Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

NS exemption for those "learning English" in Korea - Why NS didn’t make me patriotic (TO C, 29 May 08)

Expand Messages
  • Kaye Poh
    “If English were an Olympic sport, China would definitely win, hands down!” (Today, 30 Jul 08)   31 July 2008   To: PM Lee Hsien Loong cc: Minister Teo
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30 8:42 PM
    • 0 Attachment

      “If English were an Olympic sport, China would definitely win, hands down!” (Today, 30 Jul 08)

       

      31 July 2008

       

      To: PM Lee Hsien Loong

      cc: Minister Teo Chee Hean - Mindef

      cc: various

       

      Well, look at how Korea and some other Western countries prepare their precious citizens to meet the global challenge: their time spent doing "National Service" actually adds value to their marketability in the global work place!

       

      In Korea, NS-eligible men are given exemptions if they master the English language during their schooling years. Better still: some may be given overseas postings as translators. How do I know this to be true? Because I know of one such Korean in Singapore. This is what I call "positive reinforcement" - offer them sufficient incentives to "learn something or a new trade" in exchange for being exempted from doing something he dislikes or is time wasting.

       

      I also know of many young Frenchmen doing their "national service" working in French banks here in Singapore - to learn from experienced Singaporeans, not the "talent" many (in the government) believe them to be. (I know this because I know of such Singaporeans who have to "train" these rookies). Yes, in France, they allow their NS-eligible young men to be attached to their French banks or organisations overseas to learn "relevant" new marketable trades in order to prepare them for the work force. What about Singapore? How does its government prepare its young men?

       

      We know it is a fact (I have been through NS myself, and so has Eddie Choo, author of the attached article, "Why NS didn’t make me patriotic", TOC, 29 May 08) that the 2 years spent doing full time National Service and the resultant reservist years is a waste of time for those undergoing NS and reservist training. We have all gone through months of "idling" around - sleeping and eating and pretty doing nothing much for months on end - waiting for ROD.

       

      I am not suggesting abolishing NS altogether (or full exemption) but I feel 2 years (and the subsequent years in reservist) is just too long. Perhaps a combination of real army training and subsequent "active" deployment (one year?) and the balance as industrial attachment (in DSO, ST group or GLCs/TLCs or stat boards?) where they can truly find real value-add in performing their NS obligations (and learning marketable skills), even if their paltry pay (or "allowance") is at the sub-subsistence level?

       

      What is more worrying is how the Chinese in China are taking to learning English - see “If English were an Olympic sport, China would definitely win, hands down!” - Today, 30 July 2008.

       

      Rgds

       

