April 28, 2017


Black watch showing 8.30.

YOU’D think these were graduates from two different countries, so starkly different were the headlines about the 2016 graduate employment survey in Singapore’s main English dailies. ST decided to lead with how “most grads find jobs in 6 months” and the “new high” starting median salary of $3,360, while TODAY highlighted the 2.9 per cent drop in the number of graduates who found permanent jobs within six months of graduation, the lowest ever for the survey.

Another sobering statistic that TODAY noted was that the rate of salary increase has slowed from 3 per cent last year to 1.8 per cent.

All in all, it’s a slower year for graduates, with SMU leading NUS and NTU in terms of median salary and employability. SIT and SUTD conduct their surveys in February and March.

So what’s all this say in the context of Singapore’s ongoing SkillsFuture initiative? It seems that relevant coursework and experience win out for grads, and university rankings don’t mean very much to employers.

The Middle Ground needs your support to continue serving up credible, balanced and independent news. Help us make a difference by being our patron! Thanks!

The tension between Malaysia and North Korea over the assassination of Kim Jong Nam is escalating. KL has named a North Korean diplomat as someone they sought to question for the case, but the North Korean Embassy refused, citing diplomatic privilege.

Another North Korean who works for North Korean national carrier Air Koryo is also being sought for questioning. KL has threatened to issue arrest warrants for the duo, but a warrant is unlikely to be effective in securing the diplomat. Four other North Korean suspects and one North Korean person of interest remain at large.

The embassy also made a startling demand for all suspects to be released, including the “innocent females”. Apart from the two women, a Malaysian man and a North Korean man are being held in remand for the killing.

And then, someone tried to break into the morgue in KL, where Mr Kim’s body lay. Who did it? KL police simply said, “We know who you are. There is no need for me to tell you.”

Someone’s done a smear job on Sam’s Early Learning Centre, it seems. Photos of the centre and its students posted on Chinese social media service WeChat seem to have been taken out of context, and surprise checks and interviews by the Early Childhood Development Agency have turned up no issues at the centre.

Who could have done the deed? Centre director Mrs Samia El-Ibiary says it was the work of a disgruntled former employee who has since returned to China. The WeChat post claimed there was abuse, neglect and waste at the centre.

Where do you go if you want to buy a ship? How about Taobao? Singapore-flagged crude oil tanker Varada Blessing, of late owned by Singapore firm Varada One, was sold for $16.7 million after 19 bids were made by six parties. The Varada Blessing had fallen into an “admiralty dispute” and was then auctioned off. These are bad times for oil tankers, and Taobao is gaining popularity as a place to offload toxic assets. So… does that Taobao purchase come with free shipping?


Featured image from TMG file.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.



by -
0 0

by Suhaile Md

AS THE work day comes to a close, a giant mass of office workers stream towards Tanjong Pagar MRT station, ready to head home. Against this flow are a few who are walking towards the GB building for classes at the London School of Business and Finance in Singapore (LSBF).

Thick in the midst of the business district seems an unlikely place for a college campus. There are few open spaces for shorts-and-sandals clad masses of chattering students to mill around. The laid-back atmosphere normally associated with a campus has no place in the fast paced walkways of the district.

But so what? Not everyone looks for a laid back experience. “I’m already past the stage for school-based social life”, said 23-year old Mr Mohamed Mujahid. He’s studying for his Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) certification. Most of his classmates, like him, were “focussed on their studies”, unlike during his time at a local Polytechnic where he completed his Diploma in Banking.

Mr Mujahid joined LSBF because his friends recommended it to him. Most of his friends cited the good reputation of lecturers. “They simplify what seems complicated”, said Mr Mujahid. The quality of the teaching at LSBF was a key reason why he joined LSBF.


Silence greeted everyone exiting the lift at 6.30pm on the 18th floor of GB building. But a short walk past the lobby revealed a large classroom, that takes up almost the entire floor with a corridor hugging its perimeter, steadily filling up with students.

