### Meritocracy? Junior colleges merger and its implications

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.

### Probability Question #4

A gambler bets on one of the integers from 1 to 6. Three fair dice are then rolled. If the gambler’s number appears $k$ times ($k = 1, 2, 3$), he wins $$k$. If his number fails to appear, he loses$1. Calculate the gambler’s expected winnings

### Evaluation for Application Question (AQ)

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)

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.

### A little reminder to students doing Calculus now

When $\frac{dy}{dx} = 0$, it implies we have a stationary point.

To determine the nature of the stationary point, we can do either the first derivative test or the second derivative.

The first derivative test:

Students should write the actual values of $\alpha^-, \alpha, \alpha^+$ and $\frac{dy}{dx}$ in the table.

We use this under these two situations:
1. $\frac{d^2y}{dx^2}$ is difficult to solve for, that is, $\frac{dy}{dx}$ is tough to be differentiated
2. $\frac{d^2y}{dx^2} = 0$

The second derivative test:

Other things students should take note is concavity and drawing of the derivative graph.

### Vectors Question #2

If $c = |a| b + |b| a$, where $a$ , $b$ and $c$ are all non-zero vectors, show that $c$ bisects the angle between $a$ and $b$.

### In times of economic hardship, should a country still be expected to provide financial or material aid to others?

Students are expected to address the criteria of this question throughout the essay; it being in times of economic hardship. For a quality essay, the terms “should” and “expected” should be addressed as well. For instance, a country should still give aid, but perhaps not be expected at a time when its survival is in question, and it does not have a healthy budget balance.

Financial aid- capital/loans/money

Material aid- manpower/distribution of basic goods and necessities

• Provision of aid during economic hard times could be a political statement and commitment to the recipient country, helping to foster greater political relations in the long term. Giving of aid should be expected especially if the recipient country needs it more than the donor country. Such circumstances could be when the recipient country is facing civil war and there is urgent need of aid to cease the fighting etc. Another possible instance could be during times of natural disasters/emergencies. Also, for most of the donor country, aid takes up a small portion of their budget, hence it should not affect the current economy severely even if the country continues to give out aid during hard times. Aid accounts for 0.5% of the US budget yearly.
• Governments should be responsible and accountable to their citizens first especially during hard times, hence aid should be allocated domestically rather than elsewhere. The dollar votes of the citizens and their voices are important, and it is only right that countries should be concerned with their own self-preservation before others. After all, an economically prosperous country will then be able to contribute more to the international community, rather than a slow and stagnate economy that is facing difficult times.
• Perhaps a country should look at other means of support, rather than the provision of aid during bad times. It is presumptuous to assume that aid helps to alleviate the problems faced by the recipient countries. Often, aid may actually harm local industries and foster this sense of self-entitlement and dependency on the donor nations.
• Legal obligations under international law could possibly bind countries to continue giving aid to another country. A short term economic difficulty does not suffice to repudiate this commitment, especially when contracts have been signed beforehand, and the donor country may risk ruining their legitimacy and international standing.

In dire situations, countries should still continue to give aid to one another. However, expectations to scale down in terms of aid is definitely reasonable and justifiable.

### Singapore Inclusive Policies- A reflection

“An Inclusive Society, A Stronger Singapore” Budget Plan 2012-2016: fulfilled promises, financial burden and new directions

In 2012, the Singapore government introduced a 5-year budget plan aiming to make Singapore a fair, stronger and inclusive society. The main features of this ambitious project were:

1. Restructuring to sustain growth
• Less dependency on foreign labour
• More grants and support for SMEs
1. Building a fair and inclusive society
• Improving the social mobility of lower income families through improved financial and educational subsidy and/or grant schemes
• Helping seniors live long and well by offering housing purchase schemes, credit incentives for hiring aged workers, increased retirement savings and more affordable healthcare
• Supporting those with disabilities and special needs through subsidies for employing caretakers, providing educational and skills support facilities and building elder-friendly infrastructure
• Sharing the fruits of Singapore’s economic growth by giving out GST vouchers in cash, Medisave and U-save

It is not difficult to understand why the government initiated such a plan. In the words of PM Lee “We all have something to contribute,” (channelnewsasia.com, 31 Oct 2015) hence maximising the potential of our human resource: young, old, poor, rich, abled and disabled, and keeping them healthy and happy is a strategic move to support Singapore’s future economic growth.

It is now 2017 and the government has indeed delivered most of what was promised in the budget plan. To highlight a few of these achievements, our neighbourhoods and transport systems are now more elder-friendly, we receive our GST cash vouchers as promised, we have two spanking-new hospitals in the West and are currently in the midst of integrating our healthcare groups to streamline operations and make healthcare more affordable, we built a \$25million Enabling Village to help those with disabilities and special needs and we have decreased the local to foreign worker dependency ratio. However no success story is without sacrifice and just who or what were the sacrificial lambs in this budget plan? Moreover, which areas should the government focus on in the next one?

Tax payers are once again not spared from funding Singapore’s progressive aspirations and why should they? The money is redistributed and re-invested to make Singapore a fairer and stronger society. However tax rates have gone up again for YA2017 for the rich and upper middle classes, from a range of 17-20% to a range of 18-22% and with the addition of two new income tiers (www.iras.gov.sg). The question is, is this really fair? I heard that little “Yes!” go up in your head. Truth be told, it depends on how the rich make their money. For those who own successful local businesses, the new tax hikes are going to hurt and might even discourage further business growth or expansion. For those who make their riches through stocks and shares, guess what? These are not declared when filing income tax! Perhaps we should work towards minimising the number of those who profit from loopholes in the system if we truly wish to build a fairer – also towards the rich— and more inclusive society.

