Should increased automation be embraced by our society?

JC General Paper

In this latest May day’s speech by PM Lee, a lot of focus has been given to the future of jobs and the changing economy of Singapore. For a summary of the speech, you could refer to this link <a href=”http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/jobs-jobs-jobs-8-highlights-from-pm-lee-hsien-loongs-may-day-rally”>http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/jobs-jobs-jobs-8-highlights-from-pm-lee-hsien-loongs-may-day-rally</a>

This has got me thinking about the current trajectory of the economy and what the future could possibly bring. The future holds a promising outlook, yet very uncertain and challenging at the same time. Why has it been so? This could be due to increasing automation that we see in our society! According to World Economic Forum, the rise of technology will lead to more than 5 million jobs being eliminated. Redundancies would be widespread and companies would have to restructure in order to meet with this new challenge. We are already starting to see the rise of disruptive technologies, and a move towards the sharing economy through businesses like Uber, Grab, Airbnb, Deliveroo etc. In the process, many middleman are cut out and many taxi drivers worldwide have protested against their dwindling earnings. Retail industry growth has been sluggish, and many retail giants are struggling to keep afloat in an environment where consumers are increasingly looking at online spaces for shopping. Automation, disruptive technologies, and artificial intelligence are bound to eliminate even more jobs and spread to other industries such as healthcare, education etc.

This begs the question of whether society should embrace automation? We are going to see increasingly number of Singaporeans unemployed, unable to adapt and change according to the world economy and increased strain on government budget to sustain these people. The ones that are going to benefit from the future economy would be businesses that took advantage of these changes, and individuals who have the specialized skills and knowledge to adapt. What then is going to happen to the rest of the society? How then should we mitigate against such changes? Here’s something for you to consider about robot tax that is proposed by Bill Gates to mitigate against robots taking away human jobs:<a href=”http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-robot-tax-brighter-future-2017-3?IR=T&amp;r=US&amp;IR=T”> http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-robot-tax-brighter-future-2017-3?IR=T&amp;r=US&amp;IR=T</a>

A more comprehensive discussion would be done during class this week for my students 😛 See ya!

Junior College education: A path increasingly less traveled?

JC General Paper

Following up from the previous blog post about JC merger, it seems that there are more interesting and candid responses from the public. Here is one example that could interest you: <a href=”http://mothership.sg/2017/04/ex-nmp-calvin-cheng-makes-the-point-about-the-jc-mergers-that-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/”>http://mothership.sg/2017/04/ex-nmp-calvin-cheng-makes-the-point-about-the-jc-mergers-that-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/</a>

This begs the question whether the merger is an attempt to make JC education more exclusive/competitive, considering that 7 out of the 8 JCs involved in the merger “happened” to have the worst cut off points. Also, this attempt is seen as an elitist move to improve the quality of education for this system.

Considering this trend, poly education would be where the majority is heading towards… what then would be the purpose of JC education? We all know that for the more popular courses in poly such as accountancy, business admin and even engineering, some of the best students from the O levels are vying hard to get in. It is not uncommon to hear of 6 pointers who want to go to poly since they find the education there to be more broad-based,  Is it to train the academically inclined ppl to pursue academia in universities? would this system be slowly phased out in the years to come? (Many have criticized the JC education to be too theory-based; does not teach real life skills and applications. With all the technology-disruptions today and the move towards a sharing economy, where does the JC education fit?)

Meritocracy? Junior colleges merger and its implications

Meritocracy? Junior colleges merger and its implications

JC General Paper, JC Mathematics, JC Physics

It’s pretty interesting that shortly after our post on meritocracy, we have news about the junior college (JC) mergers. For more information about the news, you could take a look at this weblink.

This drastic move by MOE has sparked a lot of concerns among the public and has brought up a few issues for us to consider. First, it would be the falling demographics of Singapore. The falling birth rates is cited as the main reason for the merger of schools, so that resources would not be wasted, and there would not be under-utilized staff in the system. With such falling birth rates, what would you think is going to happen to the future of the educational landscape (would teaching/tutoring as a profession still be lucrative? We know that MOE has cut back on the hiring of teachers from 3000 at its peak yearly to about 1000 right now).

Second question to think about would be the larger implications of these schools merger. Why are these schools selected? Some have argued that it is a strategic move by the government to level the playing field by merging these colleges so that academic standards would be streamlined? of course, we cannot merge schools like RI and HCI together as it would only further consolidate their super-elite status in society (besides strong school culture and powerful alumni).