A quiet intensity hung in the air. Little wonder, since classes started in 15 minutes. Almost all the students were in business attire – work had just ended. There was little time before class. Some made quick trips to the washroom. Others had a short shut-eye with heads resting on their desks. Most of them, though, were eating packed food.

At 6.45pm sharp, the ACCA class started.

The atmosphere in that classroom was quiet, studious. But that is not all there is to LSBF.

Head over to the 6th floor of Springleaf Tower, a mere 3 minutes walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station, and you’d be awash with the constant buzz of conversation liberally interspersed with laughter. Student-led activities were underway.

Culture at LSBF

There were nearly 60 activities and events for students held in LSBF last year. Student clubs like the go-green club, photography club, sports club, and students council, among others, add life beyond the classroom for students who want to do more than their studies. Through these clubs, students get to meet diverse students outside their courses.

Student bonding activity at Marina Barrage. Image by LSBF.

“The best thing about LSBF is the diverse and friendly culture,” said Malaysian student Ms Nabilah Aimi. The 20-year-old is studying for an advanced diploma in logistics and supply chain. She has made friends from Singapore, Mongolia and Russia through the student clubs.

“Staff here are engaging and friendly… I don’t feel homesick”, she added.

Echoing her sentiments was Ms Otgonjargal, a diploma in international hospitality management student. She recounted her experience with staff at another renowned PEI when she was doing a campus visit: “I needed help… I waited so long, wait, wait, wait, and finally some guy came and rushed through.” After which he left even though she was still confused. That was not the case when she visited LSBF.

That difference in experience, among other reasons like the course itself, convinced Ms Otgonjargal to join LSBF. When asked if the smaller campus at LSBF was an issue, she shrugged it off and said “it’s cosy”, and that the friendly, helpful culture of the people managing the institution mattered much more.

The human touch

Last December at the LSBF staff workplan seminar, Managing Director Mr Rathakrishnan Govind said: “Yes, technology is important, but the human touch matters.”

It’s not just talk.

Prospective foreign students don’t just email LSBF staff when they have queries. Staff engage them live, through online chats, said student Mr Baldev Singh. The 28-year-old Indian national joined LSBF just over a month back to study hospitality. The staff were “very cooperative”, engaging him directly and immediately. It was more intimate, and human, compared to just email correspondence.

Another example: The programme management office, which is responsible for the various study programmes, work in the GB building because that’s where most of the classes are held, and students can have easy access to them. And if there are evening classes, the office remains open way past its closing time for the students. Sometimes even coming down on the weekends, on their own accord, if there are classes.

LSBF has been in Singapore for only six years. It registered as a Private Educational Institute (PEI) in 2011. In spite of its young age, there are over 10,000 full-time and part-time students. It provides 55 different courses ranging from preparatory courses to post-graduate and masters courses. These are in various fields like hospitality, logistics, and business among others.

But this is not enough. LSBF is looking to do even better. As Mr Govind said to his staff at the workplan seminar: “If you think you’ve already achieved, you will fail miserably… the focus [is] on quality, quality, quality.” And quality can always be improved.


This article is the first of a three-part series in collaboration with LSBF.


Featured image from LSBF.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.



Brown leather strap watch showing 8.30.

BUT first, today is Budget Day. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will announce the national budget and measures to tackle the current economic slowdown and its attendant problems. Stay tuned to The Middle Ground as we report on and react to the announcement in the late afternoon.

Malaysia is looking for four North Korean men in connection with the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam. Rhi Ji Hyon, 33; Hong Song Hac; 34, O Jong Gil, 55; and Ri Jae Nam, 57 left for Jakarta after the attack last Monday (Feb 13) and Malaysian paper The Star reports that they are back in North Korea via the UAE and Russia.

Four others remain in custody – two women (Vietnamese and Indonesian), a Malaysian man, and a North Korean man. The whereabouts of three other men, one North Korean and two other unidentified men, are unknown.

