Alan Soh

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

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Back to Textbooks (My 9-month journey)

MDIS Studies

It has been quite a while since I last penned a blog entry.

I took initiative to apply for SkillsFuture Study Awards at the beginning of the year, and I had successfully been awarded a sum of S$5,000 to further upgrade myself.

For the uninitiated, SkillsFuture is a national movement to encourage all Singapore citizens to develop to their fullest potentials by taking advantage of a wide range of learning opportunities from tertiary institutions and continuing education trainers alike. This is also to motivate Singaporeans to develop a growth mindset for employability as well as a positive outlook for lifelong learning.

To be employable, I think staying nimble and having learnability skills is the way to go. Hence this is why I decided to go back to textbooks this year because I wanted to expand my current knowledge and skill-sets on media & communications.

This has been my area of interest, particularly Public Relations.

SkillsFuture Study Award

This is a photo of me with Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, former Minister for Social Development & Family (currently the Speaker of Parliament) at a post-event reception of the SkillsFuture Study Awards ceremony held earlier in May 2017.

I am presently pursuing my Advanced Diploma in Mass Communication studies at Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), in a tie-up programme with Oklahoma City University (OCU), USA. Over a nine-month period on part-time basis. Since August 2017. 6 modules to undertake.

I may proceed onto undergraduate level programme if I fulfill all requirements of the course.

Learning is an ongoing process, ever since the day we are born.

We are never too old to learn new knowledge.

I admit I do not know many things. I reflect and learn from past mistakes made. In fact, the older I grow, the more I understand about myself. In terms of strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes etc.

So what if I have a hearing handicap?

This is something which I can overcome, if I believe in myself. 

Positive attitude, self-awareness, teamwork, curiosity to understand new things, adaptability, perseverance are ingredients needed to succeed in anything we strive to do. Not just IQ.

I realise I like to analyze social issues, and understand the contributing factors behind them. Given the knowledge gained from this course, I can value-add by generating awareness and do an effective advocating of the social causes I care greatly about.

Being an excellent communicator is one of the requisites, to be in any industry besides media & communications.

Many things on my plate now. Need to do more readings too.
Having good writing skills is important too, so I will try to blog as often as I can… 😀

*For more information about SkillsFuture, you may check out its official website here.





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Still looking at academic grades?

Kids in Singapore schools

A thought which I’ve shared with a friend earlier few days ago.
Note: Disagree if you must. Everyone is entitled to his own viewpoints.

People develop individual intelligences at different paces through learning experiences. Most of us grow older and wiser as we age, for we slowly gain a better understanding of how things work when we grow up.
Growing older, we then understand how certain concepts work.
We start to understand the world which we are living in, better.

Most of us embark on a slow steady journey of self-discovery where we realise what we can do and what we can’t do. That is also where we develop our own learning methodologies, thus finding a way of how we work best individually and with other people.

I now come to a realisation that school or national exam grades are outcomes arising from a combination of different factors such as:

1) the learning method which you adopted at that age (does it work for you?),
2) the level of understanding a particular subject at that age,
3) the communication skills you possess at that age to explain your answers,
4) how attentive you are during normal lessons,
5) home environment (is it conducive for studying and any family problems etc),
6) the strategy you have for school exams, and finally and MOST IMPORTANTLY,
7) the state of mind and health when you sit for your exam papers that day (did you get enough sleep, did you check your answers before submitting test paper etc.)

For example, Geography was one of my lousy subjects during secondary school days because at that teenager age, I don’t see why I must study how mountains or river meanders are formed, or understand why people living near sea coastlines have to be aware of tsunamis when major earthquakes occur.
I thought: “Singapore does not encounter tsunami at all, so why must I study this subject??”

It is only when I grew older and start reading up on current news and worldly issues, I began to understand and thus, appreciate the subject better. That’s when I would become more knowledgeable about it.

Therefore as said many times previously, I feel strongly that exam grades on record are “past tense”. It just shows the extent of how good this person can understand the subject, AT THAT AGE.
It is already over!

Exams grades = proven capability or abilities? No, I disagree.
The most, I probably say this person is exam smart.
At that age, he knows how to study for the subject paper.
He knows what works best for him. Period.

On the other hand, I believe character-building and how one develops his personal capabilities better in later years matter more. School academic grades are just a reference.
How he or she overcame life challenges.
Most of the time, many people can change for the better.
They become wiser.
It is more about the present, not about the past.
And let’s be forward-looking, anticipate how far this person can go if given sufficient opportunities to unleash his or her inner potential.

So it’s best we get over with the heavy emphasis on academic grades and whatsoever school brands. (Why must some Singaporeans still differentiate between public and private universities?!) *faint*

Call me superficial and callous if I one day as a parent or employer anyhow condemn anyone as stupid or good-for-nothing because I see his/her past school results are sub-standard.

Anything is possible.
Who knows, this person make me go “wow!” after an in-depth conversation with him/her?

At the end of the day, I would choose to understand the individual first, and judge him for who he is right now.

‪#‎normalacademic‬ ‪#‎ITE‬ ‪#‎hearingimpaired‬ ‪#‎selfawareness‬
‪#‎icanjumpoutofthebox‬ ‪#‎empathy‬ ‪#‎seekfirsttounderstandtheperson‬

Ed note – 15 Dec 2014:

Students may go into different educational paths but I hope all students think it this way – all routes lead to Rome.

With perseverance, an ITE student can also succeed one day.

