Alan Soh

I am my own columnist, sharing my own thoughts and recent experiences!


Leave a comment

Remember this discussion in which I’ve did a blog post last year (see post dated 15 July 2018), sharing my thoughts about it? Read on for its report done by a co-organiser.

Having concluded the “Bridge the Gap” youth discussion on inequality and the class divide in Singapore in mid-July last year – and hence, in very overdue fashion – here is the executive summary and some accompanying thoughts.

via “Bridge The Gap”: Executive Summary And Post-Discussion Report — guanyinmiao’s musings Continue reading

Advertisements


Leave a comment

My reasons in supporting removal of streaming in Secondary Schools

Secondary School in Singapore

A major education policy shift in Singapore was announced by Minister for Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung during the Committee of Supply (COS) Bill debate session in Parliament yesterday (Tuesday 5 March 2019), which followed the Singapore Budget 2019 speech delivered by Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat on Monday 18 February 2019.

Come 2024, streaming in all secondary schools will be scrapped. It will be replaced by subject-based banding. Following that, GCE N-Level and O-Levels examinations will also be consolidated into one common national certification examination, which will co-branded by Singapore and Cambridge.

The subject-based banding, or SBB will replace the current system of putting our students into Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) streams based on their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results.

Yes, there will be no Express/Normal Academic/Normal Technical stream classes.

Streaming in primary schools was already scrapped in 2008, with the removal of EM1, EM2 and EM3 streams.

In this new system, upon entering Secondary 1, students will be able to take up subjects at different levels in accordance to their learning abilities. They will take a combination of subjects at 3 different levels based on their PSLE scores: General 1, General 2 and General 3.

The new PSLE scoring will be implemented in year 2021.

This new education policy will apply to pupils who enter Primary 2 this year.

According to Ministry of Education (MOE), these 3 levels are mapped from the current Normal (Technical), Normal (Academic) and Express standards respectively. This concept is similar to how Junior College (JC) students today take up GCE A-Level examination subjects at H1, H2, and H3 levels, and how Primary 6 PSLE students take up subjects at Standard or Foundation levels.

Speaking during MOE’s Committee of Supply Debate yesterday, Mr Ong said streaming which was implemented more than 30 years ago, has successfully reduced school attrition rates from about a third of every cohort to less than 1 percent currently. But he noted the downsides to streaming.

“In its original form, streaming assumed students needed a certain pace of learning in all their subjects, wheras many students, in fact, have uneven strengths across different subjects. More importantly, entering a stream that is considered ‘lower’ (Normal Academic or Normal Technical) can carry a certain stigma that becomes self-fulfilling and self-limiting. Students can develop a mindset where they tell themselves, ‘I am only a Normal Stream student, so this is as good as I can be.”

 

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Ong Ye Kung.

Long overdue but finally in year 2024. It is late but it is better than never.

1. Stigmatisation

As a former Normal Academic stream student, I think streaming does create a bit of damning effect on the self-esteem, growth mindset and learning motivation of students who are weaker in academic subjects, as compared to Express stream students.

Especially in Asian context, parents and others would place labels on students of varying abilities. Often, people in Singapore presume that Express stream students are academically gifted, and shall “rise among the ranks to become successful individuals one day”. Talking about intelligence quotient (IQ).

Remember how people used to say “its the end” for students of Institute of Technical Education (ITE) who go for vocational training?

Many Normal stream students would think they will not become successful in life.

This is not true.

I believe everyone can become a capable someone.

Ingredients of success include: self-awareness, diligence, a positive growth mentality, a reflective mind, self confidence, self-discipline, good time management, an outward-looking approach and a keen desire to become the best version of oneself.

As parents, friends, and elders, we ought to give them encouragement.

No one in this world likes to be given a negative label.

2. Social Inequality

We must be aware that students of varying learning abilities also come from different family backgrounds. Most Normal stream students grow up in middle to lower-income households.

In the aspect of gaining access to learning resources such as enrichment classes or tuition, students from poor backgrounds may be at a disadvantage, as compared to affluent ones, due to financial constraints and family issues. Thus these students must be given more care, time, and patience by giving them extra coaching in their weak subjects.

We must help them to get their foundation studies solid.