The Middle Ground needs your support to continue serving up credible, balanced and independent news. Help us make a difference by being our patron! Thanks!

A larger proportion of each local university cohort can now be admitted through the discretionary admissions scheme. The shift away from a grades-only approach means that 15 per cent of each cohort, up from 10 per cent, can rely on interviews, essays, aptitude tests and portfolios to secure a place instead.

The G has also targeted that by 2020, 40 per cent of all students each year will attend local university.

Hiker Steward Lee, 27, is still missing in spite of a 70-man search of forested and nature reserve areas yesterday. The search team, comprising police, park rangers and volunteers who had responded to Mr Lee’s elder sister Lee Yunqin’s appeal on Facebook, spent four hours on the search.

Mr Lee was last seen at 2pm on Friday at Block 407 Fajar Road. He was wearing a plain black short-sleeved T-shirt and blue jeans with slippers and glasses.

If you have information on the missing hiker, please call the Police hotline (1800-255-0000) or make a report at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.


Featured image from TMG file.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.



by Suhaile Md

WHAT’S the secret to career success? That’s a perennial question and these days, skills mastery has come to be accepted as a key component of a successful climb up the career ladder.

But what exactly is “skills mastery”?

To put it simply, it is a mindset – of continually striving towards greater excellence through knowledge, application and experience. Skills mastery is more than having the right paper qualifications and being good at what you do now.

We discuss three important areas of mastery:


Mastery of learning 

The mastery of learning is not just about intellectual humility and the willingness to learn, but also about building on existing knowledge bases and not throwing them away.

Yes, there are jobs today that did not exist yesterday – social media marketing for example. But that does not mean that you have to jump to an entirely different field to be relevant.

For example, a brick-and-mortar shoe salesman’s job may be at risk due to e-commerce. But he may want to capitalise on his knowledge of various shoe products to learn more about purchasing for the e-commerce company and not necessarily try to pick up coding skills to run the website.

Not everybody is able to pick up entirely different skill sets. And age is also a factor here. The young are better able to learn something completely new. But adults have an edge over younger employees – existing knowledge.

“If learning can be assimilated into an existing knowledge case, advantage tilts to the old,” said Dr Timothy Salthouse, Director of The Cognitive Aging Laboratory at the University of Virginia, in The Economist earlier this month (Jan 14).

So the idea of skills mastery here, is to pick up a new but related skill that extends from your existing knowledge base and not from scratch. 

Skills mastery is about striving to be the best in what you can do, so as to innovate better and progress. It’s hard to innovate when you have to build up your knowledge base again.

Which is why SkillsFuture has its fellowship programme for Singaporeans with at least 10 years of experience in the same industry or similar job function, possess deep expertise, and wish to upgrade further. Fellows will get $10,000 to spend on courses relevant to their work. This year, 30 such fellowships will be given out and the number is set to increase up to 100 annually at a later date.

While not everyone can be a fellow, there are many affordable skills-based modular courses at post-secondary institutions here for the rest of us. From customer relationship management to manpower resource management, these part-time courses courses are designed for working adults.

The Middle Ground needs your support to continue serving up credible, balanced and independent news. Help us make a difference by being our patron! Thanks!

Mastery of industry

How do you know what to learn if you don’t know what skills are going to be relevant in the future?

The e-commerce scene in Singapore for instance, is expected to grow to US$5.4 billion (S$7.46 billion) by 2025, up from US$1 billion in 2015, according to a report by Temasek and Google last year. The up-to-date brick-and-mortar retail worker should then work towards acquiring skills relevant to e-commerce, whether it’s purchasing or online marketing.

The shipbuilding industry has also been taking a hit. Just last year, Keppel Shipyard, one of Singapore’s largest, cut 35 per cent of its workforce, which is over 10,000 workers. Such changes do not happen overnight. Workers alert to such changes can prepare beforehand to absorb the shock better.

While there’s no need to know details like stock price movements and so on, a general awareness of industry trends is important in developing skills mastery.

