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Talented-at-birth-but-a-liability-at-old-age - ST (1 Sept) - Every child's talent is valued: PM

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  • Stayer Ong
    To: Lee Hsien Loong cc: Opposition MPs/NCMP/Dr Chee Soon Juan cc: Feedback Unit cc: sg_review 1 Sept 2006 Hi Loong, I am indeed heartened to read in today s
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2006
      To: Lee Hsien Loong
      cc: Opposition MPs/NCMP/Dr Chee Soon Juan
      cc: Feedback Unit
      cc: sg_review

      1 Sept 2006

      Hi Loong,
      I am indeed heartened to read in today's Straits Times ("Every child's talent is valued: PM") and Today ("A class with room for all").
      But hold it. Every child's talent is valued? This hasn't been the case all this while, has it? Look at what happens to a 10-year-old child if he (or she) is not streamed into the Gifted Education Program (GEP). Like the rest of the 99% of his cohorts who fail to get into the GEP, he will not have the "extra resources" (in teacher attention, funds (remember the MOE-funded overseas trips as revealed by GEPper Gayle Goh?) , infrastructure - both software and hardware) GEPpers are showered with. Along the way, more will "drop" out. I personally know of a lady who "failed" in the local school system (booted out at Junior College - Year One at age 17 because of her lack of competency in Mandarin) but is now on university scholarship to pursue her PhD in IT at a reputable Australian university, probably never to return to Singapore, the home country that spurned her ! (The only consolation is that hopefully, changes are underway to ensure such mistakes are not repeated).
      Why the sudden change of heart now? Declining birth rates and "Babies Not Enough" perhaps? (Jack NEOs out there - please take note of your next project) - "boh-hir-hey-ah-ho", meaning "no fish, prawns also can".

      At the same time, I could not help but notice the word, "talent" stood out glaringly, now with all the talk about talent-this-talent-that (eg foreign talent, foreign sports talent, etc..). Why am I so cynical? The source of my cyncism might have something to do with three of PAP's failed policies whose ramifications are now fully felt: The  education system mentioned above, the "Stop-At-Two" family campaign of the 60s and 70s and the 80s' "Graduate Mother Scheme" after then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's "Great Marriage Debate". Conspiracy theories abound on why was the then government so concerned with babies born out of uneducated or lowly-educated citizens, especially in great numbers (perhaps believing such offsprings would not have the genetic make-up of "intelligence" inherited from their parents, in the famous words of then premier Lee arguing his "Nature vs Nurture" inclinations). The only way to find out the justification for these failed policies is for our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to come clean, being the only minister left in the present PAP government to have been involved in those early policies. But please do not wait too long before it is too late as he will bring with them to the grave if they are not revealed publicly now.

      The irony is also not lost on me that the government seems to consider these precious babies and young children "talents", but as they age and grow older (to even as young as Primary 4 or 10-year-old non-GEPpers) slowly but surely, those that are left and still considered "talent" constitute probably not more than 10% of their cohorts.

      Of course, these top 10% (or max 20%) of the "talents" are groomed and given special care to prepare them for top government positions with scholarships thrown in.

      What happens to the other 80 to 90%? Well, by the time they reach the "ripe old age" of 40 and above (ie 30 or 40 years' time for the children of today, ie. 2035 to 2050), many will be left by the wayside to fend for themselves while imported talent (naturalised talents and PRs) will most likely outnumber them 3 to 1 and eat them for lunch (see Seah Chiang Nee's report in the Star newspaper, 4 June, 2006, "Creating more space" - refer link, http://littlespeck.com/content/development/CTrendsDev-060604.htm  or
      http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/6/4/focus/14429144&sec=focus ).

      Remember, by then, there will be some 7 - 8 million Singaporeans jostling for space and jobs in this tiny island of some 600 sq km (ie. a density of 13,000 per sq km, up from a current 7,000 per sq km). So how will these "talented-at-birth-but-a-liability-at-old-age" be taken care of by the government (probably by then comprising "foreign talents" that outnumber Singapore-born-and-bred citizens)? In the famous words of Mr Khaw Boon Wan: offshore nursing homes or retirement villages in Johore or Indonesia (refer article in Channel News Asia, 17 April 2006, "Government shortlists potential sites to build retirement village" - refer link,
      http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/203544/1/.html ).

