the most successful and definitely one of the most respected."
Commenting on his appointment, Justice Menon said it was "daunting to be faced with the prospect of taking over from someone who has been a towering figure in the Singapore legal landscape". "I pray that I will discharge this great responsibility with wisdom, courage, humility and honour," he added.
CJ Chan said being in the public service for 26 years, including six years as CJ, "has been a great honour and privilege given to few".
He said: "Justice Menon brings with him new ideas and perspectives on the administration of justice. I extend my best wishes to him and congratulate him on a well-deserved appointment."
Tributes also flowed for CJ Chan.
NUS law don Michael Hor said that CJ Chan "has brought the judiciary, and with it the legal system, of Singapore to a level of excellence which is easily on par with, and in some respects, even above the best legal systems of the world".
He will also be remembered for "his preponderant sense of evenhandedness".
"One came away from an encounter with the CJ satisfied that he had carefully considered and weighed everything that had been said, although he may not have ultimately agreed with what had been said," said Prof Hor.
Mr Wong said that under CJ Chan's watch, "the common man knows that he will not be denied justice in our Courts any more than the criminal may think he can escape or hoodwink justice".
"The Bar is especially grateful to CJ Chan for the exemplary judicial temperament he displayed throughout his tenure and the grace and respect extended to lawyers who appeared before him," said Mr Wong.
Wiki on the new CJ:
Last edited by Loh; 08-29-2012 at 09:38 PM.
08-29-2012, 10:11 PM #6449
Spread young talent among schools
Concentrating the best students in top schools is not ideal, says Ngiam Tong Dow
by Woo Sian Boon
04:46 AM Aug 30, 2012
SINGAPORE- The Republic's young talent should be spread out across the island's schools, instead of being concentrated in a few elite schools, said retired top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow yesterday.
Speaking at the National University of Singapore's U@Live Forum - which was attended by 200 people, including undergraduates and alumni - Mr Ngiam, 75, noted how the country's top students went to either "Raffles Institution (RI) or Raffles Girls' Secondary School".
"I'm not saying that they don't deserve to go (to these schools); they do. But they will be taught by just two sets of teachers, and they can only deal with the regular problems of the world, they cannot deal with (problems that are out of the box)," he said.
Mr Ngiam was responding to a comment by former Nominated Member of Parliament Viswa Sadasivan, who moderated a dialogue session.
Mr Viswa, who is an RI alumnus, noted that the school's students were made aware that they were the cream of the crop. "It's not a good thing because it leads to elitism and complacency," he said.
Mr Ngiam also reiterated that Government scholars should not all be joining the Civil Service after completing their studies. Instead, half of them should "go into business", he said.
"The whole point is to spread our brains throughout society and not just in the administration," said the former Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary, who is now Pro-Chancellor at NUS and Adjunct Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
During the dialogue, Mr Ngiam was also asked about his thoughts on a one-party system versus a multi-party system.
In response, Mr Ngiam cited the ancient cities of Sparta and Athens. "Sparta was efficient and disciplined, but in the end, it failed, because such a state is very brutal, whereas Athens was very chaotic, argumentative, messy, but they survived," he said.
In his speech before the dialogue session, Mr Ngiam proposed that the Finance Ministry extend a S$100 million grant to the Economic Development Board to invest in 100 start-up companies that germinated in Singapore's universities and polytechnics.
"Singapore has to tap into its universities and polytechnics to initiate the spirit of wealth creation in young minds," he said.
He also suggested that students be encouraged to form project teams of two to three from various faculties to propose business ideas.
Speaking to reporters after the dialogue, Mr Ngiam said that under his proposal, the money given to undergraduates would come in the form of risk capital - and not grants - that would be administered by EDB.
"Grants are a great wastage, if I may say so ... When I was chairman of EDB, I never gave out grants, because if you ask me for a grant, it means your company is not commercially viable. I think the present tendency to give grants is a wrong system," he said.
Mr Ngiam reiterated that Singapore "cannot depend on (multi-national corporations) forever".
He said: "I'm trying to suggest that universities should be mobilised as our strategic assets for economic growth. (We have to) spark entrepreneurship. If they fail, then so be it. Unless we try, we will never be able to start up our own companies."
