Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

the creator must allow it…

September 12, 2012

the creator must allow itself to be recreated by its own creature

Image

Picture taken from : http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/04/disassembling-grc-benefits-pap-3/

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Singapore Idol 2009 – Top 4? Not again!!!

November 25, 2009

What a bummer, I sat through the wholelive telecast of the singapore idol show hoping to see an elimination. But it was a let down – in a stupendously stupid move – the show producers had decided not to eliminate anyone.

My question is – Then what is their freaking point of today’s show which is supposed to be a competition where the idol with the least vote gets kicked out. What a waste of my precious time sitting throught the whole shit only to be let by an anti climax. It may well be a performace show for Aids awareness day and the idols were the guys who get to be screwed and totally used for it.

They washed cars and did alot of other social-services that the producers decided that they should do to ensure their return the following week. What are theygonna do next – clean toilets awareness day? They gonna get the idols and arm them with toilet brushes while belting out their favourite music?

I just don’t get it – it was such a waste of my time. TCS has not given any explanation for their stupid action. My only guess is that they are trying to prolong the idol fever to up their viewership ratings, generate more advertisement income, make people spend more money on smses. Or the whole shit could be a ploy to save Charles “Boring” Wong. It’s anybody’s guess.

It’s baffling, does not do justice to the thousands of voters who paid good money to see some results, nor for the viewers who spent their prime hours of the evening to see a show but only to be disappointed by an anti climax. Most of all it does not do justice to todays winners. What if today’s loser manages to catch up next week and today’s winner gets kicked out next week? Its not fair. Just when you were reaching the finishing line they shifted the goal posts. A big thumbs down for TCS and the Idol producers. It simply does not do any justice

Are Singaporean Voters Fairly Represented in Parliament?

March 13, 2009

Hmmm its worth a thought. This is the silent big question that never gets a fair hearing in every of our elections. The Straits times – the most common source of news – automatically transforms itself to become an unabashed sycophantic party publication during election time, giving fully positive coverage to the ruling party candidates. Sort of like a PAP sleeper cell that is fully activated during election time. Well so much for journalistic integrity and impartiality. I don’t blame them either… just see it’s board’s constitution and their connections – you’ll see why.

Anyway the reason why I am writing about this crap at all – even for a regular, politically apathetic Singaporean like me – is the redrawing of electoral boundaries and updating of voter registration is indeed an eyebrow raising event. Not least because the boundaries were re-drawn – but the timing of which. It normally happens juuuuuust before parliament is dissolved. But election is at least two years away.

 

Normally boundaries are finalized just when the opposition had worked the ground for the past 5 years and had come within firing range when the government shifts the goal posts.

 

This is called gerrymandering i.e.  to deliberately divide the electoral geography to the disadvantage of the opposition. And without saying anything about the political independence of the Elections department, this is indeed surprising.

 

Well no one expects the government (read : the ruling party) to serve the interests of the opposition, but the government by all account, owes a moral duty to Singaporeans to ensure the fairness of the elections.

My guess for this early electoral boundary meddling is that the ruling party is trying to double their political points. For a government that rules by fear, this looming economic depression is a godsend. It is very hard to promise economic success in an economic boom. But this government knows that the people here, in the worst of times would never, want the opposition running their economy. 

Judging by their dismal 2006 results, a by-election would most likely give a boost to their political mandate. In other words it’s point scoring time to further solidify the PAP’s hold on power for another 5 years. So they get a solid mandate plus they get to boast that they are being fair by giving time to the opposition work the ground via early notice of electoral boundaries.

My guess is parliament should be dissolved by the time the US economic depression hits home and the PM will then use it as an excuse to call for snap elections. They have the economic figures and they will most certainly use it to their advantage and point out the opposition’s incompetence in economic administration.

I think there should be some specific rules as to when by-elections can be held (sigh).

But coming back to the issue of re-drawing electoral boundaries by the elections departments is nearly not as much as question of how and when as it is why. It beats the crap out of me. I wish the government would be transparent with it’s motives about the need to gerrymander. While the government maintains that it is the elections department’s prerogative a simple check will show that the elections department comes under the home affairs minister who is a PAP MP and is also likely to stand for elections. So the elections departments neutrality is suspect. This is indeed a dangerous thing because impartiality of the elections administrator is the foundation of establishing fairness in any democratic electoral process. With that being suspect, the results are suspect.

