Extend Edusave to home-schoolers

Straits Times Forum, April 30th 2011

Most Singaporeans start going to primary school at six years of age. However, there is a minority that decides otherwise, they want their children to be homeschooled. For example, a family feels that their children will benefit under their own teaching, and think that they can teach more effectively than schools.

However, they have to provide full details on the curriculum and a detailed timetable. Furthermore, the cut-off marks are higher than those who attend school. Most importantly, they are not given Edusave at all. This denies them of the chance to go overseas for attachment programmes. This definitely puts them at a disadvantage, as they can learn many things on these overseas programmes. The parents nowadays are very concerned about what the children learn, both in the short and long term.

Many parents who home-school their children are now frowning in disagreement. They complain that although they still have to be taxed all the same, and the parents still make sacrifices, their children are put at a even higher disadvantage. They think that they are unfairly penalized just because they want to take responsibility over their children’s education. However, I think that they are actually not really helping their children when they home-school them. This is because, when their children are homeschooled, they do not interact with others of the same age. They will therefore not have enough experience on how to make friends and get along with other people, which can be learnt greatly in school, where children have to do compulsory projects. Also, they will not know much about cooperating with others, which is vital in the corporate world, where they have to do many group projects and have to cooperate with others. School is a microcosm of society, and they will have an insight on what society is like.

I agree that Singaporeans should be disincentivised to home-school their children. This is because they may not learn the things that the government thinks is necessary for them, since they may not study the same syllabus as their friends that go to school. Therefore, I think that it is fair for the government to give disincentives to discourage children to be home-schooled.

Inside the Danger Zone

Newsweek, April 11 2011

On 11th of March, the infamous tsunami and earthquake struck Japan, and caused huge damage to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The damage has been extremely widespread, and the situation is as bad as the Chernobyl incident. Japan has set an exclusion zone 20 kilometres from the power plant, and do not allow anyone to enter. It has been measured that the area within this 20 km has radiation 4 times the level that is considered safe for human beings. Although no one has been killed by the radiation, the seas and the ground have been poisoned. This has led to worries of the people that their dietary staples- fish, produce and drinking water will be unsafe for consumption.

Many countries are now venturing into the area of using nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels, as the amount of energy produced is huge, and the nuclear power plant can operate 24 hours a day. Unlike fossil fuels, most of the waste can be recycled, and the byproducts do not harm the environment. However, I think that using nuclear power should be discouraged. This is because, although the accidents are rare, the amount of damage caused by one incident is so huge that it is not safe to even risk it once. For example, in the case of Japan, the land and water in the surrounding area has been polluted, and will affect the produce and the fish caught, endangering the lives of the citizens who eat these poisonous foods. Although one might continue to argue that it would be okay to set up a nuclear power plant in countries that are less prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, it is still unsafe even with these security measures. Japan’s government made sure that the nuclear power plant was built in a “non-earthquake prone place, yet the earthquake still struck the power plant.

In addition, the waste disposal methods are dangerous. When the waste is disposed, it is possible for the radiation to leak out, polluting the ground and waters again, thus affecting the lives of the people. The radiation is not only widespread, but also long-lasting. If any waste leaks, then the amount of damage done will not only be high, but will also last for many years, affecting the people and the country in the long term.

Thus, I think that countries should try not to invest in nuclear power, and instead focus on using other alternative sources, such as solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power.

What is the role of the opposition?

Straits Times Forum, April 12 2011

Through the years, the opposition parties have grown in strength and influence. Many of them are getting more votes, and their popularity has risen. Some examples of opposition parties include the Worker’s Party and Singapore Democratic Party, and they are all getting more support from their fellow Singaporeans.

In my point of view, the opposition parties have a certain role if they get into Parliament. Firstly, they represent the voices of the general public in Singapore. This makes sure that the opinions, whether good or bad, from the people are taken into consideration, and are not swept under the carpet and go ignored. I think that this is important. The voices of the people are fundamental as they are opinions, and they can help the ruling parties to make adjustments in the system. The opposition voices out the comments of the people to the Government such that they can be taken into consideration.

The opposition can also result in a two-party or multi-party system. If the Government fails, there will be more people in different parties to act as a backup and support the Government, easing the ruling in times of crisis. The opposition can also act as extra brains to help think of suitable solutions palatable to the current situation and the problems.

More importantly, the opposition provides a check-and-balance where all the initiatives of the other parties are reviewed, and if they are unreasonable, taken down. The purpose of this is to make sure that all alternative ideas are seriously considered before being implemented. For instance, if one of the ruling parties comes up with a initiative, and the opposition decides that the net help provided is too low, they can look through the initiative and debate with the current ruling party on whether the initiative is reasonable and helpful.

Currently, the Singaporean government is trying to include more seats in Parliament for opposition parties. Hopefully, the opposition will carry out their roles well and benefit Singapore and its citizens on a whole.

“Teach less” burden shifted to parents

Straits Times Forum, April 9 2011

Recently, the Ministry of Education has implemented the “teach less, learn more” policy in Singapore, resulting in the decrease in the amount of things taught in the classroom. Some parents feel that this is unreasonable, as they say that they have to go to work, and therefore, the children are not able to ask any questions.

In my opinion, I think that this policy is good to a certain extent. With the policy, the students can plan out their time carefully, and focus on what they need improvement. If a student is extremely good at graphs, and the school is focusing on graphs, the student will end up wasting time in school. This policy is also good because it allows the student to focus on his interests and have more time to study in depth topics that they find fascinating. For instance, if a student enjoys learning algebra, he can study it in more depth, while research on other topics like geometry less.

More importantly, the students will have to learn at home either from their parents, tuition teachers, or search for their own information. This is because not all the tested syllabus will be taught in school during class. However, it instills a sense of independence on the child, gearing him up for the future. When the student grows up, he has to eventually step into society and enter the corporate world. In the corporate world, there is nothing much taught to you by the office. Therefore, one needs to be resourceful and independent. Allowing them to find out ways to learn things will give them these skills for them to be successful person in their working lives.

However, there is a problem with this policy. If the students are not taught the basics first, they might not know which part of a broad topic to learn. I feel that the students should at least be taught the basics, and for students of younger ages, they should be told what topic of each subject will be tested, aiding in their preparations.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.