Retired civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow. TODAY FILE PHOTO
08-29-2012, 10:18 PM #6450
Void Deck Art Gallery@Holland
by Ooi Boon Keong
04:46 AM Aug 30, 2012
A passer-by looking at art on the walls of the void deck at Block 8, Holland Avenue, yesterday.
The void deck has been transformed into an art gallery as part of a unique creative project initiated by non-profit arts enterprise Social Creatives.
The walls are adorned with pop art inspired by famous artists Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, but given a Singaporean twist.
More than 500 youths and residents of Buona Vista were involved in painting the murals. The Void Deck Art Gallery@Holland was officially opened by Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing yesterday.
Photo Ooi Boon Keong
Void Deck Art Gallery@Holland. PHOTO OOI BOON KEONG
08-29-2012, 10:28 PM #6451
From Woodlands to Marina in 55 minutes
Thomson MRT line, to open from 2019, will cut travelling time by as much as 25 minutes
by Sumita Sreedharan
04:46 AM Aug 30, 2012
SINGAPORE - Starting from Woodlands North, and running through places like Lentor, Sin Ming and Kim Seng, the new 30km Thomson Line - spanning 22 stations - will connect residents living along the North-South corridor to the heart of the city as well as the Marina Bay area.
To be fully operational by 2021, the latest addition to Singapore's MRT network is expected to serve 400,000 commuters daily. The underground line will save commuters as much as 25 minutes of travelling time.
For example, a commuter who previously had to spend 65 minutes to travel from Sin Ming to the Gardens by the Bay via bus and MRT will be able to reach his destination in about 40 minutes on the Thomson Line. Travelling time from Woodlands Regional Centre to Marina Barrage will also be cut by one fifth, to 55 minutes.
Running parallel to the North South Line, the Thomson Line will connect to all existing lines as well as the future Downtown Line via six interchange stations, the Land Transport Authority said yesterday as it announced the alignment of the new line.
The Thomson Line, which is estimated to cost S$18 billion, will be opened in three phases: In 2019, three stations will be up and running between Woodlands North and Woodlands South. A year later, six stations running between Springleaf to Caldecott will be opened. The final stretch of 13 stations from Mount Pleasant to Gardens by the Bay will open in 2021.
An estimated 60,000 households will be within 400m of one of the Thomson Line stations when the line is fully operational.
The Thomson Line will run on a four-car system, instead of a three-car system that the Circle Line and the future Downtown Line use.
Speaking during a visit to Telok Ayer Station of Downtown Line One, which will open by the end of next year, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said this will allow for "additional capacity to cope with any increase in long-term demand".
As residents welcomed the news, Members of Parliament noted that the Thomson Line will ease the load on the North South Line as well as the roads, including the Central Expressway and the upcoming North-South Expressway.
Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's most recent masterplan in 2008, the number of homes in the northern region would increase by 30 per cent to more than 170,000 over the next decade or so.
Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Josephine Teo, who is also the Minister of State for Transport noted that when the stations at Sin Ming and Thomson are built, "it will bring a lot of convenience and reduce road congestion around these areas particularly during the weekends".
The Government will need to acquire four full lots for the construction of the line - the Upper Thomson Road Post Office that was built in 1958, Pearls Centre in Chinatown and two landed properties along Stevens Road and Robin Close.
According to LTA Chief Executive Chew Hock Yong, the authorities had followed the alignment of the road "from the north right into the city to Marina Bay" in order to minimise acquisitions.
UniSIM School of Business transport expert Park Byung Joon told TODAY that this could be the reason why the Thomson Line will be longer than originally planned.
The Thomson Line will be 3km longer and have four more stations than what the authorities had envisaged. Its first phase had also been slated to open a year earlier, in 2018. Mr Lui said the change in timeline was to accommodate some adjustments made to the original plan.
08-29-2012, 10:42 PM #6452
Wealth creation can't be left to chance
by Ngiam Tong Dow
04:45 AM Aug 30, 2012
To secure our economic future, we need to seed it first.
