4.09.2005

a singapore sham

let me start by apologizing to the countless singaporean friends that might be offended by this post.. i'm sorry. i was just lucky to meet the people i have when i was there.
let the ranting begin..


***

Jiahao's story - http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/printfriendly/0,4139,86038,00.html
the article says it all. all i have to add would be a personal message to Jiahao ~ i'm sorry you had to go through the shit. i had no idea what you were going through at the time.. i would so much like to help, yet i don't know what there is that can be done now. this post is.. well, me venting for you >.< thank you CK for the link.

and there's D's story.
He missed the honors program at the National University of Singapore (NUS) by 0.01 CAP/GPA point. He's one of the top 3 local students in the math faculty, which was supporting his appeal to the Dean to get into the honors program. The Dean gave it a quick glance and denied the appeal. Why did he miss the cut-off in the first place, you ask? NUS and Ministry of Education (MOE) had a sudden change of mind. (Quite similar to my medical faculty actually.. that's a whole other story onto itself.) D suddenly had to take honors modules in semester 1 of his first year while MOE implemented a new rule for future teachers to not need their 6 modules of english previously required. MOE was blissfully unaware that this wasn't to be taken at face value, that the module did not teach these future teachers to speak english (did MOE conveniently forget that english is one of singapore's official languages? are they insinuating that everyone who's thus far graduated from high school has incorrigible english abilities and that they should try to rectify english standards before unleashing these new teaching graduates on the next generation? now really...) Instead, the module was about linguistics.. the phonetics and characteristics of various languages were analyzed. So, all those linguistic modules he had completed no longer technically counted, but were still used to calculate his CAP anyway. The cut-off for the honors program was also suddenly lowered from 3.8 to 3.5 for everyone else born after 1980, a change that didn't benefit D, who had completed all his honor modules sans the project by this time. Obviously, he didn't do well enough to get into NUS honors but UNSW and the University of Melbourne accepted his application for direct honors. MOE rejected his application to go there countless times despite D's offer to pay full tuition fees for the overseas course... despite his reasons as a human being to further his studies now before his dad retired or else be denied the chance once he needs to pay for his family's expenses... despite repeated explanations regarding the circumstances beyond his control that led to the deficient 0.01 CAP/GPA he needed to get into the honors program locally. If it wasn't for the financial burden of breaking his bond as a local scholar, D would've long said hasta la vista and vamoosed.
that's the sg govt for you, and that's why i don't intend to live here all my
life
- quoted from D


"That's 2 only 2 sob stories!" you say. That's just the tip of the iceberg dear. What would speak more than words would be the statistics showing the number of scholarship bonds broken every year. What would be even more interesting would be to interview each scholar and find out their reasons. The government encourages graduates to take up scholarships ~ to go off and soak up knowledge from all corners of the world before returning home to share their expertise. Maybe the scheme would work if the students were valued as people rather than intellectual property serving not to better themselves, but to better the country and propel it into the glossy covers of magazines like Time to be listed as "Best Asian Country" or something similar. The government also welcomes foreign talent... who can blame them with the brain drain happening? The math department at NUS advertizes foreign lecturers as if hinting that local ones aren't as good. I feel for those students priviledged enough to get one of these lecturers hailing from the foreign lands of the Chinese Republic to teach math with Mandarin-accented English that's so thick that students are better off doing self-study from their textbooks at times.

I know that I may be pushing the wrong buttons in some of you who're patriotic and I acknowledge that these are sweeping opinionated statements that I'm making. I'd love to know what can be done about these unsaid, unheard injustices and inequalities happening not only to scholars, but to people from other sectors of life. I don't know tho. All I know is that everything starts with baby steps. Can you really blame someone for not knowing what you think if you don't tell them? Now.. be fair *wink*

I'd love to be able to find facts and figures to prove my points but oh, how convinient is it that this sort of information was deemed to "not be in the interest of the nation," according to the media backlash against Reuters some years ago by none other than Lee Kuan Yew, current Ministor Mentor of Singapore, justifying the statement by saying they did not understand the special circumstances of the nation.

So pray tell, what may these special circumstances be? Could it be.. that his beloved city-state is running a democratic facade to cover up the communistic principles in the background? Having lived in Singapore for a short 5 years, I've seen enough during my first 6 months to wish I had some ability to leave the hell-hole.