Despite these hardships, it is also essential that we must motivate them to stay focused on studies, keep up a fighting spirit not to give up, making sure that they do not lose the passion and motivation in learning (in order to get out of poverty trap), so why must we stigmatise the academically weaker students, and worse label them as “stupid, you just cannot be as good as Express stream students”?

If necessary, lend them a listening ear to listen to their problems. Help them to sort out their thinking.

I know Normal stream students are already trying very hard, to the very best of their learning ability.

3. Different abilities during formative years

When we are born into this world, we are all wired differently.

Our strengths are at varying levels. As such I don’t think it is an effective idea to expect a class of 30-40 students to master a subject at a particular benchmark set by the MOE school syllabus.

Moreover, secondary school students are in their teen years. They are in the midst of self-discovery, to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, likes or dislikes. So it is not a good idea to “penalise” a student heavily for failing a subject.

Back in my former secondary school days, I loved history but I hated geography. Because I just couldn’t understand those theories of how mountains are formed, or earthquakes take shape etc. Hence my geography sucked. (Of course the teacher was one of the contributing factors. Haha!)

History was more interesting because it was like a storybook to me.

I also realised I am more a language person than being a science person.

Hence I am glad that future secondary school students will have the freedom to take up different subject combinations pegging to their own learning levels. This will sustain their learning interest in the long run, until their graduation year.

And please don’t forget there are late bloomers. Life is full of surprises.

For example, there could possibly be people who don’t understand basic accounting for in secondary school years but can later develop competency in accounting at tertiary level, thus become certified accountants!

You just never know what will happen in future.

4. Peer Influence

Presently, the concept of a traditional form class is where our secondary school students are grouped rigidly according to whichever stream they are in.

By taking away Normal Academic/Normal Technical and Express streams in year 2024, schools can exercising flexibility in organising classes.

The good scenario is that students across all classes at same level will now be looked upon “equally as peers”.

Here we can take reference from Edgefield Secondary School where Secondary 1 students from the Normal and Express streams are placed in the same form class, which I think is an excellent example.

There are 8 Secondary One classes.

In Euclid class, there are 24 students from the Express stream, 10 from the Normal (Academic) stream and five from Normal (Technical). Each of the seven other Sec 1 classes in the school has a similar mix of students across the 3 different academic streams.

According to a Channel NewsAsia report, these students are split into different classes for each subject – for example, Normal (Academic) students taking Express-level science or mathematics will attend classes together with their Express peers.

But they will attend lessons such as art, design and technology and physical education together as a form class.

I like this class arrangement because I somehow believe the academically strong ones can help to assist their weaker classmates without peer labelling.

The positive feedback from teachers at Edgefield Secondary School?

“Students tell us they enjoyed mixing with their classmates, and they find that some of their best friends are from different streams.”

“They also found that those who do well may not necessarily be from the Express stream, and they’ve learned a lot from one another.”

Isn’t this better? 

It is time to break down the walls separating the streams.

Apart from that, I think at the end of secondary school education, students will really have achieved some of the outcomes set by MOE, for example: 1) be able to work in teams and show empathy for others, 2) take responsibility for their own learning, 3) believe in their own abilities and adapt to change, and 4) appreciating diverse views and able to communicate effectively.

For the boys, it helps further when they are enlisted for National Service, several years later after post-secondary education.

Key stages of Education

As one grows older and upon stepping into the workforce years later, he or she would slowly realise that academic grades are not definitive in measuring a person’s level of capability or a predictor of life success.

If you are recognised as an asset in your organisation for your diligence, good attitude and work performance, your employer will not bother much about which educational stream and school were you from previously.

Learn to overcome labels which people may put on you.

Break free! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Military Training Safety

screenshot

I am saddened and shocked when news broke out on Wednesday night (23 Jan) that actor and fellow Singaporean, Aloysius Pang had died due to his crush injuries at an military exercise in New Zealand. It has sent shockwaves across the island state.

It is the 4th military-related training death occurred in 18 months since 2017.

The Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong Su Kiat , and Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Goh Si Hou held a press conference shedding light to media on its preliminary investigation findings on Thursday 24 Jan.

At the time of incident, what were the other 2 personnel doing?