      When this reality bears out, is this any different from the Orwellian treatment of "Boxer"?


      The Straits Times, 1 Sept 2006
      Every child's talent is valued: PM

      Every child's talent is
      valued: PM

      His vision for education has
      four goals to ensure no one is left out. -ST
      » More can be done to build stronger bonds

      Hot News // Friday, September 1, 2006
      A class with room for all
      PM Lee wants teachers, schools to ensure that no child is left behind
      Loh Chee Kong
      IF THE wheels of Singapore's changing education landscape were set in motion over the last few years, the next five years will see it running at full pace, as Singapore aims to provide a top-class education for all.
      In his Teachers' Day Rally speech last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong laid down the targets the Government has set for Singapore's education system, as it continues its overhaul to meet the needs of the country.
      The Prime Minister's vision of 2011: A diverse education landscape where everyone, whether rich or poor, will be allowed to develop his or her talents to the full; To those who are less able, they will be given skills to take care of themselves and their families; For those who excel, they will be moulded into leaders; And for the others, they will be engaged, their talents unlocked, and they would feel for the country.
      By no means simple demands, these can only be achieved with passionate and dedicated teachers — or "a first class teaching force", as Mr Lee put it to 7,000 teachers last night at the Singapore Expo. And Mr Lee gave his promise that the Government would provide them with the full backing to achieve that goal.
      "We will provide you resources and materials, take care of your well-being and career advancement, help you to learn and develop professionally not only at the beginning but throughout your careers," said Mr Lee.
      Recognising the increasing demands of the job, Mr Lee said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) would unveil measures in the next few days to boost the attractiveness of the teaching profession, as the MOE looks to raise the number of teachers by more than 10 per cent to 30,000 by 2010.
      Specifically, the Government has set a target of tripling the number of schools offering niche programmes to 100 within the next five years. It would also halve the 3 per cent dropout rate of students who fail to complete secondary education.
      In creating a more diverse school landscape, more schools will have to offer niche programmes where students can carve out specific areas of excellence for themselves and create pride among their staff, students and alumni, said Mr Lee. Schools must also have broader admission criteria and more flexible streaming so that students are not "pigeonholed". The Government would also devote more resources to children with special education needs, said Mr Lee.
      Another priority for the Government is to address the widening income gap through education, which it sees as the "long term solution". Stressing that it is the Government's "cardinal principle" to help the poor families with their children' education expenses, Mr Lee said: "Don't worry about your education expenses. We will make sure you can afford it. If you have the talent, we will make sure you be the best that you can be."
      Added Mr Lee: "The worst thing you can do is to tell your child: 'Drop out of school. I can't afford it.' Whatever else you sacrifice, make sure you keep your child in school. We will look after him."
      While the Government would do its utmost to ensure all Singaporeans benefit from the education system, Mr Lee called on schools to pick up the gauntlet of producing the Republic's next generation of leaders.
      Reiterating his National Day Rally message for young Singaporeans to develop strong emotional ties to the country, Mr Lee cited the likes of Australia's Melbourne Grammar School, the United States' Phillips Academy, Britain's Eton College and Malaysia's Malay College Kuala Kangsar as examples of overseas schools that "develop students not just intellectually, not even just building character and leadership skills, but instilling in them a sense of responsibility to the country".
      "We want all young Singaporeans to identify themselves with Singapore, to understand the Singapore story. And not just to understand, but to keep the Singapore story alive and help us to write the next chapter — this is important for all Singaporeans, but especially important for the kids who can be the leaders of the next generation," said Mr Lee, who challenged the top schools here to learn from the overseas schools and do more to develop future leaders.
      Mr Lee said that Singapore has to develop "a sense of mission and a readiness to serve" in its youth in "an open, inclusive and non-elitist way".
      Said Mr Lee: "We don't want an elitist system … Develop a chance for the students to mix with others from different backgrounds and races. Get them to know one another, become friends, do things together, develop a loyalty to that group and therefore feel a collective responsibility for Singapore."
      Mr Lee also paid tribute to the teachers. "Just as a country is as good as its citizens, so its citizens are only as good as their teachers. Keep it up ... we'll expect even more from you," Mr Lee added with a laugh.


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