Singapore students suffering from test anxiety

From ‘Singapore students suffer from high levels of anxiety: Study’, 20 Aug 2017, article by Sandra Davie, ST

Singapore students may be topping the charts in mathematics, science and reading, but it is exacting a heavy emotional price on them.

An international study suggests that Singapore students, known worldwide for academic excellence, also experience high levels of anxiety and have been exposed to bullying.

The findings emerged in a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which conducts the triennial tests called the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). The study polled 540,000 students from 72 countries and economies to look at the connection between well-being and achievement in the Pisa tests.

…Students were asked to respond to statements such as: “I often worry that it will be difficult for me to take a test”; “I worry I will get poor grades at school”; “I feel very anxious even if I am well prepared for a test”; “I get very tense when I study for a test”; and “I get nervous when I do not know how to solve a task at school”.

It emerged that their anxiety levels were significantly higher than the OECD average for all five questions. For example, 66 per cent of students across all OECD countries said they were worried about poor grades at school, but among Singapore students, it was 86 per cent.

One question that the survey did not address is the source of students’ anxiety, which sometimes may escalate to fatal proportions. The following statement should have been included: ‘I’m afraid of letting my PARENTS down if I do not perform as expected’.

In 2016, an 11-year old boy leapt to his death because he couldn’t bear to show his PSLE results to his parents. Master H would be caned on his palm ‘lightly’ for every mark that fell short of the ‘stipulated standard’ of 70 marks. More disturbingly, this was what his inconsolable mother wailed when she was next to her dead son:

“I only ask for 70 marks, I don’t expect you to get 80 marks.”

Yes, even when your son is dead, you still see the need to validate your obsession with grades.

For some children, 80 marks isn’t even good enough. A 13 year old got scolded by her mom for making a careless mistake despite getting 83 marks in mathematics.  Another was forced by his parents to RETAKE another year of PSLE despite passing. If it’s not kiasu parents, it’s the system that screws with you. Earlier this year, St Hilda students who scored 97 marks for Chinese STILL could not qualify for Higher Chinese. And these were in PRIMARY ONE students. 

In the article above, one possible explanation given was that Singaporean kids were ‘more driven’, but it’s hard to quantify this without adjusting for another emotion – Fear. Fear of falling behind. Fear of incurring the wrath of grade-obsessed parents. Fear of not meeting ridiculously stringent cut-off points to get into selected subjects.

We have two ministers with Education as their portfolio, and if even this doesn’t curb the stress levels that our children face, we’ll be faced with not just a diabetes epidemic, but rising rates of paediatric mental disorders as well. And there’s only one industry out there cashing out on all this test anxiety, like drug companies milking diabetes – the billion dollar tuition industry.

Advertisements

Toa Payoh hawker centre couple punished by society

From ‘Public backlash making us live like fugitives’, 13 Aug 2017, article by Lester Hio, Sunday Times

The couple caught in a viral video verbally abusing and shoving an elderly man at a Toa Payoh hawker centre said they believe they have been “punished by society” over the past four months.

Mr Chow Chuin Yee, 45, and Ms Tay Puay Leng, 38, were fined in court on Friday for the use of criminal force and harassment on Mr Ng Ai Hua, 76, in April.

Ms Tay was fined $1,200 for using abusive words on the retiree, causing alarm, while Mr Chow was fined $1,500 for using criminal force.

Asked about comments from netizens that they had got off lightly with a fine, Mr Chow told The Sunday Times yesterday that they have been “living like fugitives” to prevent any further public incidents after facing backlash both online and in public.

The last time individuals were ‘punished by society’ because of some online fracas, they decided to leave the country. Think Anton Casey or Amy Cheong. As if a fine and a blemish on their reputation isn’t enough, the Chows felt compelled to play the victim card, breaking down on national TV and dragging an grandmother with dementia into the fray. Telling everyone that you lost it because you had a bad day isn’t going to cut it.

Somehow they seem to be getting it worse than men previously convicted of having underage sex. Because of the bullying incident, the Chows-run Novel Learning Centre got a thrashing on Google reviews, with a total rating of 1.2 stars. More like Centre for Kids Learning How to Steal other people’s Lunches. Oh, wait.