Students about to enter the workforce may have the largest gap in industry related knowledge. Fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates may want to enrol in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme. The work-study programme enables them to learn skills that are relevant to their industry, while drawing a regular paycheck. The certification they acquire along the way would also be recognised by other companies in the industry.


Mastery of social skills

Many jobs today are lost not just to lower wage workers overseas, but also to machines and automation.

By 2035, over a third of jobs held in Singapore are at risk of automation, according to a 2015 report by the Centre for Strategic Futures, Prime Minister’s Office.

The solution to securing future job prospects would be to develop social skills like negotiation and social perceptiveness. The labour market rewards workers with social skills according to a study last August (2016) by Professor David Deming of Harvard University. Between 1980 and 2012, the proportion of jobs that required high social skills increased by nearly 10 percentage points while math-intensive roles that did not require much use of social skills fell by about 3 percentage points in the same period.

The reason is that machines cannot read emotions, build consensus and basically, be human. So even though the study was conducted in the United States, the lessons for Singapore in the face of automation, is still relevant.

Again, new graduates are at a disadvantage when it comes to acquiring social skills at the workplace. Which is why they should take up internships, to start to acquire social skills at the workplace before they formally enter their careers. By 2020 all polytechnics and ITEs will have enhanced internships integrated into their core curriculum. Enhanced because there will be clearer learning outcomes and closer interactions between industry partners and educational institutes in developing the internships.

In a nutshell, acquiring skills alone does not lead to mastery. There’s a need to know what skills are relevant in the future through understanding industry trends, building on – and not discarding – existing knowledge to be able to innovate and having the social skills to get work done well.


This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:


Featured image by Pixabay user congerdesign. (CC0 1.0)

If you like this article, like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by -
0 0

by Suhaile Md

WHEN it comes to food, Singaporeans are a passionate bunch. No wonder, then, that our story about late lunches in primary schools was shared more than 500 times on Facebook. You can read the story here if you missed it.

You, our readers, are the reason we exist. Your contributions allow us to bring fair and balanced news to everyone, regardless of the ability to donate. Support us by being our patron.

After we posted the story on social media last Friday (Jan 6), a lot of people wanted to know why. Why are our primary school children having lunch as late as 3pm?

We went to the Ministry of Education for some answers. They didn’t say much – except that the lunch schedules are planned by the schools and are “reasonably spaced” from recess breaks. A quick check online found most schools did not schedule any lunch breaks but had recess breaks in the mid-morning.

Here are the questions we asked MOE. See their full response copied below.

1. Does MOE have guidelines for primary and secondary schools when it comes to scheduling time for recess? If not, why not? If there is, kindly elaborate on the guidelines. E.g. recommended duration, timing, etc.

2. Or is it completely up to the schools to decide when and how long they decide to schedule time for recess? Why or why not?

3. Are there guidelines for when normal class schedules for schools (primary and secondary) should end? That is, formal classes which exclude CCA time and remedial classes.

4. Does MOE have guidelines for primary and secondary schools when it comes to scheduling time for lunch? If not, why not? If there is, kindly elaborate on the guidelines. E.g. recommended duration, timing, etc.

5. Or is it completely up to the schools to decide when and how long they decide to schedule time for Lunch? Why or why not?
6. Some schools have 10 min break during a time when people usually have lunch (12-1.30). Is that an MOE guideline? If so, why is it only 10mins, it seems too short for lunch.

Furthermore, is this restricted to the classroom or can student go down to the canteen? Can they eat meals in class? Or is it restricted to snacks?

… And here’s MOE’s response, in full:

“Our schools are mindful of student well-being when they plan the school schedule. Schools take into consideration the length of the school day and the size of the cohort to determine the duration and timing of the recess. This may require recess to be staggered for different levels.

“In addition, many schools include a snack break during formal curriculum time to allow students to eat regularly without increasing school hours further. Schools with any afternoon classes or programmes provide lunch breaks of about 30 min for the students. The timing of the lunch breaks are reasonably spaced from the recess break.”


