In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
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UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Singapore's General Elections 2015.

I've been meaning to post on the elections for more than a month now, ever since our 50th National Day celebrations ended and it was announced that we were apparently in 'election season'. But work and holidays and laziness got the better of me, and now it's already voting day. As at GE 2011, I think these are rather exciting times for Singapore, but even more exciting for me is the fact that I can finally vote. There's been so much going on social and mainstream media, from election updates to opinion articles to people posting super long stories about this or that party/candidate or just what they've been thinking in general. But while I'm truly interested in the elections, I don't follow quite as closely, cos I feel like sometimes you just get caught up in vitriol and petty politics. 

This election is a time for us to consider what kind of Singapore we want (I wrote a brief Facebook note on that).  Not so much what has been done so far but more what will be done. Of course, we want to know that the party can deliver the promises they make, but we've only got one track record for one party, and no counterfactual to compare it against. Perhaps Malaysia is our best estimation for what we would be otherwise, but I think it's a pretty poor comparison still.

My biggest bug bear about Singapore is probably with education. Our education system may be well-regarded by many other countries, especially with how we're consistently top-scoring in math and science competitions. But I feel like in other measures, we're coming up quite short. It's a bit like we're a victim of our own successes.

Talking with educators at different levels in different fields, the same things are coming up. Our kids cannot think for themselves, they need to be instructed and need to be told what to do, to be given permission before they start doing anything. They can't think, but our education system doesn't correct that. It seemingly promotes that, and worse, when they get to the workplace, that's condoned too. People don't think critically and don't question, because our exams require us to regurgitate, sometimes word-for-word. There's a fear of failure, and cos we've always been told how to succeed in school, there's no questioning. Deviating from the given formula runs the risk of failure, and then you don't get promoted etc. So there's the refusal to try something new, and to admit they're wrong cos that means they've failed. But is this what we want in an electorate? And in our civil service? And in our leaders?

Scholars get chosen because they do well academically, and they know how to give the answers that the interviewer wants. But just cos they did well at one point in their lives doesn't mean they'll always do well forever. Our scholars have to be promoted before non-scholars, even if they're not performing as well. How is that meritocratic :/

Success in Singapore is still so narrowly defined in terms of academic success. It's a societal mindset thing that's going to be difficult to change, I know, but I feel like more could be done still. Streaming is I think, beneficial for students of all abilities, but resources should still be equally distributed I feel. (Though of course I greatly benefited from Raffles having more resources than the average school...) And there should still be interactions between students of all abilities, and not in a "I'm from a good school let me give you tuition you poor things" way... Our current system picks out the academically able from an early age, but late bloomers and people talented in every other area are sidelined. Even SOTA and our Sports School which are supposed to be specialised schools for students with an interest and talent in other areas still have to perform well academically. But really, if we want to fully develop talents in these areas, why do they have to do that, unless the prevailing mindset is still that it's not a viable career option. Why can't we make those viable options? I don't follow football at all, but Neil Humphreys wrote an article about Singapore's dismal football scene which I thought really just reflected everything that could be made better about our education system.

It's not just about the government and the teachers and the students of course, parents have a huge role to play as well. More helicopter parenting and kids who are incapable of doing anything for themselves. But I realise I'm just ranting about our education system here, and not really talking about GE2015. I guess that's cos I really don't have much to say that hasn't already been said.

I want to vote for a future where our society is more open to discussions and are more able to think critically, where kids aren't punished for thinking and using their brains, where kids don't have to go for tonnes of tuition to do well in exams (cos apparently private tutors are earning lots of money and barely paying taxes, or so I've heard), where character counts more than grades, where people judge less on appearances (whether you're fat or skinny, tall or short, yellow or white or black or brown, tattooed or clean shaven, dressed like an 'aunty' or 'uncle' or 'smartly') and more on substance, where everyone is respected even our bus drivers and construction workers. And where people think more of themselves as global citizens rather than just inconsequential nothings. But none of those are substantial policies, and anyway, I don't think any of the political parties think any of that is an important issue. Let alone environmental issues (which only the Workers' Party has talked about in some depth).

Anyway, my overall feeling for this election is that we're still pretty immature. Which is understandable I guess, given we're just 50 years old (as a self-running democracy). The character assassinations/personal attacks especially, are just painful to watch, amusing as they are. I think I would like to see an election where ad hominem attacks don't exist, where people debate policies and not just very domestic issues but also consider our position in the world. True, we're a little red dot and are almost inconsequential in the world, but as the only developed country along the equator, and if we truly consider ourselves as a first world country, then we should set an example and act like it. I would like to see a progression towards science-based policies, and not just economics-based policies. I would like greater transparency in decision-making, more opportunities for academics to contribute to policy formation.

It's all been pretty exciting, and I'm really looking forward to the results. 

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