Like it or not, I believe no stream should be superior above one another. In other words, pardon me for saying this – unversity graduates cannot be seen as “the most superior ones”. Elitism is a dirty word, which can cause conflicts in our society.

Why? Because as individuals, we always must bear in mind that: there will be someone out there who could be better than me. Be humble.

It is about appreciating and acknowledging different abilities/talents among us, and that willingness to complement one another to do a group project well.

In addition, physical handicaps should never be seen as a barrier or problem if an individual knows how to leverage on his strengths or knowledge to do his job well.

What’s really important, is self-awareness.

Everyone is born with different talents. For most of us, it is a matter of time to find out our strengths…and understand who we really are.

Strengths can be further enhanced, provided if one is lucky enough to have a mentor in life who is willing to guide him/her, giving that extra push.

And so in my opinion, academic grades are just 1 way of measuring a person’s ability or knowledgeability, NOT how clever he or she is.

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Speaking up in English

speak englishSingapore Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Mr Hri Kumar has shared his thoughts about parenthood and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) via Facebook today.


This was what he shared:

There were 2 stories in the news this week about our education system. The Sunday Times of 30th March reported a speech by Assoc Professor Jason Tan (from National Institute of Education) where he introduced a new word (at least to me): Parentocracy.  Basically, AP Tan said that children today are more likely to succeed based on the advantages their parents give them, and less so on their individual abilities.   

On Wednesday, we learned that the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked Singapore teens top in the world in a problem solving test. It puts paid to the often heard criticism that Singapore students are just excellent at rote learning. Our PISA ranking is a great achievement, and our students, their teachers and the MOE deserves credit.

But there is one important aspect of education which PISA does not test, and we should be mindful of.    

I have been a working professional for over 20 years, and have interacted with many Singaporeans at all levels of the employment ladder. While there are always black sheep, the Singaporeans I have dealt with are hardworking, knowledgeable and have a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to their work. But they are often let down by their standard of spoken English and a lack of confidence to persuade or articulate their views on their feet. Many employers I know share this view.   

I say this not to criticise Singaporeans but to highlight that we are paying a high price for this deficit.   However skilled you are at problem-solving and however many hours you spend at your desk, you will not likely make a strong impression in the business world if you are unable to communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively. I have lost count of the number of times I have attended meetings where Singaporeans keep silent while others dominate the discussion, thus giving the impression that the latter are more knowledgeable or capable. If you say nothing, people will assume that you have nothing to contribute. That is a serious disadvantage if you are competing for a job, a promotion or a project.  

To be clear, I am not saying that we should be all talk and no action. To put it simply, it is important to have the substance, but you need to demonstrate the form as well because, like it or not, you will be judged on that.    

What does this have to do with our education system?

I believe that one reason why my generation of Singaporeans lack such skills is that there was never any incentive to speak up or speak well in school. In my time, oral exams were only pass/fail, and were, frankly, meaningless. So, very little time was spent on making presentations or engaging in activities which enabled us to speak up. Instead, we spent a lot of time writing and on hard subjects, because that is what the exams demanded of us. If we were poor in English or our second language, we memorised compositions and hoped that a similar topic would come up in the exam! Where English was concerned, the deficit was not made up outside school as very few of us spoke good (or any) English with our family and friends. In short, we graduated not equipped with the oratory skills important for our working lives.   

The Ministry of Education has moved on this. A few years ago, it introduced the STELLAR program and has changed the PSLE English syllabus to promote better speaking skills. There are more activities for students to make presentations and engage in debate. Our students now are more confident to speak up. These are good steps, but I wonder whether they are enough. Anecdotal evidence suggests that much more is being done in this area in the international schools. It would be good if we could get a sense of how our students are doing compared to others.  

Here is the connection to AP Tan’s point. If we placed greater emphasis on speaking up in schools, and assess students accordingly, there will be a greater incentive to speak well. Nothing focuses the minds of students and parents better. I am not proposing to burden our kids even more – we can afford to scale back a bit on content. Yes, parentocracy dictates that those with means can and will send their kids for enrichment classes to improve their speaking skills.  But that advantage will always be there in any system – think tuition and personal coaching for art, dance and tennis to meet direct school admission (DSA) requirements.   

But here is the thing – it costs much less money to get our children to speak up and speak well than to learn to play tennis or the piano. The difference is that at the end of the day, our children will learn a real skill which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

My thoughts:

Like most Singaporean students, I used to be quiet in school during my younger days. Dare not voice opinions. Because I fear of appearing stupid or ridiculous in front of others. 

In the past 10 years or so, as I stepped out into the workforce and due to my hearing-challenge issue, I began to push myself, to speak up as often as I can. Partly also due to peer influence (most people around me are uni graduates and professionals), I need to bench-mark myself, therefore I make sure I speak proper English as fluently as I can.

I only do Singlish-speaking during informal settings such as conversations with friends or family members.

I am usually a quiet worker. I think long before I speak. If I can do so on-the-spot, I will try to value-add to the task by providing constructive feedback or share some honest opinions.

I am well aware of the fact that if I don’t bother to speak fluent English as often as I can at appropriate occasions publicly, NOBODY will know how well I can express myself, let alone gauging my communication skills, performance appraisal etc.

Having intelligence quotient  (cognition, memory, thinking, process) is important, but other factors such as emotional quotient (self awareness, self regulation, emotions management) and social quotient (social & interpersonal skills, political strategies, leadership, influence, negotiation, communication, impression management) are also equally vital as well.

I believe EQ and SQ can help one succeed further in life, than just relying on IQ.

At the end of the day, you want people to notice you. Agree?