If all three could see each other in the cabin, then the two men should reasonably be able to answer the 2 burning questions which everyone is now asking – who was the one who pressed the button, and why was it not clearly communicated in the cabin and getting the “all clear” before the button push was made, causing this unfortunate trauma to Aloysius?

I am not pushing blame on the other two but I feel strongly that they are the ones who probably are the best people to provide these answers.

A young life has been taken away mercilessly.

I firmly believe Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) had already gotten the answers from the two men. Perhaps SAF probably feel that it is not the right timing to reveal the real truth, or simply wants to craft their so-call PR speeches or worse, hoping that time will pass, Singaporeans will forget and it will be another day for everyone? I hope not, and I believe SAF would not do this.

SAF can provide PR-crafted answers but honestly speaking, Singaporeans expect transparent answers. This is what we all want to hear. Not beating around the bush and go back to square one.

As such, I sincerely hope that SAF can be truthful, transparent and honest in the upcoming Committee of Inquiry (COI) findings in Pang’s case. If personnel are proven negligent which directly or indirectly cause the death of Aloysius Pang, please mete out appropriate punishment penalty.

To be fair and objective, the fault does not lie with National Service (NS) policy. NS is here to say. Given our small country size, I support the notion that we must have a strong, effective military force to create deterrence for any group, or any country which harbour thoughts to attack us. NS is important because we Singaporeans are the only ones who can protect ourselves, our possessions and loved ones.

Rather, I believe the fault lies more of negligence, disregard of safety rules, peer pressure, lack of vigilance, not exercising check, care and concern for one another, miscommunication, poor attitude towards safety, and false assumptions.

Heavier punishments should be imposed. It seems to me that current levels of safety awareness among national servicemen may not be high enough. What is the point in calling for more doctrinal change if safety rules are not followed seriously by national servicemen at bottom levels? How would senior NS officers know? How many NSFs (Full-time National Servicemen) do not something properly but then tell their NS superiors that they claimed having followed all safety guidelines?

It can be just another day for you and me but not for his parents, family, girlfriend (actress Jayley Woo Jiaqi), relatives, friends and even unrelated strangers of Pang.

This case hits home harder, partly due to Aloysius’ celebrity status. It hits the heart of every Singaporean Son and even more so for parents who have growing-up boys.

Safety is paramount in SAF. There must be stronger safety culture. Encourage a whistleblower/feedback policy on anyone who is suspected flouting safety rules, regardless of NS ranks. Otherwise, Singapore could face a worrying scenario of having worried parents who hesitate to send their boys for National Service and subsequently, reservist duties (till the age of 40 years old for NS ranks below officers).

It is the people at the bottom who end up suffering the most for the lack of safety awareness, who among us cut corners on it in the first place.

Regrettably, the 28-year old boy was flown home to Singapore but in a lifeless state. He will be accorded a full honours military funeral at Mandai Cremation Centre today (Sunday 27 Jan).

I went to pay my respects last night (Sat 26 Jan).

Given his age, he can be my younger brother.

His young life is cut short abruptly. This shouldn’t have happened, at all.

No words now can relieve the pain of his parents and loved ones.

I hereby express my deepest condolences to his Noon Talk Media manager, Dasmond Koh, his parents, family members, relatives, colleagues and fans.

To our fallen brother, rest in peace Aloysius.

We will miss you deeply.


Leave a comment

Bye bye 2018, Hello 2019!

Best Nine 2018

I am happy that I was able to achieve what I had aimed for in 2017, in terms of academic course. Went for it, stuck to it with faith, self-discipline and a positive attitude. Fortunately, I was able to juggle it with other commitments. Graduated successfully in June. To me, it was a big step forward. Of course, there is still room for greater improvement in the coming year. Thank you, SkillsFuture SG.

Service awards gained taught me lessons of integrity, diligence and commitment to the responsibilities in which you are entrusted with. I am humbled by these recognitions.

Relationships are important. Nobody can be an isolated island. Having said that, I am also aware that people change over time. Feelings/personality change. People come and go. Some may drift away slowly from me. As much as I cherish relationships, I also have to let some folks go. Well, this is life. It may be painful. I have to respect their choices. I make it a point to catch up with random people over an occasional meal or tea. I am quite a sentimental person, so that explains why I like old vintage stuff.