 

What effect does gerrymandering have on the election results? It spreads the distribution of opposition votes so that the Mr. Gerrymander could maximize his seats in parliament.

 

Just look at the figures of the last election results. There were 84 parliamentary seats in the offing. The PAP garnered 82 of those of the votes with 37 walkovers. The opposition won 2 seats. Is this exciting or what. My feeling is “or what”. This is 97.6% of the seats won by the ruling party. This is a figure that has the power to pass a whole new constitution through parliament in just one night with not so much of a whimper against it.

 

But the election result tells a different story. The PAP only garnered 66.6% of the 1,123,273 valid votes (748,130 votes) in 2006. The opposition garnered the remainder of the 33.4% (375,143 votes) with only two elected opposition MPs in parliament. The parties of the elected MPs themselves have 29.3% (329,206 votes) of the votes. Achieving such a figure for an opposition in an electorate that vote in fear is no mean feat.

 

But what this gross disparity in the opposition’s parliamentary seat percentage (2.4%) and their vote percentage (33.4%) tells us is that large sections (one-thirds!) of our voting population have been alienated via cunning electoral and administrative artifices that resulted in them being grossly under-represented in parliament.

 

This is a significant number because it shows that there is a sizable number among our voting population that believes in giving a credible resistance in parliament to the ruling party. These people don’t want CPF withdrawal age or withdrawal amount changes everytime the GIC or Temasek Holdings makes billion dollar losses elsewhere. These people don’t want fly by night bills tabled by ministers that ease through a parliament with sleeping career MPs who don’t give a hoot to the parliamentary process. They just wake up and vote with the whip.

The Halal-food-in-school issue

February 13, 2008

I refer to this recent furore about the establishment of halal canteen in a public school here in Singapore.

The head of the school from the perspective of principled consistency in administration was technically not wrong. But he has ignored the deeply ingrained existing realities and has thus faltered egregriously on a very sensitive issue that violated an implicit but common understanding among the different peoples here.

 He has failed to fully appreciate that:

1)  mainstream schooling here is a secular government establishment.

2) adequate provisions had been made for muslim students halal food requirements

3) the existing system was working fine for all (i.e he tried to fix a thing that was not broken in the first place)

Fundamentally, the government, due to reasons entrenched in our historical cultural demography coupled with colonial era political legacy and post-independence socio-political upheaval, finds it imperative to preserve the secular character of the school system to allow for the peaceful sharing of the fast dwindling common space here.

The idea is to allow for healthy human social interaction and engagement and peaceful co-existence while preserving the socio-cultural distinctiveness of every group. So it is a situation that not only calls for tolerance of each others cultural behaviour and practices but also to actively partake in and gain knowledge and experience of the ways of our fellow citizens who are different from each other.

In Australia New Zealand, Europe and the north-Americas, a myriad of different cultures, even including that of the indigenous population, were uncermoniously (and sometimes violently) subsumed by a single dominant culture under a socio-political policy of integration. In Singapore we adhere to a policy of pluralism in the societal administration of our social and economic policies.

Like every system of choice there are always trade-offs and one major trade-off of a policy of pluralism is the opportunity-cost of social cohesion at the expense of allowing indivdual space for cultural expression and practices of the various social and cultural groups.

So while a policy of integration works to unite people it robs the society of the colour and vibrance of the symbiotic-diversity that pluralist societies, such as that of Singapore‘s, enjoy.

Muslims, like the rest of the peoples here already enjoy their own cultural space and to push the limits of tolerance that may unduly pressurise others into grudgingly accept a policy that violates the fundamental rules of common space is not only unfair, it is downright insensitive. The principal should have known better as his only serves to play upon the weak social fabric of this pluralist society that took decades to stabilise. It puts the spotlight on the darker side cultural differences and lowers the threshold of tolerance among its peoples.

For muslims it is a double whammy because firstly they are not the dominant cultural group even though they wield a relatively stronger influence despite their small numbers. Secondly this negative spotlight will have a ripple effect on the rest of the muslims who may be treated with wariness whenever they stake their claim to theor share of their cultural pie.

