Alan Soh aka Humourboi

I am my own columnist, publishing my thoughts!


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Breaking The Sound Barrier (Part 1)

It has been several months since I rejoined Young ChangeMakers 2.0 at National Youth Council, as a YCM project curator aka mentor.

I am presently the YCM Project Mentor behind a group of enthusiastic undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

The team is planning a campaign, titled “Breaking the Sound Barrier”, which hopes to help the deaf community in Singapore.

1 out of every 1,000 babies born in Singapore have severe or profound hearing loss, and the team found themselves being drawn to this issue and hence, would like to do something for the deaf Singaporeans.

The main partner of this project, Singapore Association of the Deaf (SADeaf) has served the deaf community for over 61 years. To the team, it has highlighted the problem of deaf Singaporeans having difficulty in searching and getting jobs despite having the same qualifications as others. As such, there is an increasing importance to help create an inclusive workplace environment for the deaf.

The objectives of this 7-month campaign are:

  1. to heighten awareness among employers of the potential of deaf community as ABLE employees,
  2. to change employers’ perceptions towards hiring the deaf,
  3. to encourage more local employers to hire the deaf.

The key message here is; to break employment barriers for deaf Singaporeans – they can be valuable employees and excellent contributors to our workorce.

The deaf are just like you and me.

By supporting and dispensing advice to this project, I am indirectly helping similar Singaporeans like myself. Therefore, I stepped forward to be their mentor, offering help.

 

Presently the team is carrying out a survey to better understand the current situation.

I will be very grateful if you could help us to spread word about this online survey to people in your network connections, of whom you know who are managers, particularly Human Resource personnel, or anyone involved in the hiring procedures.

Responses are kept 100% confidential, and the information collated will be very helpful to this campaign.

Here is the Breaking the Sound Barrier – Online Survey

I hope you can assist us, in helping this group of Singaporeans, building a more inclusive Singapore.

Thank you very much! 🙂

breaking-the-sound-barrier


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YTSS 30th Anniversary Homecoming Dinner

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Established since 1986, my alma mater turns 30 years old this year. A buffet-style alumni dinner was held at the air-conditioned school hall of Yishun Town Secondary School (YTSS) on Saturday 30 July 2016.

I am humbled and honoured to be appointed as the Organising Chairman of this homecoming dinner. 500 tickets were sold out completely within a couple months of ticket sales announcement via the Yishun Town Alumni (YTA) Facebook Page at end February 2016.

An older male cousin, a former student of whom is now based in Indonesia, even flew back to Singapore to attend this dinner specially with his 2 classmates.

Like the rest of my organising team members, I reported in school early at about 4pm.

Many graduates turned up early for the school tour segment at 5.45pm before the dinner commenced at 7pm.

This is a dinner truly for the alumni, by the alumni. A reunion dinner of sorts. Food, games, photo-takings, lucky draw prizes, video slides, singing of school song, and cutting the birthday cake. It was a memorable night for everyone present. 🙂

Current and past YTSS students can see the photos via the open photo album links given on the timeline of YTA Facebook Page -> facebook.com/YishunTownAlumni.

Below is my welcome speech written,  addressing distinguished guests, principals, teachers and former students who attended the dinner.

Current principal Ms Sharon Yeo delivered hers before mine.


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Speech 1

 

 


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The talk about Scholars, University graduates and non-graduates (Pt 1)

In the past few weeks, there has been much discussion ongoing online and offline among Singaporeans pertaining the recommendation report produced by The Applied Study in Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education Review (ASPIRE) committee which is chaired by Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Education & Law.

This report focuses on the value of getting the right qualification, be it a vocational certificate, a diploma or a university degree. It stresses the importance of obtaining the right skillsets and knowledge that would enhance the value of an individual as a worker in our Singaporean society, for now and the future.

For full details on the report, do logon to this Ministry of Education (MOE) webpage on ASPIRE -> http://www.moe.gov.sg/aspire/

I would like to share this ST Sunday Times editorial commentary written by its deputy editor, Ms Zuraidah Ibrahim on “shattering myths about scholars, smarts and respect”. Dated Sunday 14 September 2014, page 39.

Which I agree wholeheartedly after reading it.

Last week in Parliament, MPs spent hours dissecting what it means to become a society that is less obsessed with the paper chase and more concerned with lifelong learning.

MOE Minister Heng Swee Keat tried valiantly to disabuse us of what he described as 3 “limiting beliefs” that could prevent people from fulfilling their potential.

One was the assumption that paper qualifications are the be-all and end-all. All the university degrees in the world might not get you a job, he said, if there are no jobs to be had. And, most jobs actually require a variety of skills, not just that one piece of paper.

Another limiting belief, perhaps in overreaction to the old obsession with educational credentials, is that qualifications do not matter at all.

The third is when people believe that they will lose out when others earn qualifications, overlooking the fact that the whole team can benefit when its diverse members develop better skills.

With regards to the ASPIRE report, nobody would disagree that this would be a proper and productive conclusion. However, people doubt whether our society has already arrived at this better place.