Being a communications graduate, I also hope to do my part in increasing public awareness of social campaigns which I believe is important. As a fellow Singaporean. For example: the SOS campaign for Suicide Prevention Week 2018. Will continue to do so this year.

Show Luo Zhixiang make it to my Best Nine list in IG? Thanks to popular China chinese drama serial “The Story of Yanxi Palace”. Did anyone watch the drama serial last year? lol.

Moving forward, I do have new plans which I hope I can execute in 2019, in which I will share over the next few months. Quick updates will be up on my Instagram as well.

I hope to travel abit this year, for I believe travelling expands my horizons. And learning more things about others and myself.

I wish everyone of you a happy smooth 2019 – success and good health! Spend more time with your loved ones! 🙂


Leave a comment

Anyone still using voicemail?

voicemail

Yesterday, I received a voicemail on my smartphone.

It was a number I couldn’t recognise. I simply ignored it because I think it could be a call coming from a telemarketer.

It is year 2018. Who still uses voicemail these days, I wonder.

Is it redundant?

To communicate with someone, more than 90% of people of whom I know prefer SMS texting to voicemail. If you were to use voice mail, you have to go through a few steps in order to get that message. So why the inconvenience?

I believe texting is the most preferred mode of communication among people these days, other than telephone calls.

I think there are 5 reasons why most of us prefer texting over leaving a voice mail.

1. Time-consuming

We all want to get things fast.

Voice messages are not very long yet, however the bit of extra time and the steps required to retrieve that little piece of information from the voice mailbox could be a big turn-off.

Having said that, there is still a slight chance that there is an important message waiting for you yet you turn it off before the voice message starts playing.

 

2. Impersonal

Who are the people who would leave you voice mail?

There’s your mother – maybe your grandmother – who rambles on about how she just wanted to check and see how things are going on with you? But wait, mothers these days are quite IT-savvy. They know how to text us over Whatsapp!

Or it could be that financial services consultant whom you met at a roadshow recently, hoping to do a follow-up call with you, after completing a form.

When someone close to us wants to get in touch, they either message us on social media or text us. As such when you see a voicemail, you know that the caller who left you a voicemail, is someone whom you hardly knows, and this person is outside your social circles.

At that point, so why bother getting back to that caller?

3. Difficult to hear

How many times are we self-conscious about others overhearing our calls and voice messages, or we had to leave a room because it was too noisy?

Texting is so much easier. Furthermore, it is visual communication. People understand better when they could read words.

How many times do I have to replay a voice message to understand totally what was said, or to write down an important phone number? This is a big hassle, and text messaging provides a simple EASY solution.

This is difficult for people who are hearing-challenged like myself. 

4. Still makes you write a message

A message should be something which upon receiving it, you can instantly run along with, not something which you have to replay 3 or 4 times ,and still have to take notes.

Wheras on the other hand, if somebody texts me, I already gotten a written record of everything which I need to know, and the number to contact that person. In addition, I can also keep an unlimited number of texts saved, instead of dialling the voicemail number to clear my voice mailbox messages frequently.

5. No urgency to retrieve voicemail

Haha. If it is not urgent, I think most of us are just going to forget about it. Totally.

If someone can’t answer your call, there is a HIGH chance that they won’t be listening to your voice mail soon either.

Most text messages are read within 3 minutes, and hence the receipient can decide whether to pay attention to that message immediately or leave it for replying later.

In short, I won’t be sad if voicemail goes one day. It is not helpful in our daily lives nowadays. 

 

 


Leave a comment

Touch of the Hearts 2018

This is a project which I am curating/mentoring at Young Changemakers 2.0 (National Youth Council) which require public support.

It is my 3rd consecutive mentorship for this flagship project which is organised by undergraduates of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Residential Hall 4.

I have done theirs in 2016, and in 2017.


WhatsApp Image 2018-07-28 at 11.04.40 PM

Does the Good Old Days sound like a long time ago? How about reliving those moments with Touch Of The Hearts (TOTs) on the 11th and 12th of August at Bedok Town Square?

TOTs, alongside with Rainbow Centre, would be organising an Awareness Charity Carnival to raise awareness for children with special needs through exciting game booths.