Read our other stories on primary school late lunches:

Why do our primary school kids have such LATE lunches?

5 quick and easy meals for a lunchbox


Featured image from Little Fairyland Childcare & Development Centre‘s Facebook page.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by -
0 0

by Suhaile Md

MOST of the 6 per cent of Singaporeans who used their SkillsFuture Credits for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were below 40, reported SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) on Sunday (Jan 8). Busy with work and with little time to spare, it’s no wonder that MOOCs, which allow users to learn at a time and place of their choosing, appeal to the busy working Singaporean. Given its flexibility and eligibility for credit use, you might want to consider it too.

The Middle Ground needs your support to continue serving up credible, balanced and independent news. Help us make a difference by being our patron! Thanks!

SkillsFuture Credits cannot be used for just any MOOC though. It has to be one that has been approved by SSG. Still, there is a wide variety of over 2,000 courses that SSG has identified on its website. The three most popular courses were on business administration, Python programming language, and web development.

Currently (Jan 09), there are 2,212 MOOCs on the list. The courses range from general topics in problem solving to specialised ones like how to code and develop apps.

Here’s a breakdown according to course categories, costs, and duration:


All 2,212 courses are categorised into 36 areas. The top 10 subject areas, shown in the graph above, make up nearly 92 per cent (2032) of all courses. Most courses are provided by either Coursera or Udemy.

Information and Communications by far has the most number of courses at 829 offerings (37 per cent). It includes courses on web development, programming languages like Python, Javascript, and C++, among others.

Business Management stands at second place with 325 courses (14.7 per cent). These include project management, foundations of business strategies, and conflict resolution, among others. There are some topics, like learning how to use Excel spreadsheets, or making a PowerPoint presentation, that some would consider under Business Management. But on the SSG site, these fall under “Administration”, which is a separate category on its own.

Likewise, subjects that can fall under advertising, sales and marketing, or accounting and finance, have separate categories of their own. They do not fall under the generic Business Management grouping. If these areas are considered business-related topics on the whole, then a total of 586 (26.5 per cent) of courses are available.

Beyond the top 10 categories, the remaining 26 make up only 8 per cent (180) of all courses. Some areas like fashion, sports, real estate, and marine and port services, have only one course each.



The most expensive course ($795, before GST) on the site is a 100-hour business and financial modelling course. It’s a five-module course, created by the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, offered on the Coursera platform.

The cheapest costs $20 for about four to 12 hours of courses, on varied topics from learning how to use Excel, to launching social media marketing campaigns.

You can search for courses according to price range, but the values are preset on the site. The ranges are: Between $0 and $10, $10 and $50, $50 and $100, $100 and $500, $500 and $1,000. It goes higher, to $5,000, but there are no courses that reach that price range.

Note though, that the G gave $500 worth of credits to those 25 years old and above. Exceed the credit in your account, and you pay for the balance out of your own pocket. Also, there are plenty of free courses on Coursera and Udemy that are not reflected on the SSG site.



How much time do I need?

You can also search for courses according to the time commitment required to complete it. Like the price range search function, the time values are preset to specific ranges: Less than a day to one day, one day to one week, one week to a month, a month to six months, six months to a year, and over a year.

However, there is no clear definition of what “a day” actually means. Courses listed “a day” long range from 8.70 hours to 11.70 hours, the last of which is in effect longer than a full work day. However, you don’t have to complete the required hours in one shot, so you can spread it over a week, for instance. The shortest courses are three and a half hours long, and are considered “less than a day”.

The longest courses take 280 hours – there are only two of those. These fall under the one month to six month range. Search for courses longer than six months, and nothing turns up. So, assuming 280 hours over six months amounts to about 11.5 hours a week, or about one and a half hour per day, every day.

Yet there are also 90-hour courses that are categorised between the one week to one month range. Even if a full month is taken, it amounts to 22.5 hours a week – no small commitment if you’re working!