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 7.06.02 AM

It’s unfortunate that they happen to be educators, and were caught being total assholes to an elderly man, but as a society that places so much emphasis on filial piety and graciousness, perhaps we should also aspire to one that exercises compassion and forgiveness, rather than stooping to their level of tormenting others for purely selfish reasons.

Maybe we should reflect on the moments when we kicked mud in the face of another human being but were lucky enough not to get caught and shamed on social media. You could be the professor who screams vulgarities as a service staff for being slow. Or just a nobody who treats your elderly mother at home as a slave. In most cases, you’d be punished only by karma or divine justice, not a society generally oblivious to your everyday behaviour. You could be a moral vigilante one moment and find yourself at the receiving end of a social media witch-hunt the next.

The problem with society being labelled as judge jury and executioner is that it changes our motivation for good behaviour, that it’s no longer about respect or due consideration, but a fear of mob repercussions, that we’re safe only when we’re out of the panopticon that is the public eye.

Toa Payoh couple, be remorseful, make amends, but stop assuming that ‘society’ as a whole gives a shit about you and your self imposed fugitive exile.

Maki Kita means ‘curse us’ in Malay

From ‘Sushi chain Maki San apologises for making a mistake with name of National Day themed rolls’ 6 Aug 2017, article by Fabian Koh, ST

Puns can be creative and hilarious, but puns can also go so wrong. Local sushi chain Maki-San launched a special chicken char siew sushi roll for Singapore’s 52nd birthday, calling it the Maki Kita.

The name is a play on the lyrics of Singapore’s National Anthem, in which the first two words are “Mari kita”. In a Facebook post on Friday (Aug 4) afternoon, the chain explained that the name aimed to reflect “the cheeky and playful side” of the company, and means “Our sushi”.

Unfortunately for them, in Malay, while “kita” refers to “us” or “me”, “maki” means to curse or insult.

Thus, the name Maki Kita essentially means “Curse us”.

The sushi chain acknowledged the kerfuffle and announced in another Facebook post that night, just seven hours later, that it was changing the name to Harmony Maki.

If there’s any consolation, this is not the worst pun to pull off when it comes to promoting limited-edition culinary creations. In 2015, Breadtalk made a grave mistake with its commemorative LKY bun following his passing. While naming a pastry over a dead person was in poor taste, the Maki Kita appears to be an honest, but unfortunate, screw-up (Incidentally, Makikita also translates in Tagalog to ‘You’, though using that as a defence would probably backfire horribly as well).

Whether it’s getting hopelessly lost in translation or bastardising our food heritage, everyone seems to be jumping on the SG52 bandwagon, from pandan souffles to salted egg yolk panna cottas. Unlike McD’s Nasi Lemak Burger, there’s nothing distinctively ‘local’ about the renamed ‘Harmony Sushi’, unless we can claim ‘chicken char siew’ as a Singaporean delicacy (The other ingredients are egg, cucumber, fried shallots and coriander mayonnaise)

Tricky names aside, at least this brainchild of 4 Spectra secondary school students doesn’t strike one as an overdecorated, pompous travesty. Check out the ‘atas-trophe’ that is the ‘Satay’ : a ‘skewer of roasted Japanese eel, king prawn and squid served with a peanut-based sauce’ from French diner Saint Pierre.  Part of a $248 set that includes Nasi Lemak with goddamn King Crab, this is one luxurious starter that not all Singaporeans can afford. Or if you want something slightly less pricey, dig into Jamie’s Italian’s version of Chicken & Rice ($19.65).

Sometimes you just gotta call a risotto a risotto. And it’d rather have cucumber slices than some half-arsed broccoli. If you see any local delight corrupted by the word ‘infused’, take your money and run far, far away.

 

In the spirit of ‘maki kati’, I have a suggestion for a novelty dish that every Singaporean can enjoy. Fishball Meesua in Laksa broth. Or F.M.L.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINDEF-SAF personnel forced to download SGSecure app

From ‘All Mindef-SAF personnel required to download SGsecure app’, 28 July 2017, article in Today

All Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef) personnel are required to download the SGSecure application on their mobile phones and complete the e-learning modules within, the ministry said on Friday (July 28) amid online complaints from users who said they had been forced to install the software.

