June 29, 2017

Authors Posts by Erin Chua

Erin Chua


by Erin Chua 

LOOK at this chart. It seems that there is a more accurate predictor of junior college enrolment than birth rates, which was the reason cited for the need to merge (or is it close?) some less-popular JCs.

The G recently announced the merging of eight JCs to form four JCs – in response to the fall in demand of around 3,200 JC places between 2010 and 2019, with the sharpest year-on-year drop expected in 2018 and 2019. As reported by The Straits Times, JC intake is now expected to drop by a fifth, going from 16,000 in 2010 to 12,800 in 2019.

Singapore’s birth rates, as the G says, are indeed declining. According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, resident birth rates fell from 18.2 in 1990 to 9.4 in 2016. Yes, there is also a fall in pre-university enrolment – from 30,726 in 2006 to 29,559 in 2015.

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Singapore-born residents alone do not account for all the students who enrol in our pre-university institutions. When we solely look at resident birth rates, we are missing out on the numbers of residents (citizens and PRs) born abroad but who have moved to Singapore, naturalised Singaporeans matriculating in our local education institutions and even international students. A closer predictor of JC enrolment trends is the change in our resident population of 15-19 years olds which include all students of JC-going age.

From 2006 to 2015, the fluctuations in our pre-university enrolment numbers are more congruent with the changes in our resident population of 15-19 year olds. The resident population and pre-university enrolment numbers thus appear to be co-related. On the other hand, the Resident Live Births (15 years ago) do not seem to share as consistent a relationship with pre-university enrolment numbers.

Resident Population Data taken from Population Trends 2016 Report by Department of Statistics Singapore, Resident Live Births taken from Department of Statistics Singapore and Pre-university Enrolment taken from Education Statistics Digest 2016 by Ministry of Education (Singapore)

So, where are all of these students going?

The fall in enrolment rates faced by some of the JCs could also be attributed to the increased availability of pre-university options. In the mid 2000s, against the backdrop of the increasing resident population of 15-19 year olds, there was a surge in pre-university programmes and institutions introduced into the local education market – possibly to meet the rise in demand for pre-university education then. Some of these developments in the local education landscape include the opening of new JCs such as Meridian JC and Innova JC, the launching of the Integrated Programme (IP) which is an integrated secondary and JC education where secondary school pupils can proceed to JC level without taking the GCE ‘O’ Level Examinations, and the introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme as an alternative to the GCE ‘A’ Levels.

Resident Population taken from Population Trends 2016 Report by Department of Statistics Singapore and Pre-university Enrolment taken from Education Statistics Digest 2016 by Ministry of Education (Singapore)

Note: Pre-university Enrolment numbers from 1991 to 1999 and 2001 to 2005 are not available

The decrease in demand due to the recent fall in resident population, compounded by the high supply of pre-university options arising from the mid 2000s could possibly explain the falling enrolment rates in JC.

As to why certain schools were closed and not others – it was cited as a question of demand and popularity, but we’ll leave it to someone else to say whether it’s popularity that makes a school hard to get in to (high demand, low cut-off points), or whether low cut-off points are what makes a school a popular choice.


Featured image by Wikimedia Commons user Sengkang at English Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 2.5. Picture taken in 2007.

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by Erin Chua

“QUICK! Run, Xiao Gall! Don’t look back! They’re going to catch up if we don’t move fast enough!” Uncle Phaser turned back and shouted at me as the entire flock fled, flapping and scrabbling over the semi-urban terrain.

I willed my grey legs to move as fast as they could. Desperate, I started flapping my wings vigorously and I was in the air – fleeing to safety.

How did things turn out this way? We used to co-exist with humans in harmony. Grandmother once told me that when she was younger, she could run with her friends in the green fields and the humans would watch them with genuine joy. It was the humans who brought us from the Isle of Ubin to the Mainland. Had they forgotten?

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I thought our small village was a safe place but now, we are a persecuted race, constantly running away from humans in fear of death. We don’t know who they are or where they come from but Uncle Phaser calls them the AVA-men – all their shirts carried the inscription.

I remembered when the rumours first began to spread among the villagers about the AVA-men. The Yellow Leggers from a neighbouring village had warned us of sudden disappearances. Something, someone, was cutting down the fowl population in Singapore. The elders of the village, except Uncle Phaser, scoffed at the mention of the threat. “We’re ‘Endangered’! Red List!” They said. They wouldn’t hurt us. We are their national treasure, our communities from the Isle of Ubin to mainland Sin Ming and Paris Ris.

I didn’t fear the AVA-men until I saw my sister, Chicky strung up and murdered.

The nightmare remains vivid in my memory. I was resting behind a tree when I saw two men dressed in green and blue cornering my sister who was taking her afternoon nap.

“Ah Koon, look! It’s sleeping. Time to kill it! Chickens are so noisy, they’re probably better off dead,” the skinny man exclaimed.

“Eh, that one grey legs lah! You sure not. We cannot kill the Red Junglefowl leh. That one endangered,” said another human. Bespectacled, this one.

Highly unlikely to be Red Junglefowl lah, Ah Kwang! The Red Junglefowl only found in Pulau Ubin. Not on mainland Singapore please.” He rolled his eyes at Speccy. “We also cannot ascertain whether correct or not, right? We just follow instructions. That Dr Koh say already. If really wrong, AVA will conduct studies to cover our backside lah. Kill them also better for our health. Chickens can pass bird flu easier than other birds, you know.”