Finally, what new directions might we find in the AY2017 budget? The Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) of Singapore recently released a report highlighting key growth sectors and proposed seven strategies to sustain Singapore’s economy in the coming years.

Key growth sectors: finance, hub services, logistics, urban solutions, healthcare, the digital economy and advanced manufacturing

Seven strategies:

• Deepen and diversify international connections
• Acquire and utilise deep skills
• Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up
• Build strong digital capabilities
• Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity
• Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs)
• Partner each other to enable innovation and growth

(taken from https://www.gov.sg/microsites/future-economy/the-cfe-report)

One can therefore expect more money in the AY2017 budget to be channelled into re-skilling the workforce, encouraging innovation and improving digital infrastructure and technology i.e. building a Smart Nation. Support for the elderly, disabled and those with special needs might take on a minor role in the budget this year because it was the focus of AY2012-16’s budget plan.

Nonetheless, there is so only so much money can do in helping a country to survive. As pointed out by PM Lee, Singaporeans need to practice active citizenship. This means making the effort to keep oneself fit and healthy, using the incentives and support systems in place to reskill or retrain oneself to meet with changing labour demands, revising educational content to ensure our students are prepared for the future by the time they graduate and managing ones expectations and demands in times of economic difficulty. Policies, systems and budget plans will change but the brunt of it can be softened by adopting the right attitude and mentality. Thus when the AY2017 budget comes out, hold your tongue for a moment, understand the changes and safety nets in place and learn to embrace them. If not, a corner of Hong Lim Park beckons you.

### How to maintain your self discipline to study?

Dear all, this is a general post on how to keep your study momentum up during this december holidays. As you already know, this december holidays is not only a time for you to rejuvenate yourself from the hectic JC life, it is also an important revision time for you! It is a time when you consolidate all that you have learnt in this year, so that you would have a good foundation to start JC2. (For those who didn’t do well in the promos, you should be doing catch up. For those who did well, you could possibly revise your learning and embark on a head-start program.)

So what are the 3 tips for you to have self-discipline?

One of the reason why students do not have self-discipline is because they do not believe in themselves and their abilities to attain academic success. They attach negative talk to themselves such as they are stupid, lazy and not cut out for straight As. Hence, their inner beliefs shape their actions and their revision process. One way to change it would be to change your identity. Start thinking to yourself that you deserve Straight As everyday and you will soon internalize it and manifest these behaviours.

Secondly, you should attach pain to the notion of you not achieving your goals. Each time when you think about how you would not achieve your goals, it will automatically propel you to take action! It could possibly be a lack of self esteem, respect from your parents and society. Regret for not achieving your aims etc.

Finally, you could think about how to reward yourself whenever you achieve your goals and to get a trusted person to be accountable for you. One way to do this is to tell your friends or parents what you desire to achieve for the A levels, and to get them to monitor your revision schedule. I know this sounds unappealing to you, but this could perhaps be the best way to make sure you stay discipline to your goals!!

Have a good break everyone! Of course have a fruitful revision time too!

### Commentary for 2016 A level paper

1. ‘Any adaptation of a novel for a film, television or the theatre is never as effective as the original.’ Discuss. (Media)

2. Assess the view that traditional buildings have no future in your society. (Arts and SG Society)

3. ‘Longer life expectancy creates more problems than benefits.’ Discuss. (S&T)

4. Considering the money involved, should developing countries be allowed to host major sporting events? (Sports)

5. ‘Human need, rather than profit, should always be the main concern of scientific research.’ Discuss.  (S&T)

6. ‘Countries experiencing conflict should be left to sort out their own problems.’ How far do you agree? (International politics)

7. How far has modern technology made it unnecessary for individuals to possess mathematical skills? (S&T + Maths)

8. ‘People who do the most worthwhile jobs rarely receive the best financial rewards.’ To what extent is this true of your society? (General)

9. Evaluate the claim that equality of opportunity for females is a desirable, but unrealistic, goal. (Gender)

10. Assess the view that most natural disasters are the result of human activity. (Environment)

11. Is competition always desirable? (General)

12. ‘Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone’s opinion is of equal value.’ What is your view? (General)

Based on the above questions, it appears that this year’s paper is relatively easy to prepare for and address. Common topics that come out yearly include science and technology and arts and culture. This year’s paper has a high percentage of science and technology question (Q3, Q5 and Q7), 2 being comparison in nature and 1 being a general question. Topics of focus are narrow and specific. Hence, for students preparing for questions on science and technology, they should be well versed in the different sectors and to be prepared for a specific question type. General and opinionated questions form the other bulk of this year’s paper (Q8, Q11 and Q12). It would be harder to predict and prepare for these questions, but they tend to appeal to students who either have a flair for smoking or did not prepare for the other content-based topics.

Moving forward, students should know what type of questions they are strong in, whether they should do a specific question type or a more open-ended/general question. Second, students should also know the question requirements in order to tackle the essay effectively. Absolute terms, matrix questions and even criteria questions have been evident for this year’s paper.

Are you prepared enough at this stage if you are taking A levels in 2017?