In the new millennium, global competition will be more knowledge intensive than resource based. Let me begin with a quote from an article entitled Higher-Ed Superpower written by David Ignatius of The Washington Post in The Wall Street Journal edition of March 12, 2007.
He wrote: "When people think about American power in the world, they usually list the country's forbidding arsenal of bombers, aircraft carriers and troops. Yet America's strategic asset these days might not be its guns, but its universities."
Mr Ignatius' quote brought my mind back to 1976 when the Singapore delegation led by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited an engineering laboratory at Beijing University.
Our Chinese hosts told us that to overcome the strategic embargo imposed by the United States, their scientists and engineers were engaged in designing and building China's first super-computer.
A decade later, I read in the press that China had built a super-computer faster than the American Cray super-computer. Today, the race for the fastest super-computers is between the US, China and Japan.
I would like to propose that we apply our minds to two critical issues: First, how do we go about seeding Singapore's economic future? Second, how do we ignite the spirit of wealth creation in the minds of our young?
BECOMING WEALTH CREATORS
I agree with Mr Ignatius' thesis that universities and polytechnics are indeed a country's strategic assets. More so for Singapore than other states with their wealth of natural resources and abundance of manpower.
I do not have the statistics but I will not be far wrong to claim that Singapore's per capita spending on tertiary education is among the highest, if not the highest in the world.
Investment in higher education only enhances knowledge. Knowledge raises the potential of our undergraduates. Yet knowledge is power only when applied with discernment. And potential has to be manifested in performance.
At the recent 2012 NUS Commencement, 6,300 undergraduates and 3,600 post-graduates received their degrees. As I handed out the scrolls to the graduating class of the Arts and Science faculties, I wondered to myself how many of our young graduates will become wealth creators.
SHEER GRIT ALONE?
A century ago, poor young men left their impoverished homelands of China and India to seek a livelihood in the newly-founded British colony of Singapore. They were men with little formal education.
A fortunate few, through grit and tenacity, amassed fortunes. The recently announced plans to exhume the graves at the Bukit Brown cemetery for redevelopment into a new suburban satellite city remind us of some of our patriarchs who built early Singapore.
In a global knowledge-based world, can the great-grandchildren succeed through sheer tenacity and grit alone?
Mr Ignatius' writing gives much food for thought.
I believe that in the 21st century, we have to take a structured and disciplined approach to wealth creation. It can no longer be left to chance. A random hit or miss process will not do.
BEGIN IN SCHOOLS
As Mr Ignatius has suggested, we have to begin at our universities and polytechnics, for the simple reason that the core role of tertiary institutions is to teach and impart knowledge.
I propose that as part of their final-year curriculum, students be encouraged to form project teams of two of three from the same or across faculties.
The project teams will propose what they conceive to be viable businesses using new or significantly improved technology and processes. Project teams have to demonstrate beyond a shadow of doubt that their ideas are authentic and original.
Ms Olivia Lum, an NUS alumnus, established Hyflux, a leading water treatment company, only after she had researched and improved the efficacy of a desalination process using membrane technology.
Similarly, Mr Sam Goi invented a machine to make "popiah" and "prata" skins mechanically. Sam, you may like to know, is a Singapore Polytechnic graduate.
Start-up companies have a better chance of success if the key founding partners combine complementary skill sets. Outstanding industrial companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and Sony, were founded by partners who complemented each other. One in technology and the other in commerce.
Successful entrepreneurs tell me that the infant mortality rate among start-ups is highest in the initial two or three years. Without a product or service ready for the market, tight cash flows is a constant challenge for the fledgling start-up.
EQUITY BETTER THAN LOANS
Despite the herculean efforts of the Economic Development Board's (EDB) Light Industry Service Unit in the 1970s, EDB found it heavy going to process and approve more than a dozen loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) each year.
As bureaucrats we were risk averse. So at a lunch with our Chancellor, Dr Tony Tan, then in his capacity as chairman of the Association of Banks, I proposed that our four Singapore banks join EDB in implementing the Light Industries Finance Scheme (LIFS).
The Ministry of Finance through EDB would extend a line of credit to the banks for on lending to SMEs with the lending bank sharing half the risk .
