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.

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

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

JC General Paper

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

Singapore Inclusive Policies- A reflection

JC General Paper

“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

(taken from http://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2012/download/FY2012_Budget_in_Brief.pdf)

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.