Finally, school culture and history is being destroyed when merger takes place. If that’s the case, what does it say about how the nation values history? It is all about the future and progress right, the past no longer matters if it is holding us back. Pragmatism is the view of the Singapore’s state.

Understanding meritocracy in Singapore

Understanding meritocracy in Singapore

JC General Paper

Before we start off on the topic of meritocracy, let’s examine this particular news article about it. 

Based on the author’s argument, it is pretty clear that meritocracy is an esteemed principle of governance in Singapore. It is based on achieving equality of opportunities, rather than equality of outcomes. It is a system to filter candidates and for Singapore to achieve efficiency rather than equality(assuming that the most talented individual would get the job/opportunities). This stark reality of meritocracy could be the very reason why Singapore is having increasing social inequality, as this concept actually serves to widen the difference among us, and not reduce the difference.

However, over the years, meritocracy as a concept has been presented as a “golden ticket” for all, as long as one is willing to work hard and strive, opportunities would be present, and we would all be able to achieve social mobility and get to wherever we want in society.

What do you think about this concept of meritocracy? I’m aware that I’m making a bold statement here that meritocracy serves to widen inequality rather than reduce it and that it is the cause of Singapore’s inequality. Let me know what you think and how should the state change its policy if need be?

Common Errors for Application Question(AQ)

Common Errors for Application Question(AQ)

JC General Paper

My previous posts have touched on the points that you would need to excel in your AQ. It is also important for you to understand what are some pitfalls so that you will not make these mistakes.

  • 1. Rehash of the author’s argument/ summary of the author’s argument- did not go on to elaborate or to even offer personal insight
  • 2. Lack of evaluation- paragraphs tend to be descriptive
  • 3.Poor selection of examples- they could be inaccurate or they are isolated case studies that are not representative of the whole society
  • 4.No examples given
  • 5.Evaluation lacks depth or it is done very superficially
  • 6.No link back to the requirements of the question
  • 7. No introduction or conclusion (of course this is a very obvious time management issue)

Alright, there you have it, the 7 deadly sins/pitfalls for your AQ.

Evaluation for Application Question (AQ)

Evaluation for Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper

Have you ever wonder what teachers mean by evaluation? Many students have asked me this during my classes.

Well to put it simply, evaluation for the AQ is not just simply stating whether you agree or disagree. You would need to provide a reason to support your point. So how exactly should you evaluate? Well you can consider commenting on the limitations or applicability of the author’s point or even how persuasive/convincing the author is in bringing across his point of view.

Here are some tricks that you could possibly use to help you in your evaluation to make it SUPER:

S– Span (whether the argument applies only to the past and not the present day context and vice versa)

U– Underlying assumption of the author

P– Perfect world vs Reality (does the argument exist only in theory/ in a perfect world, but not applicable in reality?)

E– Effectiveness of the argument

R– Reach (what are the different demographic groups which this argument applies to? surely it can’t apply to all?)

Using this framework, I’m sure you would be able to impress your tutors with your AQ from now on!

Characteristics of Singapore’s society (Application Question)

Characteristics of Singapore’s society (Application Question)

JC General Paper

This list is non-exhaustive and serves as a guide for you to expand on Singapore’s characteristics…  Pls take a look at my previous post on Singapore’s characteristics, so that you would have a better overview.

  1. Highly globalized and connected city, with heavy focus on technological developments
  2. Highly educated
  3. High cost of living
  4. Pragmatic, concerns usually surround economic issues and survivals
  5. Low birth rate
  6. Greying population
  7. Highly affluent- high levels of disposable income
  8. Migrant society with identity in constant flux
  9. Long working hours (one of the highest in the world) rat-race pace of life
  10. Religious/ racial harmony
  11. Apathetic
  12. Capital and knowledge-intensive economy
  13. High levels of censorship by the government
  14. Conservative

When writing your AQ, you should always try to input these into your paragraphs to demonstrate an awareness of Singapore’s society and to show the relevance of the argument to Singapore.

Do’s and Don’ts For Application Question (AQ)

Do’s and Don’ts For Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper

Are you interested to know what are the requirements of a good Application Question (AQ)?

Well according to the examiner’s report, the best AQ responses are/demonstrate:

“eloquent”, “mature”, “lively”, “well-informed personal voice”, “energetic”, “well-organized”, “fresh insights”, “evaluative”, ” written with clarity, confidence and conviction”

On the other hand, mediocre marks are awarded to individuals who:

“mere description”, “mechanical”, “mere reproduction of ideas from the texts with little or no discussion or expansion of them”, “lack of focus on own lives or wider social context”, “little more than a summary of author’s arguments”, “abrupt ending” and “haphazard or disjointed paragraphing”.