The app, which enables the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force to send alerts to the public in times of emergencies, and for the public to report suspicious activities, is part of the SGSecure movement launched in 2016.

…Mindef and MHA’s comments came amidst online complaints by users who alleged that they had been threatened with disciplinary measures if they did not install the app. Many of the complaints were written in the reviews section of the app.

One user, Mr Dylan Leong, wrote: “Got forced to download if not disciplinary actions will be placed against us.”

Mindef did not directly address queries on the alleged punitive measures faced by those who refused to install the app.

“Global and regional terror threats are persistent and long-term issues that should not be taken lightly. Singapore is just as susceptible to these threats as any other country,” the ministry said in its statement.

Total defence calls for totalitarian measures, though it doesn’t mean people will end up using the SGsecure app, preferring to park it in a folder so hidden that in the rare event that you do really need it, you would get discovered and killed while the app is still loading or your phone is struggling to detect Wireless@SG.

An anti-terror app sounds sexy and all, but we shouldn’t rush into technology without considering human elements. There are some common sense scenarios where you SHOULDN’T use your phone when hiding from a terrorist raid. Take this scene from the Run. Hide. Tell Crimewatch promo, for example, when our protagonist decides to sms the police in a dark room, which is basically telling your enemy ‘YOOHOO I’M HERE’.

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 7.27.13 AM

But terrorism is no joke, of course. So as an inactive NSmen myself, I decided to give the app a go.

The first notification I got was to enable location services and I was immediately reluctant to do so. Not only was my privacy at stake, but it would deter users from making reports that may be perceived by the defenders of Singapore as frivolous or pranks. What if they hunt me down and arrest me for making a false bomb alert which I thought genuine? On the flipside, the app makes it almost TOO EASY to troll the authorities. Which means more time spent on investigating false alarms than doing important work like, you know, catching rapists and shit. Personal Batman beacon, this is not.

I also checked out the e-learning module, which is basically scrolling down some infographics and watching two Youtube videos. Once you’re done, you need to ‘register completion of e-learning’, which means giving your personal info in a form. Now you’re a qualified SGSecure expert!Yay!

But what’s really telling about the whole concept of the app, and bugs me like hell, is that it has NO FEEDBACK OPTION. You can’t tell MINDEF how to improve the app, even if it sucks one-star donkey balls. What the app would be useful for, though, is tracking missing persons, with the right incentives. If we had this app during Mas Selamat’s escape and rewarded users with cash prizes, he wouldn’t have made it past the beach with his makeshift raft. We would have the whole of Singapore manhunting like Pokemon Go.

You know who we should really force this upon instead? Convicted upskirt voyeurs. With their talent for stealth filming they would make excellent reconnaissance agents. They could sneak up close and personal with suspicious characters like a ghost. We could also reduce their jail sentences for their penance in return for their heroic deeds. And if they get caught, well, too bad you sick pervert!

Good effort, MINDEF. But if I ever find myself in trouble, I’ll stick to the tried and tested method of calling 999. By the time I dig out this app, fiddle with the glare settings, skip the time-wasting opening tutorials, and swipe for the emergency contacts, I’d probably have my head lopped off by then.

 

 

 

Khaw Boon Wan thinks main media has gone tabloid

From ‘Biased figures on MRT breakdown rate’, 29 July 2017, ST Forum

(Chan Yeow Chuan): I was taken aback by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s statement that the MRT is three times more reliable now than it was in 2015 (Khaw raises bar on MRT reliability; July 28).

However, after a more careful reading of the report, I realised that this conclusion was drawn from statistics that excluded delays caused by the new signalling system on the North-South Line.

Computing statistics this way is biased and unscientific.

I propose that delays caused by the testing of the new signalling system be factored in when calculating the mean kilometres between failures (MKBF).

If there has been a decrease in MKBF since 2015, this can be duly explained by the delays caused by the tests.

Calculating MKBF this way would give us a gauge as to how disruptive the tests of the new signalling system have been.