When I left EDB three years later, the LIFS portfolio of 3,000 loans incurred a non-performing loan (NPL) ratio of only 3 per cent lower than the overall NPL ratio of the banks. The LIFS succeeded because it was decentralised.
LIFS loan, though necessary, are not sufficient for seeding growth. To seed the growth of new industries and enterprises, the state has to play an entrepreneurial role taking risks alongside the private sector.
Those who take a dim view of state capitalism should ask themselves where Singapore would be without the Ministry of Finance providing equity capital to SIA, Keppel Corporation, SembCorp, ST Engineering and, indeed, even DBS Bank.
Few people remember that the ministry was a founding shareholder in the Mandarin and the Shangri-La hotels.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
My modest proposal is for the Ministry of Finance to extend a S$100 million grant to EDB to invest in the equity of say 100 knowledge-based start-up companies germinated in our four universities and six polytechnics.
Incidentally, EDB, established in 1961, was also granted a grant of S$100 million to seed the economic growth of Singapore. That it has succeeded is for all to see.
My plea is for the Ministry of Finance to continue seeding our economy by sharing the risk through equity participation alongside private enterprise.
For a small state like Singapore, this to me is a viable strategy to compete with the giant BRIC - Brazil, Russia, India and China - economies, with their abundance of natural resources and manpower.
In a highly competitive knowledge-based global world economy, our universities are the only strategic assets we have. If we fail to mobilise our universities, Singapore will quickly revert back to the stagnant trade burdened economy of the 1950s.
My generation recall with a shudder the joblessness, slum housing, bad sanitation and petty street crime of our growing up years.
Without a knowledge-based growth strategy, all the glitz and glamour of the new Singapore we enjoy today will simply be a mirage, a footnote in world history.
Ngiam Tong Dow, the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister's Office, is now Pro-Chancellor at the National University of Singapore (NUS). This commentary is from a speech he gave at the NUS U@live Forum yesterday.
08-29-2012, 11:08 PM #6453
A future of our own making
by Devadas Krishnadas
04:45 AM Aug 30, 2012
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech not only hit notes of humility and sincerity, its positive reception was reinforced by his indications that some long sought-after policy adjustments, such as paternity leave, would be finally forthcoming.
This willingness to shift was underscored by the announcement of a national conversation. This is intended to feed input to the general review of policies to be headed by Minister Heng Swee Kiat. Such a step signals a new "co-creative" model of policy making.
For such a model to work, Singaporeans must play their part. It begins with participation. As one cliche goes, "decisions are made by those who show up". Today, "showing up" can be done virtually as well as physically. However, participation alone is an insufficient threshold to ensure that this experiment succeeds.
It is critical that the signal-to-noise ratio in communication is well managed. If not, we will have to make sense of a cacophonous crowd rather than a sonorous symphony. There are three requirements for this to be done well.
First, filters to separate picture from static. This should be the responsibility, not only of the Government but also community and civic leaders as well as responsible social media activists. Filters are needed to mediate the process of engagement and help sense of the emergent narrative.
Second, Singaporeans need to educate themselves on the issues and perceive them not through the monocle of self-interest, but with a binocular lens which balances self-interest with the larger considerations of community and nation. The focal length of these lenses must be sensitivity to the longer-term, not merely immediate preoccupations.
Third, we need to manage our emotions in this national conversation. There is considerable pent-up passion behind the varied grievances of Singaporeans. That emotional energy will need to be managed with maturity by all.
Emotion can be valid justification for a point of view. But emotion is not a good process with which to deal with it. Input should be thought through and presented soberly, with due consideration and respect to differences of view.
A WATCH NO MORE
The Prime Minister also had a sober message about being open to change.
He alluded to how radically things had changed over the past 20 years, and cast forward to how different things could be in 20 years hence. In so doing, he signalled a transition in the Government's perspective: From one that viewed society as complicated, to one which views it as complex. Let me explain.
Complicated systems are those which may have many moving parts, but which all function together in a predictable manner - like a mechanical watch. A part of the frustration felt by Singaporeans in recent years was the sense that the Government acted as watchmakers, maintaining a society they treated as nothing more than a complicated precision watch in need of occasional tuning.
