Thursday, March 26, 2009

Whiter than white

Is the Singapore school system barbaric? Does it not measure up to the Western liberal standards of enlightened education? Will students in Singapore schools suffer irreparable emotional damage? Should you pull your sons and daughters out of this barbaric regime that is the Sinagpore school?

Well, if you think about it, there is a lot of bad going on in the Singapore school system. Students not only have scheduled classes, they also have unscheduled classes with private tutors whose job it is to drill students to do well in school. Free time to enjoy your childhood/youth? Banish the thought. Slack a tinsey-whinsey bit and your child will fall to the back of the class, no, the back of the school, say position 459 out of 460. Students face so much pressure to do well that we are not certain if they will suffer permanent head damage (PhD) in addition to permanent social and emotional handicap in years to come.

What's this I hear? Somebody got three of the best on his behind in a Singapore school, and sanctioned by his parents, no less? Surely nothing can top this. To think that foreigners, Indonesian, Mainland Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Malaysian and the Thais, send their children to be schooled here. What must these foreigner parents be thinking of? Are they sadists to put their children in harms' way, or do they just want someone else to do the spanking for them? Well, you can't blame them. Spanking is a very common punishment in this barbaric part of the world. You wonder why people from liberal western countries come in droves though. Are they also sadists? To learn from the natives, perhaps? But of course, they put their children into schools with superior educational systems and enlightened philosophies, never mind that they cost a bomb. Their training will certainly help them in future to create complex financial products that nobody understands so that, whether they mess up or not, they have to be paid obscene bonuses. What better profession is there in the Universe?

The natives? They can have their 3rd class schools, such as Raffles Institution. They just will not enrol their children in them. Their children are just superior beings, you know, not like the Ah Mads and Ah Sengs and Ah Lians you commonly find in these 3rd class schools.

This incident should be reported to President Obama so that he can reprimand Singapore, just like what a father would, but without the cane, mind you, just like what President Clinton did when an American got 3 of the best here, courtesy of the Singapore Courts, which of course, is barbaric.

Yeah, and those people who have gone overseas and got their brains washed by liberal detergent, if you cannot bear with the barbarism here in the tiny little red dot of Singapore, go back to where you returned from. I hear that they have whiter than white streets there. So white that people dare not venture into them when night falls.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Unkind Cut

Firing a staff is never ever easy to do. I have only ever fired 2 people in my working life so far. The first one, being the first one, I didn't handle well at all. The second one I left it to my superiors, because the case involved theft.

Because I messed up the first one, the whole department turned against me. Before, they had been more than kind to me, leaving me little things on my table, like some food, for me to enjoy. I also always joined them for lunch, where lunch was in the factory as many did not want to venture the long distance to the nearest foodstall. So to all intents and purposes, I had a good thing going with my department. Until my superior called me in and told me about the bad times and that I should 'release' one staff from my department. Who it was going to be he left up to me to decide. Yeah, he wasn't going to hold the blood soaked knife, I had been volunteered to do it.

The choice was a difficult one since all of them had been as hardworking as the other. Some were absolutely essential as they operated key systems. Thinking back, I couldn't work out rationally who should go. It was entirely arbitrary, really. There wasn't an issue about favouritism. Call it a roll of the dice if you would. One went. She wasn't shown the door immediately. She was informed, and during the notice period, I notice knife-edged stares everyday I showed up for work. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

In restrospect, I should have protected my staff more. And even if a staff had to be fired, I should have shown more concern about the staff's future plans. And I should have talked to the rest of the department to seek their understanding and not kept quiet about it all. It was the worst way to release a staff, particularly one who has worked there for more than 10 years.

Needless to say, I never ate with them anymore. I left voluntarily not long after. But this incident still haunts me to this day. I hope that people do not repeat my mistakes. In this retrenchment 'season', let the one in charge show greater compassion and sensitivity. It's somebody's life, livelihood and family we are talking about.

10 ways to be a good manager during recessions
Gilbert Goh's Letter in Today's (23 Marh 09) Voices section (page 18)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Speaking aloud

I am ambivalent about the 'Jiang Hua Yu' campaign (Speak Mandarin Campaign), now in its nth year (I have lost count). MM Lee Kuan Yew is again at it, probably the best spokesman Singapore has to encourage people to speak Mandarin. He has been so successful that I know not a few non-Chinese who speak Mandarin, and I have a son who refuses to learn and speak any dialect, except Mandarin. I thought that since he is born into a Cantonese clan, he should speak Cantonese. After all, when I gave him his name, I deliberately transliterated it in the Cantonese form - phonetically. This was so that he would remember that he is a Cantonese. But he does not want to learn Cantonese, and he doesn't understand it when spoken within earshot of him. He has lost an integral part of his historical being.

I think, rather, the challenge in the Speak Mandarin Campaign is not about speaking less dialect. Few speak dialect any more. The battle today is with English, as MM has suggested. Between the 2, English seems to be a favourite of the majority, even in MM Lee's family. Can anyone be blamed how we all turned out? Not really. It is after all social engineering and you have to tweak the screws here and there once a while to make sure that the desired balance is maintained. The problem is, our younger generation doesn't want to learn Mandarin, though it is an obviously important language, given China's ascendency in the last 20 years or so.

But even as English and Mandarin are engaged in a see-saw battle of the tongue, I would rather that my son learned how to speak Cantonese. It is a family thing, you know, and goes beyond nation building...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Divining the times

Is Singapore heading for an early General Election?

Some have done an analysis that, historically, the longest interval from the time the electoral register is open for inspection (2nd March 2009) to the next General Election (GE) is at most 6 months. Even my wife, who is as apolitical as a potatoe, asked me last night what I thought. If there was going to be a GE soon, and if so, how soon?

I didn't dive into speculation. I just said I didn't know, which was the truth. I don't hang around chatrooms to pick up the latest gossips. I am not a keen political observer and I don't look at the moon and stars to divine the course of mankind, as far as politics go. If the government does announce a GE next month, I will be the first one to be surprised, since one isn't due until 2011.

But if the government does call early elections, it would be a statement by the official soothsayers today that 2 years down the road, the economic situation, which will impact the social situation severely this time around, will not give a 'feel good' factor at all. If nothing, the expectation is that it will be a terrible time for any government to go to the polls. The feeling among the populace may very well be doom and gloom.

We hear some optimistic predictions based on the upcoming Integrated Resort (IR) and, errr...nothing else, really. More likely, the situation will become worse before it becomes even more worse. So with the fresh memory of the bonuses received from last year, it would be prudent for the incumbent governement to call for elections soon, and I mean really soon. People can have such short memories. Bad new is beginning to pile up like a dunghill. Better do something about it before the electorate is overwhelmed and they make choice they will regret. That's what desperate people tend to do, besides looting and jumping off a highrise, or the open air MRT (elevated train) platforms in Singapore.

The question is: when this year, not if this year?

Image: Author: nibujohn