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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Election Watch Part III - Changing Our Mindset With The New Year?

I enjoy reading the articles listed with links in the Singapore General Election (SGEP). I contributed this article based on a few related "article" links in  the SGEP which had provoked and construed my thoughts for a necessary mindset change in Singapore. The "article" links referred to are found in the SGEP by category.

Changing Our Mindset With The New Year?

On Jan 5, Tan Kin Lian wrote to ST Forum on “Unfair Train Penalty” [Jan 5, 2011 – Blog]. In this letter Mr Tan expressed his opinion that “SMRT should treat its commuters fairly and not impose an additional cost for an unintended mistake” when a commuter makes a wrong exit and re-enters the fare gate.

This same letter had prompted someone to comment in the ST Online Discussion Board, “Tan Kin Lian, why do you expect SMRT to cater to your carelessness? Get on and not harping over a few cents. If all commuters are like you, it can becomes chaotic.” What a “generous” response from a public, one may say so, but is the logic behind the response and the mindset correct? If we expect an ordinary layman not to harp over “a few cents” with our monopolistic public transporter, then why should we not expect the same or a more onerous standard from a cash-rich corporation?

Another commenter asked, “How to prevent commuters from cheating if MRT train allows grace period for passenger who exits fare gate by mistake?”. Wow I thought Singaporeans were “daft”, I did not know we are also “cheats”.

Just because Singaporeans are quite affluent but apathetic, they tend to give way to the “Leviathan” mindset. As such local Authorities and big companies tend to cover up issues and mistakes to push away responsibilities by capitalizing on this mindset. It also becomes a way to avoid costs “at all costs” in a lopsided fashion stuck with a Third World mindset. Ironically, a Third World may not even behave this way.

It is not about "making life difficult for Authorities and big corporations" but "life could be made simpler and more graceful" for the ordinary people. This is more suited for a First World country. Those who travel overseas often may appreciate this point. In similar light, you may then ask, it “Work there, why not here?” [Jan 4, 2011 – Letter].

The whole issue and its solution may then rest on proper “education and culture building”. Education ? – Yes, then our “education system”. Building culture? – Yes, then our “leadership”. Wow, it seems PM Lee's New Year Message [Dec 31, 2010 – Local Media] had it all in Paragraphs 10 ~ 14.

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10. We are also investing heavily in education to prepare our students, who will be the workers of tomorrow. These investments have paid off. Results of the 2009 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) just released show that among 65 countries tested, Singaporean students rank within the top five countries for reading, mathematics and science. But other Asian economies like South Korea, Hong Kong and Shanghai (representing China) had high scores too. This shows the quality of talent in Asia, and the competition we face. To hold our own, Singapore must continue to upgrade our schools, teachers and pedagogy, as well as attract and integrate talent into our society.

11. Beyond education, other important intangibles influence our performance as a nation, including the quality of our leadership and the spirit of our people.

12. Other countries may have more resources or bigger talent pools, but we can maintain an edge through superior teamwork and leadership. Our system has produced strong and effective government, fostered national consensus on key issues, and focussed our efforts to achieve national goals. It must continue doing this, so we can maximise our collective performance and stay ahead.

13. This calls for leaders who deliver good policies, create opportunities for the people, and rally citizens to work together for a better tomorrow. The team must lead Singapore competently today, while grooming potential successors for the future. Ensuring continuing capable leadership for Singapore is a vital priority for the nation.

14. Success also depends on Singaporeans having the right spirit - the daring to try new things, the confidence to face fierce competition, the willingness to always give our best.

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On a separate occasion at Teck Ghee Bursary and Scholarship Award Ceremony, PM Lee as reported by CNA, “Singapore's education system faces fierce competition: PM” [Jan 02, 2011 – Local Media]; repeated the same message “to continue to improve its education system to make further progress” with reference to Singapore’s ranking in the PISA survey which tested the reading, maths and science abilities of students.

But finally, does it means “we cannot get over a few cents”, even if our spirit is right? Or are we “investing heavily in education” to prepare our students only in the said subjects just to be “workers of tomorrow” and not necessarily as politically conscious responsible citizens tomorrow.

Former NCMP Mr Siew Kum Hong in an article for TODAY, “When school and grassroots work do not mix” [Jan 04, 2011 – Local Media]; wrote :-

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I actually see student activism, in and of itself, as a good thing, and a necessary foundation for an active and concerned citizenry.

But partisan activities that favour a specific political party or politician should not be officially sanctioned and endorsed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) or schools.

And that is where I think MOE and RI(JC) got it wrong with BLYC.

I believe most Singaporeans would agree with me that it is inappropriate and undesirable, if not harmful, for schools to be used as vehicles for partisan political activities.

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The above had triggered a reply from Mr Tan Ah Teck, “It is not about politics at Boon Lay Youth Club at all” in a letter to TODAY [Jan 05, 2011 – Letters]. He said :-

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As I watched how my "little" girl grew up into a more mature and tolerant young lady during her time in BLYC, I cannot help but beg to differ with Mr Siew.

She was never involved in any political parties, neither was she invited to join one.

Contrary to this, she was involved, among the many programmes organised by the BLYC, in helping the less fortunate younger dwellers of the area by giving regular tuition and organising both indoor and outdoor activities for the young children.

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This might prompt one to ask Mr Tan Ah Teck, “If it was as if what you have said, why can’t our schools just do it on its own and you had to let your RJC girl did it at BLYC?” Will not our schools’ education programme benefits more students than the BLYC with its limited membership?

The Malaysians are “moving on” by calling out “Practise change management” with policy changes [Jan 04, 2011 – Malaysia Media]. This article cited Wikipedia to define “change management” as “a structured approach to shifting / transitioning individuals, teams and organisations from a current state to a desired future state”. What are our Singaporean leaders waiting for?

PM Lee had once commented on the United States presidential election: “The opposition party campaigns on the message of ‘change’: Change, change, change. Never mind change to what — just change ... The new government comes in on that message and then they start to think change to what.” … He asserted that change in Singapore should only come from and within his party, the PAP. If what he said was fair, what is the PAP waiting for? Daring to try new things? Or will we be doomed from the start because we are moving with a negative mindset towards “works there, why not here”?

In Singapore, we don’t seem to see a need to let life live gracefully by letting things evolve naturally and positively on a broader scale, but to live a life in a way “dictated by” or “to be dictated” on others in restrictive ways, just because somebody may know it best politically.

Contributed to Singapore General Election Portal (SGEP)

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