      =============================================================

      http://theonlinecitizen.com/2008/05/why-ns-didnt-make-me-patriotic

      Why NS didn’t make me patriotic

      29 May 2008
      Eddie Choo
      Why? Because in NS, it really goes like this: I pretend to be a soldier, and you pretend to treat me like a soldier. NS has become so ritualised that serving the nation has lost its meaning.
      When something becomes a ritual, it loses its meaning, and whatever passion there was is lost, and what you get are the tired faces and the bad-ass attitudes that are commonplace among the guys serving.
      Unless and until the question of purpose and service can be answered, Singaporean men (and some women) will find themselves losing passion for the country they’ve been asked to serve, longing for greener pastures always.
      I don’t exactly know where this story should start. Should I start when I left the camp gate for good on the day I officially achieved Operationally-Ready Date (ORD) status? Or should I start when I began school and my first National Education (NE) lesson?
      I guess the only way to truly begin this narrative/commentary is at the hospital, where mothers give birth to their baby boys. The moment a baby boy is born and registered, a chain of paperwork is created for him, culminating in him receiving the conscription letter at 18 and donning the camouflaged green uniform, serving out his time on an offshore island roughly northeast off the coast of Singapore.
      Of course, all this is provided the baby boy is and remains young and healthy right up to the time he enlists to become a citizen soldier for the Republic of Singapore – a soldier who swears that he will protect the President and the Constitution of our Republic.
      Why National Service?
      I mean, any decent Sec 3 student will be able to tell you why Singapore needs National Service (NS). He would need to know that, because it is examinable and part of the Social Studies syllabus. If not, it’s likely he would know anyway, because he’d have been told the reason for it enough times in NE – National Education - lessons that he would be able to answer just as well.
      Well, we all know how the story begins. Once upon a time, a prince from some Indonesian kingdom chanced upon a piece of rock, encountered a beast he called “Singa”, and promptly called it Singapura. Fast-forward a few centuries, and a British fella came along, bought this place on behalf of the British East India Company (yes, the very same from Pirates of the Caribbean, no Johnny Depp here, sorry), called this place a colony and set up shop here, for the next one hundred years or so.
      Then the British abandoned us (sort of, despite investing in defences as well), and the country’s people suffered under the Japanese Occupation. After the Japanese surrendered, the Brits came back, but didn’t stay for long. Then, for a brief moment, we joined Malaysia; but just as quickly as we came together, we parted. Absorbing the lessons from our history, the leaders then decided that to defend ourselves effectively, we had to have our own military, and since we didn’t have the numbers for a full-time army, we learned from the Israelis, and created a soldier out of every able-bodied man.
      A sacrifice of 2 – 3 years of each man’s life, spent in training to be a soldier. Then we release them and let them contribute to the economy as workers, recalling them when we need to.
      This is the whole scheme known as National Service.
      With such good intentions, how come NS didn’t make me patriotic?
      Why, because in NS, it really goes like this: I pretend to be a soldier, and you pretend to treat me like a soldier. NS has become so ritualised that serving the nation has lost its meaning. It’s one thing to have parades every 3 months, but having it every other week is senseless. When something becomes a ritual, it loses its meaning, and whatever passion there was is lost, and what you get are the tired faces and the bad-ass attitudes that are commonplace among the guys serving.
      I am not questioning the commitment of military regulars – I merely wish to highlight that sometimes, inevitably, even they might get drawn into this attitude of going through the motions. This is not an issue of complacency or throwing caution to the wind. This is about the nature of military work. Yes, a soldier should behave professionally, but professionalism is hard to come by when being a soldier is a really. boring. job. Just watch Jarhead. Yes, we would all like to be the heroes in Blackhawk Down, but unfortunately, military life is more Jarhead than anything that exciting. And then sometimes you encounter the military professionals who serve in the military not out of a sense of duty or patriotism, but for the need of money.
      What exactly are we defending?
      Sure, we are all here to ‘defend the nation’, but then, ever so often, the question comes to mind: what exactly are we defending? I don’t think anyone has ever sufficiently answered that question. Sure, we say we are “protecting our way of life” and “keeping our families safe”, but at the core of it, what are we really doing? I mean, if war comes, I think most people would have already sent their families away on any available flight to anywhere. Other families would be safe overseas, and might even have had the time to transfer their assets overseas to begin anew. So, with our families safe, would there be anything left to defend?
      Would we be left to defend those who couldn’t manage to buy the tickets in time? Does that mean that the rich would have had priority in getting out? If only the rich get to survive, then would we still be committed to this nation’s defence? If there was a threat of mass military desertion, would the state actually hold our families hostage to force us to stay here and fight? Of course, if it comes to that, we would take up arms, but with a heavy heart. Even if we won the war, we’d have lost any loyalty and love for this country, and it wouldn’t be worth staying here at all.
      For me, I would rather be a second-class citizen elsewhere than be treated like collateral here. But of course, this is only a hypothetical scenario - a gedanken (“thought”) experiment. Whether such a scenario plays out remains to be seen.
      What other options are there? Are we defending our multi-racial society? That might actually be something worth defending. But then again, around the world, there are so many cosmopolitan global cities which are melting pots of various ethnicities., where an industrious and innovative Singaporean would be welcomed. Of course, these other places might never be as efficient and effective as Singapore, but if we could live reasonably well, why not? So why, then, would any Singaporean stay to defend our unique, multi-racial way of life?
      A question of purpose and service
      So let’s consider the question again. What is it about Singapore that we are actually defending? If the values that we are defending are not unique to Singapore, then what is left? A happy island, by virtue of geography and geology?
      As it is, the importance of NS is inscribed into nearly every Singaporean’s heart – from National Education in school to the hard, physical tests at Pulau Tekong. It isn’t as if NS is pointless – we still need to guard against conventional military threats or terrorists – but security alone can’t be the be-all and end-all of National Service.
      Because at its core, National Service is about defending what is dear to us, and from there, deriving meaning and passion to the things that we do when we fulfil our NS duties. But if NS brings boredom and disillusionment, then the hearts of Singaporeans will be drawn elsewhere, and the hearts of those that stay will be conflicted over whether this nation deserves their defence.
      Unless and until the question of purpose and service can be answered, Singaporean men (and some women) will find themselves losing passion for the country they’ve been asked to serve, longing for greener pastures always.
      About the author:
      Eddie Choo, 20, served as a Field Engineer Pioneer during his National Service. He is waiting to study Chemistry at NUS.