  • What was this I read in the papers about upgrading residential districts governed by the leading political party while the blocks just across the road remain in their dilapidated state because they belonged to another constituent?
  • Speaking of political parties.. have there been any of the "opposition parties" in control of the government since I've left or has the People's Action Party (PAP) been in control since 1965?
  • What's with the supposed freedom of speech? Dig up old newspapers regarding the hoo-haa about the Austin Powers movie. The censorship board prudently decided on behalf of the whole nation that they wouldn't be able to handle the word "shagged" in the movie title so they changed it to local slang instead. "Shioked" was eventually dropped due to the huge public outcry. It's a relief to realize that there are fewer sheep than there appears to be.
  • What is this about implementing novel educational ideas into secondary school cirriculum to keep up with the Jones? "Creative idea" projects gleaned from American systems are thrown into the already packed British-based syllabus. Wonderful idea in theory - the best of both worlds! Have they any idea what it feels like to be a student going THROUGH it all? How wise is it to identically transfer a sound idea into another context, environment, culture or society?
    • Take my current university as an example. They bought a software program "that all the American universities are using because it's so great and it can do this and that" ...spent a cool couple tens of thousands of dollars on it too. It was only after installation did they realize that the university hierarchies, course structures and names in Australia were different to their North American counterparts. Oops. Guess what the briliant solution was? Ah-huh.. the university restructured itself just so the software could be used. Took them over a year to reprint, re-announce, re-educate, re-organize everything.
  • Other personal gripes, mostly about the education system lol:
    • What's with all those essays in secondary school where we were supposed to creative, yet we were given a topic with specific points that needed to be covered to pass.. and a word limit?! Or how English assignments weren't given points because I didn't have the underlined words specified in the answer key on my assignment when I had used a synonym instead. As Abs would say.. What up?!?! I blame the British for this one..
    • What's with the sheep mentality? Kiasu-ism.. .and kiasi-ism, whilst being very much Singlish (yay for diversity!), is not something to be proud of as an identifying characteristic of a Singaporean. It's one thing being patriotic, it's another thing to be blindly patriotic.. to say that everything singaporean is good. That's like eating the moldy food your roommate just threw out from the take-out store you swear by because the food's from there.

I must admit, I'm probably stepping over the line with the last gripe because hey, it's not my place to go tell people how to live and think. Then again, it's also not your place to tell me what and how to think. "Stop dissing Singapore! If you hate it so much, don't come back!" you say.. I was the one who had a problem with the rest of the world so I dealt with it by getting out of there as fast as I could instead of sitting on my butt whinging. I could go on and on.. but I guess I'll leave you with this question...

How is it that a lot of my peers have more long-term planning skills, life experiences, intuition and logic at 20-odd years of age than the goons running universities and countries in their 40s and 50s?

6 comments:

AcidFlask said...

Thanks for the well wishes. Good to hear from you after so long!

sarabae said...

Well Well Well said. -Standing Ovation- I could not agree more. I empathise with those mentioned in your post. If the people were truly such an important resource (read: the only resource), why aren't they treated with more dignity? A state's citizens are not merely the labour value of one side of the economic equation. There is more to the survival of a state and economy is not the only answer.

æmii ~ said...

aw, 'twas the least i could do, mr flask ^^

*blink* wow.. that was my first standing ovation -ever- ..thank you *beams* you know what irks me tho? the fact that nothing will probably be done for the time being, that it'll take a while for all the factors precipitating change to fall in place and that more people will have their paths diverted by red tape and "circumstance" >.<

how does one over come the gross amount of inertia needed to start the ball of change rolling? mebbe allot's book would help :D

sarabae said...

you're welcome.. :) i doubt allott's book will help. but we do need acamdeics like him. i think our country lacks thinkers; or we do have sufficient amount but they don't speak up. and those who do, do not think enough. it's sad, isn't it?

well i think that change occurs slowly and our country lacks the catalysts for a major reform. moreover, the problem our society is facing is not plain visible. it is always in between the lines. riding right underground. so without major conflicts or natural disasters, our society will stay the way it is. plus, the point we're talking about here is just piece of the jigsaw. it is when you piece everything together, then the whole problem comes to light. besides, we have more things to worry about. by the looks of it (the discussion on a casino), the economists' lies (or state coverup) have just been yanked out into the open.

sy said...

Bureaucracy is everywhere, not just Singapore. But Singapore civil service does have more of this red tape, in the rigid form too! Bureaucrats here are just not flexible. Afterall, we're still very much the "if-its-not-stated,-its-not-allowed" type. The Asian culture plays a part in this.

But we are changing. V. Balakrishnan, minister for community & youth development is quite promising; he was anti-establishment in his youth days and was the proposition in a university debate "Our civil service lacks initiative." I hope the new generation of ministers removes most of these red tape.

æmii ~ said...

i hope there's less red tape too..
but then there'll always be new issues. it's a matter of how they're handled i guess. half the time, the kimochi as the japs would call it (i don't know how to say it in english) does the trick. it's like how an illness is 90% cured by the patient him/herself and 10% by actual treatment.