I support The Straits Times’ coverage of the recent breakdowns and delays of the MRT (Minister takes aim at press; July 28).

If these disruptions remain largely unreported or are glossed over by the newspaper, it could hurt its reputation and relevance as a news source.

Instead of expressing ‘grave concern‘ for the recent spate of breakdowns like his predecessor, Transport Minister Khaw opted for the deflective strategy of sympathising with SMRT workers and taking Trumpy potshots at the MSM.

“I don’t like the media reporting … Even our main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on … frightening figures, headlines.”

“But I thought they were being unfair to the teams … working their guts out on this re-signalling project. They think it’s so easy, you know, like holding a pen and writing a few articles and get the signalling done. I wish it was so simple. If it was so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporters to run the train system.”

This is the thanks you get for your not-so-subtle PAP propaganda, ST. All these decades helping to keep the PAP on its Iron Throne with your biased election reporting, and you get accused of distorting the facts. Which explains ST wasting no time publishing letters rebuking Khaw like the one above. At least Lui Tuck Yew knew better than to offend the PAP’s media mouthpiece.

In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, Khaw himself claimed that MRT reliability , defined as mean km between failure (MKBF), had increased 3 times since 2015, and excluded delays due to re-signalling because these happen ‘once every 30 years’. I assume this 30 years was calculated based on the very first train ride back in 1987, but it’s a statistical fallacy intended to mislead laymen into thinking that we won’t get another issue like this until 2047. Did Khaw learn anything from Yaacob’s ‘once every 50 years’ figure for freak floods?

But perhaps one reason why commuters still think the figures don’t reflect reality is how they experience a typical breakdown. A failure is defined as ‘a delay lasting longer than 5 minutes’, which means a train stalling for 4 minutes 50 seconds will not be considered as a significant delay. To anyone who’s suffered peak hour crunching, this feels like fucking eternity. So technically a train can continue to clock serviceable miles even if it stalls for 2 minutes every 5 stations and SMRT can continue to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Media will always be media, and sensationalism with catchy headlines and glaring images is simply business as usual, part of the arms race vs the scourge of fake news and social media. While the quality of our MSM can certainly improve, what we really need, as lifelong commuters, is that the quality of SMRT management and their overseeing Ministers improve as well.

Speaking of ‘exciting’ headlines, always remember this, Khaw.

73856_488305751382_6331328_n

 

 

 

 

Li Shengwu surprised that Government is so petty

From ‘Li Shengwu surprised that Facebook post on Singapore court system enough to trigger AGC response’, 17 July 2017, article in ST

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said on Monday (July 17) it is looking into a recent Facebook post put up by Mr Li Shengwu, the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a private post, which was uploaded on Saturday, Mr Li, 32, shared a Wall Street Journal article on the recent Oxley Road dispute, titled “Singapore, a model of orderly rule, is jolted by a bitter family feud”.

He also commented on Singapore’s court system.

The AGC said in a brief statement on Monday morning that it is aware of Mr Li’s post and is looking into the matter.

In a Facebook post on Monday afternoon responding to AGC’s statement, Mr Li said he was “somewhat surprised” that his last post – which was shared on “friends only” privacy settings – was enough to trigger a response.

He added: “I’m surprised that the Singapore government is so petty. Would they also like to trawl my private Facebook feed for seditious vacation photos?”

In the offending post, Li Shengwu, a Harvard academic, shared his thoughts on media censorship, as a side note to a linked article summarising he Oxley ‘political crisis’.

Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.

We all also keep in mind, of course, that Shengwu is PM Lee’s nephew, and PM Lee has declared in public that he would not take legal action against another member of the Lee family as it would besmirch LKY’s name. But that wouldn’t stop the AGC from calling this being in ‘contempt of court’.

Or would it?

This could well be a post-Oxley Catch-22. AGC has taken to task people like cartoonist Leslie Chew and rogue political activist Han Hui Hui.  We should expect them to demand that the offender issue a statement of apology, or least remove the post from the face of the earth. But this is – dun-dun-dunnn – PM Lee’s own flesh and blood.