And until they are confident that the environment around them has changed, they cannot be blamed for continuing in the old mode. Afterall, where jobs are concerned, it is not a great idea to be too far ahead of the curve – you want to be valued by today’s employers, not those in some hypothetical future.

To make that leap of faith, one can see at least 3 mindsets in our society at large that needs to be broken:

Mindset no. 1 – Scholars equals smart (i.e talents)

It may be less pronounced than when my peers and I started out in the working world, but it remains an awkward truth. The divide between overseas scholarship holders and those who obtained local degrees persist. Defenders of the scholarship system insist that if scholars fly, it is because their GCE A-Level results and the hoops they went through to win scholarships turn out to be accurate predictors of their workplace contributions; non-scholars’ allegations of unfairness are just masking the fact that they are genuinely not as able.

Certainly, some of the strengths that won them their scholarships, combined with the exposure and confidence imbued by a good overseas education, do translate into superior workplace performance. But it would be disingenuous to ignore systemic reasons why scholars are unfairly favoured when they start work.

It is only human for bosses to fall prey to a confirmation bias. Having decided to invest hundred thousands of dollars in an individual and committed to a firm contract of 4 to 6 years, it is natural for employers to give the returning scholar more opportunities. It would take an extremely honest organisation to admit, actually he is no better than the guy who just showed up from a local university.

Of course, employers have tried to make the system more open and less determined by examination results. The Administrative Service (Singapore Civil Service), for example, is no longer the monopoly of returning overseas scholars that it once was.

Employers could do more to accomodate those who did not get scholarships but developed themselves in the course of higher education.

The reality, though, is that there is a limit to how much opportunities can be equalised as long as organisations use the scholarship system to compete with one another for the same bright young talents.

If they get too ruthless with their returning scholars, it will affect their ability to recruit the next batch of scholars. The top A-Level students have no shortage of opportunities and, often, multiple scholarship offers. They can afford to be fussy and to scrutinise what exactly are they getting into when they sign that 6-year bond.

An organisation where most returning scholars are being treated like the ELITE that their schools have taught them to believe they are will obviously be more attractive than one where scholars are routinely overtaken by local graduates.

Thus, just as with employees, it is unlikely that individual organisations’ mindsets will change as long as wider employment practices (in Singapore) are hooked on scholarships as a shortcut method to finding talent.

(To be continued……)


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Inside Classroom Project

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It was a pleasure meeting an educator from UK last Sunday afternoon.

I met Ms Lucy Crehan for some nice iced tea at Marriott Hotel lobby at Orchard Road. She sought my personal views on the Singapore education system, hence as a born-bred Singaporean who went through our own education process, I shared whatever I could with her. 🙂

This friendly young lady took a short break from teaching to travel to top 8 performing countries including Singapore (as measured by PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment), hoping to understand their education systems. The pros and cons. The good and bad.

She has flown back to London on Tuesday.

To find out more on what she is doing, do check out Lucy’s website on “Inside Classroom Project” at www.insideclassrooms.com.


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Young ChangeMakers

young changemakers

Young ChangeMakers (YCM) is a flagship youth programme initiated by National Youth Council, Singapore in 2005. I am honoured to be invited onboard to be among the 39 youth panellists in the augural pioneer batch of YCM Youth Panel. Despite the fact that I am hearing-impaired. Served a maximum period of 2 terms. 1 term = 1 year. I was on the Youth Panel till 2007.

I am grateful to former YCM Secretariat staff, June Loh for believing in me, inviting me onboard. She kept reassuring me that things will turn out fine, and help is always available to me.

Our then YCM co-chairperson was Dr Benedict Tan Chi Loong, who was once a former Singapore national team sailor.

Coming from different backgrounds and having different expertise, we youth panellists review community projects done by fellow youths to determine who are the ones worthy to be given monetary funding. We also offer mentorship to successful grant applicants as well. We did it in a firm friendly yet professional manner.

This is where I get to open my eyes, seeing a great variety of interesting project ideas done by schooling youths as well as young working adults. Gained valuable experience and strengthened my leadership skills, which I could apply in my youth voluntary involvement with the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM).

As pioneers, we were given the opportunity to define and refine YCM grant application criterias through friendly, open, non-judgemental discussions. I fought alongside with a fellow YCM youth panellist, Alex Tan, to allow PAYM YECs to be able to apply for YCM as an additional grant funding source for various community projects.

My sweetest memory was mentoring my first YCM project mentee who happened to be from my alma mater Yishun Town Secondary School! Along the way, I also gained a better understanding of what youth mentorship is all about.

I got to befriend a great bunch of friends in the Youth Panel. Although we may no longer be in YCM, many of us moved on continue to be a young changemaker in different areas today, championing different social causes or beliefs. Including myself. 🙂

YCM just did a recruitment exercise for a new batch of youth panellists for 2014, which has just ended on 16 February. It has also revamped its logo image as well. Which you just saw in the above photo.

Do check out our new YCM Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/ycm.sg


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Youth Summit

I was invited to attend this youth summit, with more than 100 other young Singaporeans coming from various backgrounds. It was jointly organised by Chong Pang Community Club and North West Community Development Council.