A complex system, such as a society, is one in which all the constituent entities are interdependent and interconnected. What one entity does creates ripple effects affecting all others and in difficult to predict ways. Vitally, unlike complicated systems, complex ones are capable of adaptation.
Complex systems can be unpredictable and can eventuate in large outcomes, such as financial meltdowns. This unpredictability does not mean that complex systems cannot be somehow managed. It just means that managing it is a much more involved process than that of a watchmaker tuning a watch.
In a complex system, the watch tends to have a mind of its own.
Poorly adapting complex systems not only throw up negative large-scale events but also respond badly to shocks. Conversely, a complex system that exhibits adaptive resilience thrives despite shocks, sometimes even because of them. The societies which possess adaptive resilience have confidence in their identities.
Is Singapore a poor or resilient adaptive complex system?
Our own history is strong indication that we are good at adaptation. We have thrived through tumultuous change. Just because we are getting even more complex, does not mean that we cannot match up to the higher ante of adaptation required.
The moral compass of the nation lies within each of us, magnetised by the warmth of shared values and not steered from the outside by the grim iron of economic numbers. Knowing this, we need not fear losing ourselves even as the frequency and amplitude of change increase.
This conviction must be of a shared attitude of mind and a spirit of heart. It should not require a government department to cultivate; it must be an autonomously activated, self-sustaining chain reaction of positive energy. It must be real, not manufactured.
To facilitate this, we have to have more trust that people have the intelligence and maturity to be self-regulating in their social and political conduct. Not all will live up to this standard, but the deficiencies of a few should not be determinant of the standard for all.
This trust needs to be both between government and people, and among the different constituencies of people within the community.
Successful adaptation does not mean that every challenge can be defeated. It means also learning to come to terms with changes which cannot be avoided.
During the process of the national conversation, we should be prepared to make some reality checks on our expectations of just what can change and what cannot.
First, it is our lot in life to be a geographically limited country. The implication is that density of urban environment can only continue to intensify. No amount of conversation will change that.
But coming to terms can be a positive process of self-awareness of the things that matter more, over the things that matter less. In other words, we work on the things we can change, such as building our social harmony amidst the density, and fret less about the things we cannot, which is the density itself.
Second, we are an ageing society and that is a persistent driving force of social change. While some may be resistant to the placing of aged centres near them now, they will likely change their minds when they themselves are turning aged.
Realistically, with ageing being so pervasive, we face a future where infrastructure for the aged will permeate every part of the community. Introducing this infrastructure progressively allows us to stay slightly ahead of demand.
Third, we are becoming more diverse. As Shakespeare has Hamlet observe, "there is nothing that is either good or bad but thinking makes it so". I suspect that adjusting to this new reality of social diversity will be the greatest test for most Singaporeans.
A BLIP, NOT A BOMB
Fourth, our existing public infrastructure is ageing. The MRT and the main highways are now some 25 or more years old. We have the means to recapitalise and extend them.
The occasional failure is, on the grand scale of things, a blip not a bomb. So let us take a deep breath and cut ourselves some slack even while insisting, justifiably, on high standards. Cutting slack simply means not over-interpreting the meaning of occasional failures and consequently growing despondent that we are systemically decaying.
Fifth, and most importantly, let us mature to accept that the Government is not our parent and the people are not its children.
To expect the national conversation to be a binary one, where complaints flow in one direction and solutions flow from the other, is naive and self-defeating. For the experiment of co-creation to work, solutions have to come from the community and individuals as well as the Government.
SHAPING THE NEW NARRATIVE
Complex systems are capable of the phenomena of emergence. This is where macro reality is created by, but is distinct from, the action of the micro activity. The wonder that is consciousness, generated from the chemistry of neural activity, is an example.
Similarly, the new narrative for Singapore will emerge from the activity of a multitude of conversations, iterations of discussions, resolutions of tensions and, yes, even clash of ideas. We should be willing but patient enough to see this process through.
The future is not certain. We are not in full control of events and some driving forces of change are fixed. What is flexible is our attitude towards these driving forces. We may not be able to fully recognise our future before it is here, but we can do much to make it the way we want it to appear.