Basically, course duration is a very rough guide. Read the details of each course to find out more.


Featured image Julia Roy – Gmail Mastery Photoshoot by Flickr user Julia Roy(CC BY 2.0)

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.


by Daniel Yap

IT USED to define a person, this “graduate” label. Especially so in the civil service, which until Jan 1 classified all staff under Divisions I, II, III and IV, with Division I being graduates, and the other divisions being lesser mortals without degrees and with stunted pay scales, promotion prospects and a clearly numbered class divide.

When I finished my diploma, I knew that I could not take to joining the civil service as a second-class employee, and I had no intention of pursuing a degree course that simply repeated what I learned in polytechnic, albeit with expanded theory. If I had graduated today, I would have seriously considered the civil service: I had confidence that my skills and potential were at least equal to a uni grad’s.

Now that system has been done away with and civil servants will only be classified according to their grade, which reflects their responsibilities and remuneration. This dismantling of an outmoded system was announced in 2014 and was put into practice gradually since 2015, with uniformed services and the civil service beginning the practice of hiring non-graduates into graduate career schemes.

What will these changes bring about in reality?


A different way to get ahead

Now, a polytechnic diploma holder will typically have a two or three-year career head start over a degree holder. This is a huge boost for those pursuing non-specialist management roles.

Although there’s still practically no way for someone to “become” an accountant or maritime engineer just by plugging away at work, some management roles can be trained up easily on the job. Employees should ask their supervisors which skills they need to work on and take the feedback seriously by asking about short courses that would help.

With the glass ceiling removed, everyone is incentivised to perform better and even innovate, if no other bureaucratic constraints come in to squash new ideas.

Patrons of The Middle Ground enjoy priority access to our best stories. To become a patron, click here.


Slow mindset change?

Today, those with the will and the skills need not feel that there is a bureaucratic barrier holding them back from rising up the ranks. But certainly some vestige of the old way of thinking will still be left inside and certainly outside the civil service. Some people do cherish their often hard-earned status as a “graduate”, even if it means little in practice.

Habits die hard and worldviews die even harder. If someone has spent their life preaching (and hearing mother preach) that a degree is THE path to success, they will be loathe to change their bearing, even when the tide is against them.

It will be the middle and top managers with this dated mindset that will be a drag on culture change. They could potentially hold back thousands of capable individuals and trigger a loss of confidence that the civil service really wants to change. The organization will be accused of hypocrisy and reform will be grindingly slow.


Private sector change

Surely, one of the hoped-for effects of the civil service change will be for the private sector to embrace a skills-based future and tone down on paper-chase hiring practices.

But Singapore’s largest employer will probably have a more robust assessment and review system and good HR practices, compared to many smaller companies. Their promoting managers are going to be guess-timating level of performance and, sad to say, guess-timation often regresses to the lowest common denominator – that piece of paper earned 10 years ago.

But for small companies, simple solutions like having an annual or bi-annual review checklist will help greatly. Ask questions such as whether the employee enhances his team’s performance, whether his attitude is positive and productive, and make a list of skills that he has and a list of skills that he needs to improve on. Then plan what new responsibilities he will have to take on in the coming year and when (and how) you expect him to pick up the skills for the new responsibility.

When hiring, look for a culture fit, chat about the industry and administer a simple (and practical) knowledge test. Even outsourcing part of the hiring process can be financially prudent, relative to the cost of hiring (and the cost of hiring a poor fit for the job). If you have no HR experience, there are short courses that are available via ASME, SNEF and public and private institutions. You could search the SkillsFuture course directory too.


Education must offer more

I’m not talking about the fact that the salary structures for grad and non-grad teachers have merged since October 2015. If and when skills, knowledge and gumption become the hardest currency in the career game, then education will have no choice but to evolve to produce students with exactly those characteristics.

Education and career guidance will help sharpen students’ skills development pathways even when they are still in school, and with such centres already in every polytechnic and ITE, students will be better equipped to meet employer and industry skill demand right out of the box.