The principal thus should have realised the gravity of  implementing such risky policies with scant regard for the sensitivities of others and existing realities. Such principled halal policies are only fit for a madrasah or where people are generally in agreement to such a move.

Having said that, the government also needs to do more to address the needs of muslims seeking religious education instead of the mainstream secular ones. The madrasahs need more funding and more infrastructural attention.

Paying token service to this need while statutorily and administratively restricting parents from exercising their choice to send their children to a non-mainstream schools is not a step in the right direction.

If the demand is there, the government must provide the necessary infrastructure and the required funding to accommodate a significant cultural group. Compulsory secular education could also be done in a madrasah. If the government pays scant regard to such important needs then there is always a danger that this need may spill into the common arena and cause unnecessary social upheavals.

The singapore woman…sigh

June 19, 2007

A friend sent me these. My wife at times just refuses to make a decision and then when I do on her behalf she turns around and becomes upset. Is it just the singapore women syndrome or it’s generally the case with women? Drives me nuts… Here are the three dreaded words

Whatever
Men: What to have for dinner?
Women: Whatever..
Men: Why not we have steamboat?
Women: Don’t want la, eat steamboat later got pimples in my face
Men: Alright, why not we have Si Chuan cuisine
Women: Yesterday eat Si Chuan, today eat again?
Men: Hmm….. then I suggest we have seafood
Women: Seafood no good la, later I got diarrhea
Men: Then what you suggest?
Women : Whatever..
Anything
Men: So what should we do now?
Women: Anything
Men: How about watching a movie? Long time we havn’t watch a movie
Women: Watching movie no good la, waste time only
Men: How about we go bowling, do some exercises?
Women: Exercise on such hot day? You not feel tired meh?
Men: Then find a café and have a drink
Women: Drinking coffee will affect my sleep
Men: Then what you suggest?
Women: Anything

I don’t know
Men: Then we just go home lo
Women: Oh I don’t know
Men: Let’s take a bus
Women: Bus is dirty and crowded. Don’t want la
Men: Ok we will take taxi then
Women: Not worth it la… for such a short distance
Men: Alright, then we walk lo. Take a slow walk
Women: How to walk with empty stomach?
Men: Then what you suggest?
Women: I don’t know 
Men: Let’s have dinner first
Women: Whatever
Men: Eat what?
Women: Anything
(Man looks around… for a pillar to bang his head on….)

Is education making your child stupid?

May 22, 2007

In Singapore : YES 

Edmund Landau in Foundations Of Analysis says “Please forget whatever you’ve been studying at school; for you have not learned it.”

 That is the sum total of the sorry state of education in Singapore. As Bill Clinton have had for a second term re-election, the authorities here are telling us “It’s the economy stupid”.  In Clinton’s case it was a campaign slogan. Over here in Singapore it guides an entire education policy. Well stupid does as stupid says.

Someone from the MIT once spoke to BBC saying that the advent of the personal computer was the fatal blow to the advancement of the digital revolution. Strange as it may sound, to a lot of compu-geeks out there – the PC put the blinders on the advancement of the digital revolution because it forces us to think of computing to be something with a monitor, keyboard and a CPU. And everything else about the digital revolution proceeds from this cliche. Before the discovery of Nuclear energy, everyone thought that energy production was a zero sum game because the oil supply is limited and solar power could hardly run a remote controlled car. The advancement in nuclear science has indicated that energy need not come from obvious sources. Suddenly the supply is unlimited – the only problem would be containment and ethical use.

In sunny Singapore here, education means you have to follow the national curriculum and its usually excusively about acedemic skills and only the way the authorities want it. My son, when he was enrolled in a montessori school for his preschool education, he learned 2 essential skills besides the academic ones – Character and motor skills. Character thought him civil, domestic and moral responsibility while motor skills thought him self-confidence, self-sufficiency, independence and the art of social interdependence. They didn’t have exams and he had a particular interest in math. He was so good he could take a look at a sum and mentally arrive at the answer.