      ==============================================================  

      “You get the sense that they are really making the effort and practising every chance they get. They practise with each other, watch English movies and go for English classes. They are trying so hard to make the effort and communicate with the rest of the world. It’s pretty underrated, what they are trying to do there,” said the 39-year-old.
      .
      “If English were an Olympic sport, China would definitely win, hands down!”
       
       
      plus // Wednesday, July 30, 2008
       
      Of hungry ghosts and Olympic hosts
      Wooing the supernatural: Genevieve Woo
      ‘Chinglish’ is the new English: Lian Pek
       
      One has made a documentary about hungry ghosts, the other about China’s fetish for the English language. CNA’s Genevieve Woo and former CNN anchor Lian Pek are coming from the newsroom to a cinema near you, reports Genevieve Loh (genevieveloh@...) :
       

      :Genevieve Loh

      :genevieveloh@...
       
      WHAT knowledge of the Hungry Ghost Festival could a Channel NewsAsia newscaster and an ang moh editor/short film-maker impart to you, a true-blue superstitious Singaporean, born and bred in the thick of our island’s melting pot of cultures and rituals, that you don’t already know?
      .
      Quite a lot, apparently.
      .
      And, they’ll throw in a couple of “lucky numbers” to help you along the way.
      .
      “The English-speaking, white-collar locals all seemed very uninterested when we asked them about what they knew about the Hungry Ghost Festival. It’s like, we all grew up here, so it’s a blind spot.
      .
      “‘Yes, people burn stuff during the month, so? Let’s not romanticise it.’ That’s what we got,” said Genevieve Woo, the 38-year-old producer of the new documentary, A Month of the Hungry Ghost. You may recognise her as the producer and presenter of Channel NewsAsia’s Singapore Tonight.
      .
      “To be honest, I was one of the naysayers. I thought I knew a lot, but I actually didn’t when I thought about it,” she admitted. “It was only when I got into the whole month of meeting with the people who practised it that I realised I was so mistaken all my life. I felt that I was given this chance to learn this and I was very humbled by it.”
      .
      “You’re going to see (the Hungry Ghost Festival) from a different perspective,” said Tony Kern, the film’s American director. “You’re going to invite the spirits, give the offerings, see the getai backstage, go through the rituals, make your way to the cemetery and get your lucky numbers — all in the comfort of the cinema and in 90 minutes.”
      .
      “We’re both going to be buying the lottery after the film opens,” quipped the 39-year-old film-maker. “You guys better look out for the lucky 4D numbers!”
      .
      And to think it all started with an American and his inquisitive mind back in July 2005. What began as a conversation with Woo over coffee about local superstitions suddenly became research for a potential feature film and eventually grew into this self-financed documentary. Woo and Kern, who are dating, set up their own film production company Mythopolis Pictures together in 2006.
      .
      According to the pair, the unexplainable existed not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes, as well. One supernatural moment happened when they went deep into the jungle with a Tibetan Buddhist congregation to film a ritual known as the “Invitation of the Spirits” on the eve of the first day the Hungry Ghost Festival.
      .
      “As we went deeper into the woods, I stayed behind to capture a shot of the whole group walking off. I suddenly became transfixed and mesmerised by the wall of trees behind me,” recalled Kern.
      .
      “I felt so good and so peaceful that I actually forgot my camera entirely. I was told only just last week by the Lama who was leading the group that it was only when he looked back for me that he saw that I was completely surrounded by spirits and was just about to be possessed.
      .
      “By breaking away from the group, I had left the protective shield that is around to keep everyone safe.”
      .