We can give deliberate attention to the things we can control and take ownership of the process by which we do so. We already have a good start. We have a leader who has the wisdom to know that it is better to change while we can, and not when we must, and the courage to acknowledge that the need for change applies to himself and his team as much as it does to the people and the nation.
Devadas Krishnadas is Director and Principal Consultant for Future-Moves, a foresight consultancy. He has extensive policy and operational experience in Singapore's public sector.
08-30-2012, 10:55 PM #6454
High cost of living 'issue for US firms' in Singapore
Published on Aug 31, 2012
Singapore's infrastructure, security, stable government, tax structure and business incentives make it an attractive place for business, according to a recent survey that polled top executives of US firms in seven Asean nations. -- ST FILE PHOTO
By Anita Gabriel, Senior Correspondent
The rising cost of living, particularly housing, is the biggest source of dissatisfaction among employees of American firms in Singapore, according to a new survey.
Pricey office leases and scarcity of cheap labour also pose challenges but other aspects of business life here were seen as positive.
Mr Simon Kahn, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Singapore, said at a briefing on the survey findings on Thursday: "My sense is that housing cost and the availability of high quality international schools could start to impact firms' business decisions to set up regional head offices here or elsewhere in the region."
The survey, which polled 356 top executives of US firms in seven Asean countries, was commissioned by AmCham and the US Chamber of Commerce.
08-30-2012, 11:06 PM #6455
Prince William and wife to visit Singapore
by Woo Sian Boon
04:46 AM Aug 31, 2012
SINGAPORE - Besides having an orchid named in their honour at the Botanic Gardens, Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine Middleton will also be shown an orchid named after the late Princess Diana - which she "never got to see in person" - when they visit Singapore next month.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are on a tour around the Asia-Pacific as part of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, will be in Singapore for three days from Sept 11.
Hosted by President Tony Tan, the royal couple will visit places such as Gardens by the Bay and the Kranji War Memorial. They will also learn more about public housing here and take in a cultural performance at Strathmore Green in Queenstown - an area chosen as it was named after the present Queen, said British High Commissioner to Singapore, Mr Antony Phillipson.
At the Rainbow Centre in Margaret Drive, Prince William will spend time with children in a physical education session, while the Duchess will meet children engaged in art therapy classes.
08-30-2012, 11:12 PM #6456
Giant pandas' bear-y comfortable home
04:46 AM Aug 31, 2012
Giant pandas Jia Jia and Kai Kai (inset), which are arriving in Singapore on Thursday, will move to a 1,500-sq-m lush oasis at the River Safari, designed to replicate their home in China's Sichuan province.
The enclosure, which cost S$8.6 million, will have temperatures set at between 18°C and 22°C. The design team said the enclosure exceeds the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards for the pandas' comfort.
The building also has double-cavity concrete walls for insulation. A glass ceiling lets in natural light but is double-glazed to keep the heat out. On loan from China, the male and female pair will be in Singapore for 10 years.
Kai Kai. PHOTO WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
08-31-2012, 01:02 AM #6457
Now for the next generation
STTA angling for mix of local and foreign talents for future after Wang Yuegu's retirement
by Low Lin Fhoong firstname.lastname@example.org
04:46 AM Aug 31, 2012
SINGAPORE - They may not be household names yet, but local paddler Isabelle Li and China-born duo Zhou Yihan and Lin Ye are set to become the future faces of Singapore table tennis.
The three teenagers have been earmarked to join seniors Feng Tianwei, Yu Mengyu and Sun Beibei in the hunt for medal glory at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and fill the gap left by Wang Yuegu and, quite possibly, Li Jiawei.
Wang, 32, recently announced her retirement - she had submitted her resignation on Aug 24 - after winning the women's team bronze at the London Olympics, while veteran paddler Li - who left her hometown of Beijing at 14 to play for Singapore under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme - may follow suit.
Although Li has said previously that she will only make a decision by the end of the year, Singapore Table Tennis Association President (STTA) Lee Bee Wah hinted that the 31-year-old could call it a day.
Said Lee: "Jiawei said in an interview after the Olympics that she's not interested in becoming a coach (after her playing days are over). I think it's time to give the younger players a chance, and we would like to groom young players with Tianwei as the team leader."