Then came the day when he was enrolled in a public school. Third day through primary one and the first question he asked me was – “pa why we never play at school?” Apparently he spent 6 hours in the classroom with a half hour recess time in between. Even the physical education teacher “hijacked” the measly half hour time slot for play and exercise by getting the kids to do area cleaning around the school.

There is no moral education and education in religious knowledge disappeared in the darkness. But then again the administration is secular – how do you define morality in secular terms? But that’s a story for another blog.

I walk around the neighbourhood and find tattooed girls in their early teens with cigarrette in their hands and students publically smooching in uniform during school hours. Young girls increasingly looking like prostitutes and boys looking like pimps.

My question is why the emphasis on acedemics and absolutely nothing about character and morals?

The system here is very much exam based and and education basically means just consumption of tried and tested knowledge. We don’t have a culture in creating knowledge we just engage in mindless consumption of which. That is why our children can top the scores of almost any exam in the world. We have the best computer programmers, the most efficient bankers and the most articulate lawyers but we don’t have the Bill Gates, the Warren Buffets, the Thomas Edisons or even the Piccassos. Why? Because the process of creativity and enterprise cannot truely be there when people are shackled with rules and guidelines and predetermined right ways and wrong ways”.

Needless to say that my son’s math scores gradually slid. I found that there are several reasons to this :

1) He cannot understand the explanations of the math teacher

2) The pressure to score A’s both at home (parents) and in school (peer rivalry) made him hate school and education altogether

3) There is very little time allocated for discovery because experiments are closely controlled and there is always a “right” answer and a “wrong” one

4)  Very little room for creativity because the syllabus must be absolutely followed

The folly of this all is that the failure of the authorities to realise that the education is an end in itself. It does not need any qualification in economic terms (or any other terms for that matter). The primary goal of education should be for the attainmentof knowledge. We can force our children to study, but we can’t force them to think. With a education policy centred on economy we end up manufacturing widgets from an “education” factory. Such a policy on education varies very little from indoctrination and would be fatal for our children’s need to be inculcated with a passion for knowledge. With all the hoo-haa about the need for innovation and creativity this policy will be like a fly in the ointment of education. It’s all lip-service with no substance in the centre.

Despite the changes introduced recently with great fanfare to make the system more responsive and relevant to current realities the changes are largely cosmetic because the fundamental structure is still there. It needs a massive overhaul. Period.

We need to move beyond the cliches

Here’s a little story that speaks my mind : (taken from http://www.cut-the-knot.org)

The following piece by Alexander Calandra appeared
first in The Saturday Review (December 21, 1968, p 60)
I have discovered it in a collection
More Random Walks in Science
by R. L. Weber, The Institute of Physics, 1982.

Some time ago I received a call from a colleague who asked if I would be the referee on the grading of an examination question. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed he should receive a perfect score and would if the system were not set up against the student. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I went to my colleague’s office and read the examination question: ‘Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.’

The student had answered: ‘Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower the barometer to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.’

I pointed out that the student really had a strong case for full credit, since he had answered the question completely and correctly. On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade for the student in his physics course. A high grade is supposed to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student have another try at answering the question. I was not surprised that my colleague agreed, but I was surprised that the student did.

I gave the student six minutes to answer the question, with the warning that his answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said no. He had many answers to the problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him, and asked him to please go on. In the next minute he dashed off his answer which read:

‘Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula S = at2/2, calculate the height of the building.’

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and I gave the student almost full credit.

On leaving my colleague’s office, I recalled that the student had said he had other answers to the problem so I asked him what they were. ‘Oh, yes’ said the student. ‘There are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.’

‘Fine’ I said. ‘And the others?’

‘Yes’ said the student. ‘There is a very basic measurement method that you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give the height of the building in barometer units. A very direct method.

‘Of course, if you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of ‘g’ at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of ‘g’, the height of the building can, in principle, be calculated.

‘Finally,’ he concluded ‘there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best’ he said ‘is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: “Mr Superintendent, here I have a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of this building, I will give you this barometer.”‘

At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think, to use the ‘scientific method’, and to explore the deep inner logic of the subject in a pedantic way, as is often done in the new mathematics, rather than teaching him the structure of the subject. With this in mind, he decided to revive scholasticism as an academic lark to challenge the Sputnik-panicked classrooms of America.