Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Who am I

I have put off putting this blog entry online because it may contain 'objectionable' material a la Obama. Whatever Obama is, I am not a racist or bigot. So read on if you will.

The other day, I was taking the bus/train home from where I worked, literally criss-crossing the island diagonally. I do this every work day, which mercifully does not include Saturdays anymore. I've been doing this for over 5 years, and I probably am qualified to note the changes in the bus/train services over this period of time. I have pointed out elsewhere my observation that the number of people on these public modes of transport has increased, spiking particularly after the latest taxi and road usage fare increases. I have also mentioned that many people who I share the train and bus with nowadays are no longer just fellow Singaporeans, but foreigners, whether they come from India, China, Vietnam, Korea and elsewhere.

Which got me to thinking why I spent 15 years of my life in Singapore's public schools and yet end up sharing the same bus and train space with people who probably never went to school, or if they did, never had to go through the rigorous regime of testing and assessments typical in the Singapore school system. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not a racist nor a bigot. I am not looking down on anybody. I am not, for one moment, implying that people who do not go through the rigorous school system in Singapore are less than intelligent and not deserving of any space in our public transport system. I was just wondering why I had to study those many years and suffer the pain and anxiety of exams, especially sitting alone in a cavernous hall with 400 other students equally alone with their thoughts and prayers during mass exams. Had it made any difference at all? Singaporean's who are driving are thinking of not driving anymore. That means taking the public transport with pretty much everyone else.

Somebody mentioned in this blog somewhere the irony of the fact that as the nation progresses, many of its people (the middle income folks, mostly) regress in terms of quality of life and material possessions. One would want to downgrade the house because one gets treated better at public hospitals in terms of subsidies. And I really don't understand how difficult it is to determine a family's per capita income that all the brains in the civil service cannot work out. Isn't it total income / total headcount in the immediate family? Isn't the computer available if we find that hard to work out? The Inland Revenue Authority probably already has these numbers already, and for quite some time now. But maybe the Health Ministry doesn't talk much to the Inland Revenue people, for whatever reason that is obviously beyond me. So I don't understand why means-testing for subsidised hospital services, or indeed any other government-subsidised services, cannot be implemented easily. A precedent has now been set that per capita household income is impossible to calculate and used to gauge the means of a person - in spite of the admission by the Health Minister in Parliament last month that per capita income is a fairer way of assessing 'deservability'. I think some people are lazy, that's all.

I am pretty dumb, I guess. I only know how to calculate simple Primary School level Math problems such as total income / total headcount. Is there any hope for me?

Why did I need to spend 15 years of my life in the Singapore school system, and why are we forcing our children to do the same, if not more?

Image source: Author: Kevin Rosseel, Washington, DC

1 comment :

the4thwall said...

Not flaming here, but I am missing your point as to equating time spent in our schools (and may I add on a personal note, NS?!) with currently sharing the public transport with foreign talents.

Perhaps your point is that the country we grew up in is no longer truly filled with just Singaporeans, but rather a hodge-podge of other nationalities, cultures, accents, habits and what-have-you.

But would that be so wrong?

What I do find wrong however, is the indiscriminate issuing of the PR status to whomever wishes to apply. I am currently in the midst of conducting a hiring exercise since my department is expanding. 7 out of 10 applications are by foreigners, who blatantly tell me they want this job just so that they can get their PR status. But when I ask them what's their plan to stay in Singapore in the long term, most of them tell me they wouldnt consider staying here for more than 3 years.

This is what Singapore is becoming today.