My heart pumped furiously in my chest. What should I do? Would they see this was all a big mistake?

Spectacles looked puzzled, “So is it because bird flu or is it because of the noise?”

“Stop asking so many questions lah! The logic is sound. 20 complaints about noise means there are more birds. Confirm. More birds means more bird flu. We kill.”

“I don’t like killing animals unnecessarily leh.”

“Not our problem! Our order is to have them humanely euthanised. That means it must be done by humans.”

In a flash, the tall one grabbed my sister in a tight grip. Shocked awake, Chicky flapped furiously and kicked against his grasp. She let out a desperate squawk and then he had her by the neck. His partner passed him a syringe, which he plunged into her back. A few seconds passed as I stood frozen, and then they threw her lifeless body into a black bag.

That same evening, Uncle Phaser and the elders told the kampong that we were on the run. Two months later, we’re still running.

Chicky. I knew her since she was an egg. A teardrop rolled down my left, white cheek.

“Xiao Gall, what are you doing! Snap out of it. It’s time to move. The coast is clear,” Uncle Phaser whispered harshly in my ear.

“I was thinking about… Chicky,” I muttered.

He looked at me in the eyes and said warmly, “There’s no point brooding about the past. Your sister would want you to focus on staying alive. There are so few of us left. Last time about 100, now I don’t know how many. We have to be strong, fight on and stick together. Birds of a feather, yeah?”

I nodded, mustered my courage and followed Uncle Phaser. I have accepted the fact that this life of being constantly on the run is one that we must live – at least for now. The rats snigger their commiseration as we pass them on the hills of Bukit Batok. “Rat treatment in progress” is the euphemism for their persecution – it is neither treatment not progress from their perspective.

But I keep asking, why? Why us? Why now? Why did they take away Chicky over a few unhappy residents? Was it politically motivated? And if so, should we try to fly the coop to the USA?


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Erin Chua

“AUNTY, do you have any items that are selling for 10 cents or less?” I asked the stall owner. She threw her head back, laughed a little and replied, “I doubt you can buy anything for 10 cents nowadays.”

On March 16, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced that it was seeking public feedback on the proposed new legal tender limit of 10 coins per denomination across all denominations in a single transaction. In response to the aforementioned, a proposal to stop the circulation of 5 cent coins in Singapore surfaced. We thought that it might be too tough to find 5 cents worth of anything in Singapore today but saw a possibility of shopping with 10 cents.

Hence, my quest for 10 cheap (and rare) finds in the midst of constantly increasing prices.

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1. Using the public toilet 

When asked what one can still get for 10 cents in present day Singapore, most would reply that 10 cents will gain you an entry to a public toilet at hawker centres, wet and dry markets.


2. Selected assorted sweets .    

You can get assorted sweets from some provision shops at 10 cents each. Fortunately, I managed to find sweets at this price at Jumbo Minimart (5 Dover Crescent) and Selvi Stores Pte Ltd (Tekka Centre). However, you may not find sweets costing 10 cents at every provision shop and you definitely will not be able to buy all brands of sweets (individual) at that price!


3. A packet of Bee-Bee Snack 

This orange packet of Bee-Bee Snack is a childhood snack that most remember and love. That said, finding this gem priced at 10 cents at Jumbo Minimart was an extremely rare find!


4. Photocopying at Bras Basah Complex

Located on the first floor of Bras Basah Complex, the Music Book Room offers one of the best photocopying deals in the building. The first 20 copies are charged at 10 cents each and the subsequent pieces cost 5 cents each. But do take note that this deal only applies to A4 size photocopying.


5. A pen

This pen was bought from the soon-to-be-extinct Sungei Road Thieves Market. Although its original price was 50 cents, you can try bargaining it down to 10 cents with a little skill.


6. A fork

As with the pen, the fork was bought at 10 cents after some tough bargaining at aforementioned the Thieves Market. However, it is very rare for a vendor to be willing to cut down the price of an item to 10 cents. In fact, the starting price of most of the items sold range from $2 to $5 each.


7. A screw

.Another steal from the Thieves Market. Most vendors sell used screws and other metal parts. Since the Thieves’ Market will be closing for good on July 10 this year, you might want to visit Singapore’s oldest and largest flea market for the last time.


8. Using the payphone (for two minutes)

With the increased use of mobile phones, the number of public payphones in Singapore has dropped to just over 2,000 as of last year. According to Singtel, local calls using a Singtel payphone are charged at 10 cents per two minutes but the same do not apply to all overseas calls. Exceptions are calls made to Malaysia and China which are priced at about 10 cents per minute.


9. A matchbox

You can get a matchbox from a provision shop for 10 cents.


10. A small packet of betel nut

This is an item more commonly sold in provision shops in Little India. According to the owner of Selvi Stores, her customers wrap the betel nuts in leaves and chew them. It is worth noting that chewing on betel nut is highly addictive and potentially detrimental to one’s health.

Surprisingly, I did not find any items sold at 10 cents in wet and dry markets. Instead, most of the items were sold by weight at the markets.

During my little adventure, many of the stall owners I approached responded to my inquiry with amusement. They said matter-of-factly that it’s impossible to buy something with 10 cents unless we are living in the past. Their replies are revealing of the resignation towards the high costs of living in Singapore. 

So… does anyone have 10 cents to spare?


Featured image from TMG file.

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