Universities, both private and public, would have to justify that two or three year delay to starting a career by imparting skills and knowledge that puts their students four years ahead of the curve. Is it even possible?

Let’s answer the question with another question: do graduates succeed because they are intrinsically talented, or because they used their talents to earn a degree?


From flipping burgers to the corner office

I’d love to see the day when some gutsy post-secondary school dropout climbs from an operations support role into management (like they sometimes do at companies like McDonald’s). It would signal that on the job training is very strong in the civil service and that any person in the system has a chance of realising their full potential, even if they had a bad start.

Can a dropout beat a scholar? In Silicon Valley they can. Will a “nobody” rise through the ranks and join the Admin Service? Become a Perm Sec? Or are the paths of PSC scholars still closely guarded, and excluded to everyone else?


This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:


Featured image from Pixabay user Pexels. (CC0 1.0)

If you like this article, like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Wan Ting Koh

TO MR Jerome Lau, the KiasuParent controversy was “a bit blown out of proportion”.

Whether the mother chose to withhold the Nintendo DS from her son is entirely up to her, as it’s “the right of the parent”, the father-of-two said. Besides, the child’s score may not be the reason for withholding his toy.

“Whether you score or don’t score may be one of the reason but the main cause is the kid doesn’t know how to control himself. If you don’t know how to control, [even if] you score 280, I would also take your DS,” said Mr Lau.

Mr Lau is one of the filmmakers of Juanzi2: PSLE-Go, a 25-minute film revolving around two PSLE students coping with their exams. One of the students, 12-year-old Zihui, is stricken by the fear of disappointing her parents.

Juanzi2 was first screened on Nov 10, some two weeks before the actual PSLE results were released last Thursday (Nov 24). Mr Lau said he and fellow filmmaker Stanley Yap wanted to bring across the message that understanding a child is important, and that parents and educators should not judge a child’s success based on examination results.

Mr Lau is one of an emerging group of parents who feel that too much focus is being put on PSLE results and other academic pursuits. Recently, another group called 100 Voices came together to spread the message that there are more ways to achieve success outside of academics. Mr Lau joined the group in the second week of November, saying that it was sending “the right message”.

As for the film, it was a personal project for Mr Lau in more ways than one. The 39-year-old’s son was also one of those receiving their results last week. His son did “okay”, said Mr Lau, with a T-score of 243, which fell within an expected range. He added, however, that his 12-year-old son could have put in more effort in his preparation.

But beyond its message, the film gave Mr Lau an opening to talk about suicide with his kids. “It gets the conversation started and they are more aware and they know that we are always there for them and that they can always talk to us,” said Mr Lau.

We asked Mr Lau five questions about the film and what he hoped other parents can learn from it.


1. What is your takeaway from making the film, and how will it change the way you teach your children?

One of the key takeaway from making this film was that the topic of teenage suicide is a taboo subject that our society should really open up and discuss more. There are many factors contributing to the increasing trend of teenage suicide and one of which is the academic pressure faced by our children and expectations weighed on them by the parents which we covered in our film.

In terms of my own parenting, it doesn’t change how I will teach my children which is to raise them with the right values and character.


2. What do you think is needed to change the mindset of parents and children?

I think many things are needed but the important thing is to have the parents themselves see that they actually do have a choice in how they want to raise their children and not compare with others and trying to meet or better the “norm”.


3. How important do you think PSLE is for children, and why?

For all who have gone through the Singapore education system, at 12 years old, all of us knew that PSLE was the most important milestone at that age. It’s still important because it’s part of our education system and it allows our children to evaluate themselves at that point in their journey so they can choose how to continue their education journey at a pace where their potential can be best fulfilled.

This sounds like some motherhood statement but there is wisdom in the system simply because like most things in society, we have limited resources and we need to maximise what we have to benefit the most people.


4. What would you say to parents who insist that PSLE and academics are the only indications of a child’s success?

My advice is that no one factor should determine a child’s success. In fact, I don’t believe we should even judge our child at all. A child is still developing and learning things every single moment and it’s unfair to say if they are successful or a failure.