Incidentally, one possible reason why international media tends to be cautious about commentaries on Singapore’s elite is they may get ‘sued until their pants drop’. Which is what both Shengwu’s uncle and – guess who – late grandfather LKY did when they were accused of running a dynasty by the Herald Tribune. Now that alleged dynasty has been dramatically torn apart.

Shengwu is a grown man and doesn’t need daddy to tell him what not to post on Facebook, even if it’s in ‘private’ setting. He’s also been described as ‘Oxford’s finest debater‘, having won Best Speaker at a World Debating Championship. It’s interesting to see how being a world-renown master debater can get you out of a tangle with the all-powerful AGC. I wonder how ‘seditious’ those vacation photos could be, though. Did he pose with kangaroos in Oz with ‘sensitive captions’?

Maybe Dad and Aunt Lee Wei Ling are drafting their Facebook notes as we speak. It’s Game of Thrones week, but save some popcorn for this one.

UPDATE: Lee Wei Ling just described this ‘petty’ incident as a case of ‘Big Brother’ syndrome and suggested that there’s a FB police monitoring the Lee siblings’ posts, even infiltrating privacy settings. It’s more likely attributed to the very nature of social media itself, rather than a Government hack charming his way into Shengwu’s circle of friends.

No doubt her big brother is watching this intently. Like a pesky cockroach that refuses to die.

 

 

 

SSO concert audience not applauding

From ‘Address audience behaviour at concerts’, 17 July 2017, ST Forum

(Margaret S Gremli Dr): I have been a regular attendee at Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concerts since 1979, when the orchestra was founded.

It has gone from strength to strength, and the calibre of its invited artists is outstanding and much appreciated by serious and loyal concertgoers.

However, I am horrified by the behaviour of some members of the audience at SSO concerts. For example, there are many latecomers – a group that is almost non-existent in other concert halls around the world.

These latecomers clatter down the steps of the concert hall and disturb other seated members of the audience as they shuffle to their seats.

The obvious remedy is for concertgoers to plan to arrive early. Some people also fail to show their appreciation of the performances by not applauding. This is ungracious.

Even worse is the behaviour of some members of the audience who leave the concert hall the minute the conductor lowers his baton. There is a stream of people heading for the exits even as the orchestra and invited artists take their bow.

This is blatantly disrespectful and especially insulting to invited soloists. I suggest a rigorous programme to educate concertgoers.

This can be done by handing fliers to latecomers and those people who leave early. Ushers should also not permit people to leave until the concert is actually over.

I have attended concerts in almost every continent in the world and have not encountered the type of behaviour I see in Singapore. The orchestra and the visiting artists give their best, and deserve due respect and recognition.

To be fair, some people refrain from applause not because they lack an appreciation for a concert performance, but because they don’t want to be scrutinised by experienced concert-goers like the writer for not ‘clapping in a dignified manner’. Like so.

Another reason for not clapping is you’re not sure if you’re doing it between the movements, which betrays a lack of ‘musical education’. 

Clapping etiquette aside, attending a orchestral concert is traditionally not meant to be a place for you to ‘let it all hang out’. You need to dress appropriately, stash your phone away, refrain from eating or drinking, hold your bladder, and find a place in your jacket to keep your opera glasses.

In the eighties, concert-goers complained about ‘howling’ kids and suggested that they be banned, not just because they were running around making a nuisance of themselves, but also ‘clapping in time to the music’. Yes, children are not allowed to enjoy themselves. They basically have to behave like their adult parents. The same complainant called for a ban on keropok because of the munching noises. Sit next to someone like this and be prepared to be stared at should you even need to gulp your saliva.

Singaporeans today may play with phones during a movie or throw bikes down flats and into canals, but such inconsiderate assholes still form the minority in society. To label Singaporeans the soccer hooligans of concerts, suggesting that we’re among the worst in the world however, seems a bit of a stretch. Furthermore, to propose a ‘rigourous’ campaign against disgusting behaviour would only deter laymen from supporting the arts.  Though that could be the intention of avid concert-goers all along, that it would be a niche activity dedicated to only those who’re ‘culturally aware’ – posh – enough, as exclusive and ‘invitation-only’ as an elite bacchanalia in the basement of someone’s mansion.