      But perhaps the most shocking thing gleaned out of this whole experience was how helpful Singaporeans turned out to be. “It was very heart-warming that so many of them would go out of their way to help us, giving us contacts and telling us where to film,” said Woo. “Because here we are filming somebody’s religion and beliefs — it’s very private and personal, and what we do can get very intrusive. So, we’re very touched that Singaporeans let us strangers into that part of their lives and to film.”
      .
      You’re welcome. Now where are those 4D numbers you promised?
      .
      A Month of Hungry Ghostswill be released on Aug 7 by Golden Village
      .
      WRITERS, when stumped, are often told simply to write what they know. Likewise, actors areinstructed to find the emotion needed by drawing from their own personal experiences. Documentary film-makers, like former CNN anchor Lian Pek, are no different.
      .
      “Being a journalist, I am very into language. I was always interested in accents and I love the way the Chinese speak English. They speak very deliberately and they curl their words in such a wonderful way,” said the first Singaporean to be hired by CNN International as a broadcast journalist.
      .
      She is now the director and executive producer of the documentary Mad About English, her feature debut about the Chinese and their almost fanatical rush to learn English in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic games.
      .
      Pek told Today that she had been spending a lot of time filming in China when she discovered that people on the street were speaking more and more English.
      .
      “You get the sense that they are really making the effort and practising every chance they get. They practise with each other, watch English movies and go for English classes. They are trying so hard to make the effort and communicate with the rest of the world. It’s pretty underrated, what they are trying to do there,” said the 39-year-old.
      .
      “If English were an Olympic sport, China would definitely win, hands down!”
      .
      The award-winning film-maker shared with Today how “viewing China through an English lens” was one of the best ways to capture the depth and pace of change in China today. “It’s fascinating because you’re documenting change. For all the talk about change in China, one need only see how the Chinese have embraced English to grasp how far and fast China has evolved and how the country intends to interact and interface with the rest of the world.”
      .
      Pek, a former news anchor on MediaCorp TV Channel 5, agreed that it’s a combination of factors — and not just the impending Olympic Games — that started the sleeping giant on this intense fervour.
      .
      “It’s a huge transformative experience for them. Mixed up in all that is the internationalising of the economy, saving face and serving the country. Speaking English is almost like a patriotic act.
      .
      “And when you deal with them one-on-one, like some of my subjects (in the film), you realise they are very earnest. There is a sort of innocent charm about them that is still very untainted. Very different from the rest of the world we live in today.”
      .
      The double-winner at the 2007 Asian Television Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography for her documentary-short Born-again Buddhists compared the process of making this documentary to “knitting a bit of an English quilt”, saying that it all comes together to add to the larger story and to “the bigger picture of China”.
      .
      “Above and beyond the political, the national .... The story and the subjects speak for itself. You can take English away and swap it with any other goal or objective and it would be the same,” said Pek. “The Chinese spirit is indefatigable and fantastic. This is exactly it. You need to be hungry and you need to be driven. And then you’ll make it in the end.
      .
      “These (Chinese) people themselves are the stuff of film material.”
      .
      Mad About English will bereleased on Aug 7 by Shaw.
      ========================================================== 


       

    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.