These game booths takes a spin on the usual carnival games, and incorporate element of awareness to help everyone better understand these children. Take part in our workshops, or capture memories with your friends at our photo-booths!

Do not miss this carnival as we build an inclusive society from the Good Old Days!

Come join us this National Day weekend! I will be there at the carnival event.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 


Leave a comment

“Bridge The Gap”: A Youth Discussion On Inequality And The Class Divide In Singapore

Sg1

37076695_10214587490513878_3098714093977075712_o

Yesterday morning, I attended this discussion session on inequality at *Scape Centre to expand my thinking, and to hear more in terms of perspectives of other young Singaporeans on this current hot topic. This is good because this closed-door event is not organized by any other governmental organizations, with a “government statement”. There was no media coverage. The discussion was organised under the rules of Chatham House, where all participants and speakers involved agreed that everything that has been said during this event will not be used for reporting. Hence, everyone who turned up was able to share his/her most honest insights based on observations and growing-up experiences.

I haven’t read the book titled “This Is What Inequality Looks Like”, written by Ms Teo You Yenn. I will find an opportunity to search for it to read one day.

I believe there is a certain extent of inequality in all countries, including Singapore. The crucial point, is how do we acknowledge it, tackle it as a community of Singaporeans, and take concrete actions to uplift others who are struggling to scale up in life, due to their disadvantaged backgrounds.

During break-out group discussions, I gave my own inputs, from the angle of someone who is from a low-middle family background, neighbourhood school, Normal (Academic) stream, EM2, ITE, hard-of-hearing, late mature honours degree student-to-be-next-year.

Speaking from the point-of-view of someone who went through the education system in the 1980s, I always thought MOE had a bit hand contributing to inequality among Singaporeans as they grow up. There is some degree of educational stratification, resulting from the effects of Primary 3 streaming examinations.

I guess I must be the only one who could be from a low SES (socio-economical status) background, in a room full of university students, civil servants, academics, editors, lawyers etc. Thankfully there was one media professional who understood fully what I meant because we are the same age-group! Haha..

37105298_10214587492073917_2828965486086062080_o

There was one speaker who spoke on 3 elements which are needed to beat inequality – choice, circumstance, and community.

On personal basis, I think we must always remember this – we always have a choice to decide becoming good or bad. Once in a while, it is okay to whine but to make a complaint every time is totally pointless. Developing the resilience muscle is what we need to do. A positive outlook is essential.

Being aware of own circumstances, I say, it is a life skill. Look at where you are now, with a macro view. With a calm rational mind, I believe we can strategize with a plan, and with a never-give-up attitude, we can aim to go to where we want to go. Adversity would only make us stronger.

The odds might stack up against us. In my growing-up years, I learnt that when our parents are unable to provide us with the resources we need, we should all the more think about how we can go out to get them, using our own ability.

If you can visualize it, you can achieve it definitely. The warrior mentality.

Community wise, I think it will be good to be aware of the available avenues one can turn to, for help. A community of supporting hands. To navigate smoothly through the seas of life, it matters too when it comes to whom you know.

Your inner circle of friends.

Your inner circle of influences.

Are they able to support and challenge you intellectually, to elevate you to a higher level?

I am a firm believer of positive peer influence. I often emphasize this heavily to the younger ones – You have to be selective with friends whom you mix around with. Like that saying goes, “If you want to fly like an eagle, don’t swim with the ducks!”

37103305_10214587491553904_3243929562479853568_o

37093712_10214827283128377_5523067925335900160_o

The questions posed are difficult. This should spur us all to think hard about inequality in Singapore.

What kind of Singapore do we want to see in 15 or 50 years’ time?

Kudos to Clarence and Jin Yao for doing this grounds-up initiative!

My own viewpoint is that to beat inequality, it is not a matter of how fast you progress ahead of others but more of how well you improve and soar higher in life. Do bear in mind that there are some Singaporeans among us, who are late bloomers.

To tackle this issue, for a start, I think we ourselves can really start sharing our personal stories on online media platforms about how we overcome odds/challenges to beat perceived inequality on our own, to go where we want to go, to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to fellow Singaporeans who are currently struggling at their disadvantaged backgrounds, and could fall through the cracks.

And for those of us who succeed eventually, please do give back and assist those who are now in similar situations as you were before.