In fact, I don’t believe we should even judge our child at all.

To me, a child is a reflection of the parents yet the parents cannot be fully responsible for their child’s development. All the parent can do is to teach and guide their child and help them grow and discover themselves.


5. What advice do you have for parents whose children will take PSLE in the future?

For parents, please spend time to understand your child and their strengths and weaknesses and their interests. PSLE doesn’t mean the child has to stop doing everything and only focus on the preparation. Just like us adults, we need our own space and time to do the things that we like and enjoy doing.

No one can work for long hours, seven days a week for a long period of time doing the same thing over and over again. Balance is key to PSLE preparation!


You can watch Juanzi2: PSLE-Go for free here


Featured image a screenshot of  Juanzi2:PSLE-GO film.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

by Natassya Siregar

THE journey towards success is as vast as the sky. There is no telling what you will face on the journey. Being equipped with more skills helps you overcome and weather obstacles, and will allow you to soar high.



This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:

  1. Poly vs Private degrees: It’s not the money that matters
  2. Private degrees: data needs to tell a fuller skills story 
  3. 5 new jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago
  4. SMACK IN THE MIDDLE: Keys to success
  5. 5 skills employers want you to have in tomorrow’s job market
  6. Don’t underestimate ‘soft skills’ in your career
  7. 50 Faces: What is success to you?
  8. Got an F in school? There are still ‘100 ways’ to be successful


Featured image by Natassya Siregar.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

Photo of clock face with hands pointed to half past eight.

IT HAPPENS every year. On the day the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results are released, parents flock to KiasuParents, an online forum, crashing the website.

On the forum, which has more than 125,000 members, parents submit and compare their children’s scores with everyone else’s, hoping to pin down which schools did better. “Every school is a good school”? Yeah, right.

It happened again yesterday (Nov 25), with the website crashing three times due to “capacity problems”, said Madam Soon Lee Yong, 43, a co-founder.

She may be the kiasu-est of them all. Consider her response to her son, after he collected his results yesterday – the teenage boy had scored all As, but only achieved a T-score of 229. She had expected him to score about 250. T-scores, short for transformed scores, are calculated to reflect how well a student does in relation to other students.

He texted her: “Are you angry?”

Her reply: “You can forget about getting your Nintendo DS.”

That was what she had promised to buy him if he scored 250, said TODAY.

Yesterday’s results showed a record 98.4 per cent of students qualifying to move on to secondary school – up from 98.3 per cent last year. About two-thirds can opt for the Express stream; the rest will go to Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses, said the Ministry of Education.

A total of 38,808 students took the exam. About 1.6 per cent, or 620 students did not qualify for secondary school.

In other news, the Ministry of Trade and Industry gave its report card for the year, shaving this year’s economic growth forecast from 1 per cent to 2 per cent, to its new estimate of 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent. The ministry added, however, that it expected next year’s figures to be slightly better – probably 1 per cent to 3 per cent.

It’s not just the economy that’s looking a little grey. Expect heavy rains and flash floods from next month, with the north-east monsoon coming this way. Between December and January, there are going to be plenty of brief, thundery showers – mostly in the afternoons and in the evenings on some days.

People who live in low-lying areas, watch out for flash floods when heavy rain coincides with high tides. To see a list of flood-prone areas in Singapore, click here.

Speaking of gloomy, a new survey has found that millennial Singaporeans are among the world’s gloomiest youngsters. Around half reported feeling pessimistic about their career prospects, saying that they probably would not be able to find a comparable or better job if they became unemployed.

The survey by the ManpowerGroup, a human resource consultancy, also found that Singapore millennials worked more hours in a week than the Japanese, who are notorious for putting in long hours. On average, Singaporean respondents said they worked 48 hours a week.

This was second only to India, whose young workers topped the list at 50 hours a week.


Featured image from TMG file.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.