Students, artists, film-makers, street dancers, working adults, youth volunteers or activists on various causes, ranging from youth empowerment, animal rights, environmental movements, religious groups and voluntary welfare groups.

Behind closed doors, in different groups, we shared views on various hot-button issues such as meritocracy, foreign talents, LGBT (Lesbians/Gays/Bisexuals/Transgender), housing, population bloom, unwed mothers, disabled persons, Internal Security Act, taxes and Section 377A (Penal Code). We had a chance to have a direct conversation with Law & Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr K Shanmugam.

Held in a function room at a hotel in Orchard Road, the focus of this one-full day youth summit was on young Singaporeans because there has been a “generational change”. Mr K Shanmugam sees that the next upcoming 20 years will be very different from the last 20 years.

Yeah, since the watershed Singapore General Elections held in May last year. Being a more educated and well-travelled group of Singaporeans, we hear alot more views from the young ones these days.

I was among those who rose up to pose questions to Minister. It was a question about inclusiveness in Singapore in the next 20 years.

“Talking about building an inclusive Singapore, as an hearing-impaired young Singaporean, I do not know but just would like to hear your own view – do you see a possibility that we would have a physically disabled or hearing-impaired Member of Parliament in the next 10 or 20 years?”

I raised this question because during the earlier break-out group discussion, my group touched on the topic of “Disabled Persons”. One of the group participants reflected that there is a missing voice to be an advocate for disabled Singaporeans, as such it would be a good thing if our Parliament allows another Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) position to represent them. 

Presently Ms Denise Phua, a Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, helps to speak up for these communities in Parliament.

Mr K Shanmugam responded, saying that the Singapore Government do to the best of its ability to ensure equal opportunities for all Singaporeans, be them able-bodied or physically challenged, for now and future generations. He is glad that there are many employment opportunities for physically challenged Singaporeans in the private sector and social enterprises these days. But he is unable to ensure that we would have a physically disabled Member of Parliament in Singapore one day.

“It still depends”, he said.
Thinking deeper..okay, I think I understand what he meant. 

These are my thoughts:

It is a known fact that a Member of Parliament has to be elected by the electorate.

Firstly, putting aside the physically handicap issue, it depends on political parties whether they are able to find qualified credible individuals who are knowledgeable with all the current issues/challenges faced by the special needs communities to represent them in Parliament. This point alone, should be able to address the issue of inclusiveness for disabled persons in Singapore, IF this person aspires to be an advocate for the community in the Parliament House. 

In addition, the job responsibilities that come with MP position. They are indeed taxing. This person must be able to fulfill its obligations.

Secondly, the individual’s overall character and values. Is he or she a right fit, with what political parties are looking for? Can he/she carry himself/herself well?

It is just like how an employer assess job applicants during job interviews or screening process.

Lastly, another possible factor – it depends on the opponent whom this individual is pitting himself against, during an election campaign. Does he/she have that competitive edge or X-factor over his opponent? Yes, it could be that likeability or personal charisma factor.

We shall see in future if it becomes a reality.

The search is on………….


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social initiative

As most of you may know by now, I am hearing-challenged due to viral infection in my left ear, so I wear a hearing aid in it since 10 years ago; as well as an inborn dead right ear, of which I just had undergone a cochlear implant surgery on it in December 2011.

I am extremely thankful and grateful for the fact that I grew up through normal schooling in Singapore, as such I am able to communicate clearly with anyone whom I meet. Adversity has had toughened my character and helped me gain wisdom. Despite what I have gone through for the past 10 years or so, I choose to remain positive. I believe in positivity because I believe if I can, anything is possible.

For the past couple months, I’ve been thinking about this:

Are there hearing-impaired Singaporeans who feel that they are abandoned by the society? How can I help to ignite the fire in them to excel in life, making them look beyond their physical constraints? Are there avenues to help such Singaporeans to buy hearing aids? Are they aware about how they can go for cochlear implant devices if they really need such hearing devices? Do members of public understand their difficulties? How I can help to communicate the importance of hearing care to able-hearing Singaporeans? How can I help them to move up the social mobility ladder?

I’ve been doing some reading on these related topics.

For sure, I feel that the hearing-impaired are a part of our society. They are one of us. As a young Singaporean, I feel that we should be a caring and inclusive society, celebrating differences (or diversity) among us. Out of compassion, we should all the more help one another to pursue dreams, whatever it could be.

After the passing of CEO and founder of Apple Inc – Steve Jobs, and the cochlear implant surgery late last year, I feel a higher calling to be an advocate for the hearing-impaired communities in Singapore, no matter young or old, to cater to the needs and aspirations of this community segment by possibly starting a small-scale non-profit organisation or movement this year.

Life is short. Indeed, there is no such thing as a “perfect timing” before we can start something to help others in our society. So why not start now?

I already had something brewing in my mind.

Are you keen to join me? Do you want to help hearing-impaired young Singaporeans?
I am open to any wacky ideas or collaborations. =)