Haven't had time to personally reflect on a landmark Budget. Left is Right, as Sylvia Lim puts it. One thing that struck me the most was the promotion of continuous reskilling at the level of individuals. The government is giving out something akin to Edusave for workers. It is an excellent move.
For me at least, this will help rescue social mobility from being made redundant by fundamental economic transformations. The government is expanding tertiary education and one day soon PMETs will make up the majority of the workforce. But this social mobility will likely be made meaningless by the replacement of white collar and other middle income-type jobs as machines take over lower-level knowledge work.
But is SkillsFuture enough? We tend to be overly cautious these days, spoiled perhaps by success. Policy cannot be because the workforce has been trained by a conservative and risk-averse education system. Policy has to take into account this trained nature of our workforce and work to undo the habits of mind and hands. As usual, the mindset change must begin with the government.
First, we need to go upstream to shift our educational philosophy and approach. We have gone through quite a number of iterations of promoting creativity, innovativeness and critical thinking in schools. My students have gotten smarter over the decade. They can now give me competent summaries of complex essays. But they still turn to look at the grade first when I return their essays and not my comments. They still ask me what do I want and expect when consulting me for their essays more than using me as a sounding board for their own ideas.
Cultivating a true meritocracy of skills will take another generation, if we dare to kill our educational sacred cows. One thing we can do is to think of how to do ASPIRE not only for Polys and ITEs but for secondary schools and JCs, and to do it not as another additional module to the current curriculum but to overhaul the curriculum to get everyone focused on thinking and practical skills instead of grades and rubrics.
Second, for existing workers, SkillsFuture will need to be daring, empowering and preemptive. SkillsFuture promises an "integrated system of education and training, that responds to constantly evolving industry needs". That's my worry there. I hope "integrated" doesn't mean highly structured, centralised and restrictive. "Responding" sounds reactive. I fear Singapore may become a gigantic school system, with streaming, tests and homework the bane of our whole life.
SkillsFuture will do better to facilitate individuals to make decisions to empower themselves as they forecast the matching of their own needs to industry trends. We should be allowed to be wrong and to over-learn, to accumulate a repository of "unnecessary" skills to better prepare and preempt the future. We should aim instead for a crowd-sourced system of co-creative education, that is ahead of the industry curve and defining known unknowns in industry trends. SkillsNow for future unknown needs.
When Muslim girls wearing the tudung in Singapore’s public schools became a major controversy in 2002, many Muslims asked for accommodation. The government counter-argued that public spaces shared by diverse ethnic and religious groups in Singapore have to remain strictly secular and any exceptions would invite competing demands from other communities.
The issue never went away, but we seemed to have progressed a little. When the issue of allowing the hijab in the uniformed services became a matter of public debate recently, the government responded in measured tones. While asserting that it must manage the diverse needs of society to maintain overall harmony, the government now calls for constructive dialogue and the search for practical solutions.
This is the full transcript of my email reply to Lianhe Zaobao's Yang Yang interviewing me on the future of hawkers. The article, "高龄小贩淡出 少壮圆梦入行" was published on 26 May 2013 (see image below).
YY: Do you think hawker business is of low social status in Singapore?
DG: Traditionally, being a hawker was seen as a respectable occupation. Hawkers have been a central feature in our social landscape, as not only do their food provide us with physical sustenance, the very stalls out in the public space provide us with the setting for social and cultural life. If European cities have their public squares, we have our hawker streets and hawker centres.
This article was published in issue no. 1301 of the Hammer, the Workers' Party's publication, which went on sale during the Punggol East By-Election and is currently being sold by members at selected market places. I co-wrote the article in December 2012 with NCMP Yee Jenn Jong.
A recent issue, which has elicited lots of discussion, is the stress that PSLE puts on young families and young children. Minister of State Josephine Teo criticized OCBC for fanning the exam fever with its new PSLE leave scheme for employees. The media also tried to balance the coverage of top-scoring PSLE achievers with heartwarming stories about those who have succeeded in their careers and lives despite mediocre PSLE scores. Even the Prime Minister weighed in: he said that PSLE results are not the only thing which determines whether one lives a fulfilling and productive life; good moral values, strong social skills, and a sense of duty to one’s family and nation are just as important. He added that students should study hard but also play and pursue their passions.
This article was published in issue no. 1301 of the Hammer, the Workers' Party's publication, which went on sale during the Punggol East By-Election and is currently being sold by members at selected marketplaces on weekends.
The Casino Control (Amendment) Act was passed by Parliament in November 2012. Among the significant changes is that the government can appoint three or more persons to an evaluation panel to evaluate the integrated resorts on visitor appeal, international value of attractions, meeting market demand, and contribution to tourism. The panel’s opinion will be sought when considering casino license grant or renewal applications, which take place every three years.
Life is funny for the bittersweet turns it takes. When I first wrote this tribute to David Marshall for his centennial birthday, I had no idea I would join the political party he founded one day. There wasn't even the slightest possibility. I was contented to be a monk witnessing the age and its foibles. He was a great man from a different age, who had great words for us today. I wanted to remember them. They have haunted me instead. You are Singapore. A repost, five years on. – DG 12 March 2013
This article was first published in The Straits Times (September 2012), and is republished in ST's Singapolitics here. It was published with the title, "Lessons in tales about life, living together", as one of five commentaries on Prime Minister Lee's National Day Rally Speech comments on Singaporeans becoming more ungracious.
Once in a while, society will launch itself into a moral panic, so as to know that it is actually doing fine, that its norms and values are still intact.
Usually, this happens when society experiences a severe economic or political crisis, or a disaster that shakes the reassurance out of its grinding everyday life.
It would seem Singapore is in the throes of a moral panic.
the persistently political pine stays green in the winter of the patriarch ... while, one by one, the gentlemen fall prey to the corruption of power and patronage
s/pores new directions in singapore studies