Currently ranked world No 28 at the Under-21 level, 19-year-old Yihan - who won three titles on the ITTF Junior Circuit in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Thailand this year - is also ranked 119th in the world.
This makes her the highest-ranked among the three teens. Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Isabelle, and Lin Ye are 170th and 199th respectively.
Competition for places in the men's team will also be fierce. Olympians Gao Ning, Yang Zi and Zhan Jian are expected to fend off the challenge from the likes of Brazil Open Under-21 singles winner Chen Feng, Ma Liang, Wu Zhikang, Yu Jiaqing, Xin Zhaoxu and local boys Pang Xuejie and Clarence Chew.
Matching the London Games haul of two bronze medals in the women's team and singles will be a tall task for the young paddlers, but Lee is confident that they will be ready for the Rio de Janeiro Games in four years' time.
She said: "Our target is to maintain our world-class standard, and I am confident we can do that. If they work hard, I don't see why they cannot be world-class."
Despite the addition of a number of foreign-born athletes to the Singapore national team, Lee - who was responsible for kickstarting the successful STTA-PAP Community Foundation programme for kindergarten children - stressed that the STTA are committed to the development of local players for next year's SEA Games in Myanmar, the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
"These youngsters have four years to step into their seniors' shoes, and I'm quite confident they can provided they are committed and work hard," said Lee.
"We do not purposely recruit foreign talents. Instead, all of them come knocking at our doors. But we have an open policy for talents of all kinds ... we see who are the capable ones that we can take in. Personally, I would like to see the local players succeed and I have told the coaches to pay special attention to them.
"We want to see them succeed as that will help us promote table tennis. We will provide them with every opportunity, but it is up to them as you can only qualify for the Olympics through your world ranking."
Local-born Isabelle Li (left) and China-born Zhou Yihan might feature in the 2016 Olympics. Today file photo
09-01-2012, 12:18 AM #6458
Teachers, education support staff get pay rise
By Sharon See, Joanne Chan | Posted: 31 August 2012 1511 hrs
SINGAPORE: Schools across the island celebrated Teachers' Day in advance on Friday, and for many educators, it's an extra special occasion this year.
Some 26,000 teachers and 500 Allied Educators (AEDs) will get a pay raise starting September 1.
The Education Ministry said the adjustments will ensure the salaries keep pace with the market and match their roles and responsibilities.
The last pay revision for teachers was more than four years ago.
For Allied Educators, this is their first pay review since the scheme was created in 2009.
Teachers will get an 8 per cent increment - which means a rise of up to S$550 for teachers, and S$830 for senior teachers.
Allied Educators' salaries will go up by 5 to 15 per cent, which is an increase of up to S$700.
Kelda Chan, an allied counsellor at Anderson Secondary School welcomed the move.
"I feel that is how MOE actually sees and recognises our work and our effort in school, and I'm just thankful that they feel (our work) is just as important as that of a teacher."
Mrs Constance Loke, Principal of Haig Girls' School, said: "I'm glad to hear about the salary revision. But at the end of the day, we do what we do because we love the children and we have a passion for making a difference in their lives."
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said on his Facebook page that he is pleased that the ministry is making the salary adjustments.
Ng Wei Da, a teacher at Anderson Secondary, is one of many who hope to get more support from the ministry, in terms of managing their workload and professional development.
"Recently, the PM mentioned about work-life harmony during the National Day Rally, and I think a lot of teachers are also facing this problem."
Ms Chan said: "I would really like to contribute more to the school, but I think it'd be great if we're able to be equipped with a higher level training or education for us, post-graduate studies to be exact."
The chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, Mr Lim Biow Chuan, said the ministry's move is timely.
"Currently what we have is a tight labour market, and the experience is that every time we have a tight labour workforce, the teachers do feel a certain amount of attraction to want to try and see whether they will perform better in the private sector. I don't think it's wise for us to wait for that to happen," he said.
Mr Lim said it's important to ensure teachers are paid competitively to better retain them.