*note that reference to your ‘own lives’ does not mean that you blather on with lengthy and trivial details about your personal life. Taking into account that these are the requirements and pitfalls of AQ, I’m sure you would be able to make some adjustments in order to score on the marking band.

Responsibility of Protecting the Environment

Responsibility of Protecting the Environment

JC General Paper

Environment is a common and easy essay question that could potentially come out for the exams… Students should always analyze their essays from a stakeholder’s perspective to give a more holistic evaluation.

Developed countries

Governments in developed countries have the necessary skills, influence and resources to aid the protection of the environment. They would have the financial means to invest in necessary science and technology which could improve the environment. At the same time, they would also possess political clout to enact policies to force companies to comply with their environmental standards. Education and campaigning to change the mindset of the people towards the environment would be within their means as people are generally more educated and aware.

Businesses could practise corporate social responsibility, and stand to gain since green consumers are more likely to purchase their products. Consumers are more concerned with the origins of their products they buy today. As such, MNCs could influence these green consumers to raise awareness about environmental issues using their products.

Individuals could make a difference by starting with themselves first. A small step could go a long way such as supporting Earth Hour or even car pooling.

NGOs no doubt would have more political clout than individuals, and do not have the same restrictions that are placed upon government agencies. They do not have to balance certain commitments such as the living standards in the country. This would result in them having greater flexibility when it comes to their operations and should be able to achieve more. \

Developing countries

Governments have the sole responsibility for the enactment and enforcement of policies to protect the environment. Unfortunately, their main priority is to ensure economic growth rather than the protection of the environment. Developing countries are more likely to have unstable government and corruption is usually rampant making it difficult to care for the environment. E.g Shell engaged in dodgy/shady dealings with the government officials in Nigeria in order to gain a foothold in the country.

Businesses are usually in the primary and secondary sector which focus on the harvesting of raw materials and manufacturing. These are highly damaging to the environment as the mining process results in large amounts of pollutants and waste. Many of their factories are owned by MNCs, and they would have little say in the production methods used.

Individuals concern would be to earn sufficient money to stay alive, they would not mind harnessing the earth for the raw materials or resorting to more efficient methods of clearing the land if they could help to save some money for them.

Considering the situation in both developed and developing countries, who do you think should be responsible for the environment?

Singapore Budget 2017- What it means for Singaporeans?

Singapore Budget 2017- What it means for Singaporeans?

JC General Paper

Future Economy: What is in store for all of us?

Recently, news have been focusing on changes in technology that bring about new prospects for certain segments of the population but disenfranchises others. Some would call it the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This is a situation in which disruptive technologies streamline processes making work more efficient and productive, leading to increasing number of Singaporeans being structurally unemployed. One instance could be seen in the transportation industry with the entry of Grab and Uber, reducing the need for traditional taxi drivers who would not embrace technology. Of course, this situation would be made worst when Uber and Grab introduce driverless cars, eliminating drivers as a viable occupation for many people.  As such, the Singapore state appeals for Singapore citizens to embrace technological change. This point on embracing technological change is also highlighted on the Singapore Budget website.

Singapore plans to cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution by becoming a Smart Nation. The Smart Nation initiative aims to rally the collective efforts of people, businesses and government to work together to support better living, create more opportunities, and support stronger communities by harnessing info-comm technologies, networks and big data… As such, this year’s budget emphasizes a lot on helping SMEs expand overseas especially into regional markets through the help of government funding, and of course to embrace technology.

What exactly is the main message of the budget? I think it serves one aim, to inform Singaporeans that their jobs are no longer secure in this uncertain and volatile economy, and that they would need to take action right now if they would like to income-proof their earnings. This would be in terms of being more open to technological changes in the workplace. Of course, the budget sends a strong message that the Singapore government is aware of these structurally changes and challenges in the economy, and that they would support Singaporeans as much as possible.

If you are interested in more budget discussion, you could keep up with the discussions about Budget 2017 on https://www.reach.gov.sg/budget2017;

 http://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2017/home.aspx;

https://www.facebook.com/REACHSingapore/

PS: This article is not meant to be an analysis of the budget 2017, as I’m not tutoring economics. It is meant as a context for students to understand the Singapore’s economy and to think of the various social issues, and how policies affect various stakeholders in society.