09-01-2012, 12:26 AM #6459
Five teachers receive President's Award
By Alice Chia | Posted: 31 August 2012 1943 hrs
Mr Gejendran Krishnan from Geylang Methodist Secondary School organised fund-raising projects to Malacca and Cambodia for students in his Normal Academic and Normal Technical
SINGAPORE: Five teachers have been honoured with the President's Award for Teachers for their dedication to the profession and innovation in teaching.
They received their awards from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana on Friday evening.
Some students call 35-year-old Mdm Irene Tan a "fairy godmother", for the care and concern she showers on them.
Mdm Tan from Telok Kurau Primary School said many of her students are from broken families, so she tries to reach out to them.
"My pupils actually write to me... They also write ad hoc letters to me whenever they face any problems. I tell them, the minute you come into my class, I treat you as my own children and I will do anything for you. And of course in this case, it is to reach out to them emotionally before we achieve the common goal of attaining better results," she said.
In the classroom, Mdm Tan inspires students to learn about science, through activities such as magic shows.
Mr Gejendran Krishnan from Geylang Methodist Secondary School is one teacher who firmly believes in the value of community service.
He organised fund-raising projects to Malacca and Cambodia for students in his Normal Academic and Normal Technical classes - so as to motivate them.
"I ask provoking questions (like) 'What exactly did you see? Why were these pupils wanting to study even though they were in such a state?' When you start probing into these questions with the students, they tend to self-realise how fortunate they are to be living in Singapore. And they realise that birthright is not theirs to determine," he said.
Heartened with the changes, the school has also introduced the programme to students in the Express stream.
The other teachers honoured with the Award are: Ms Susan Koh Su-Cheng from Da Qiao Primary School; Madam Anwara Khatun Moklis Khan from Haig Girls' School; and Mr Yap Boon Chien from Tanjong Katong Girls' School.
09-01-2012, 03:49 AM #6460
Sentosa unveils new heritage hotel
Other developments in the pipeline include S'pore's first bungy jump and KidZania
by Alicia Wong 04:46 AM Sep 01, 2012
SINGAPORE - Once the living quarters of British and Indian artillerymen, a new heritage hotel is now set to be developed on the 4.2-hectare site in Sentosa.
Sitting between the Movenpick Hotel and Amara Sanctuary Resort, the new hotel - the 15th on the island - will be part of a belt of colonial buildings that have been transformed into heritage hotels.
It could have up to 550 rooms, making it the single hotel with the most number of rooms on the island. It is expected to open as early as 2015.
Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) will put up a public tender this month for the development of the site, which housed Temasek Polytechnic's (TP) Tourism Academy for seven years from 2005.
Developers will have to follow the Urban Redevelopment Authority's guidelines in conserving the area's military parade square and six blocks of barracks. They cannot, for instance, build on the parade square.
The announcement comes as SDC celebrated its 40th anniversary last night. SDC's Chief Executive Mike Barclay said: "With the increase in visitorship to the island ... we need more rooms."
Resorts World Sentosa, for example, saw occupancy rise from a high of 86 per cent last year to 92 per cent in the second quarter of this year, said spokesperson Robin Goh.
Ms Quah Siok Sim, TP's Section Head, Diploma in Hospitality & Tourism Management, described hotels as "an important demand generator" and the new heritage hotel would add
"colour" and enhance the island experience for locals and tourists.
Since the site "does not encourage high traffic flow", food and beverage (F&B) or retail outlets would need to have enough pull factors to draw a crowd, she added.
While a hotel could "keep people on the island longer", Ngee Ann Polytechnic Senior Lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam felt an F&B outlet would be a better choice, if Sentosa is to be positioned as a place for people to come together and relax.
Mr Barclay said SDC assessed the site for its suitability as a retail or F&B space, but
developers felt it was a "good hotel site".
Sentosa will also be opening Singapore's first bungy jump by the end of next year. Its family entertainment centre, housing KidZania Singapore, is to be completed in 2014, and the intra-island cableway is scheduled for completion in 2015.
"There's room to scale up the attractions, the F&B options and retail options we have, and we'll be working on that over the next few years," said Mr Barclay, adding that the SDC also wants to improve key pedestrian linkways to improve pedestrian experience on the island.
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