Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Give, and receive so much more

Coco and I have benefitted a lot from what the parent volunteers do, both at primary and secondary levels.

I felt grateful to know that Coco was in good hands with a doctor-parent-volunteer when she had to go to the sick bay. At school outings, I could be sure that there would be more than one pair of eyes keeping tab on the children. When she crossed the road outside her school gate, I was relieved to see the parent-volunteer traffic wardens stopping the cars before allowing the children to cross over. And these are just a few of the things I remember specifically.

At secondary school level, they have helped organise quite a few activities such as a dumpling wrapping session and a parenting talk on how to communicate with teenagers. I was impressed that Coco's schools never fail to exceed my expectations of a Talk. They almost always engage well-known vendors or psychologists I have seen on TV. And I don't watch a lot of parenting documentaries on TV.

Being so grateful, I decided to volunteer my time for the school's open house last Saturday.

I didn't know what I could do since I am as much a noob as any new parent. It was merely out of a heart to give back, with no intention to get anything out of it.

But to my surprise, I received so much more:

1. The Parent Support Group (PSG)

The parents were friendly and warm. They are not your regular tai-tais who look atas and smooth-skined and chignoned hair.

They were chatty and helped the introvert me to mingle with the other parent volunteers who have joined their activities more than once.

They shared with me how their girls are like and those with gifted children are humble and nice. When asked how both their children managed to become gifted, they said,"We just encourage them."

2. The school tour

I was tasked to follow the school tour groups led by the student councillors.

I was thoroughly impressed by the councillors. They were confident when speaking to the groups. They were very comfortable leading the parents around the school and introducing and explaining the places as well as their purposes and function.

The tour enlightened me a lot more than the Sec One Parent Orientation.

Halfway through the first tour, when the councillor was explaining why the Biology laboratories were located on the first floor - to be beside the eco pond for their experiments, I suddenly felt very grateful that Coco is part of the school. It dawned on me how privileged Coco is to be a student of the school. Even the architecture and layout of the school is well-thought out.

There's nothing quite like when you yourself truly believe that the school is indeed good. Others can tell you that it is a good school, but it remains as something that you hear from the grapevine until you are convinced, and believe, that the school is 'really good'.

3. The people watching

While waiting for the crowd to come in, I people-watched and observed that the girls who came for the Open House had similar external traits. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I thought the girls looked studious and obedient. They either have short, straight hair below their ears or long hair tied into a ponytail, straight and neatly-combed. Most of them wear glasses as well.

Their mothers were mostly well-groomed too, but I wouldn't say the same for the fathers, who incidentally were not as many.

4. The parents

I learnt something new from one of the parents as I followed the tour.

When I asked which of her girls was to be enrolled into the school next year, the mother said,"Oh no. She (pointing to one of the girls) is in P4."

It never occured to me that people would take their P4 or P5 children to schools' open house. And she is right. Why not? To go to schools' open house at P6 is a tad too late if the child have not been a motivated child. The child is more likely to think he won't have the time to buck up than be very motivated to study hard if he has not been performing well academically. Going to schools' open house at P4 and P5 gives the child ample time to pull up his socks and a target to work towards to.

I am just so wowed by these parents' far-sightedness.

5. The Open House

I was impressed with how well-run and organised the event was.

I haven't been to many schools' open house. I didn't get to go to any last year. The first and only secondary school open house I had been to is St Joseph's Institution. The scout allocated to us for the school tour did not exude the same level of confidence and eloquence although I must commend the scout's courage to lead the tour since it must be a daunting task for a lower secondary student to do what a student councillor at upper secondary does.

The Open House was well-planned and executed. Everything was properly run and done without haste, or at least, haste that was not obvious to me.

The school set up numerous tables for registration and distribution of the goody bags at the main entrance, just outside the auditorium where the principal's talk would be held. And they did not neglect the smaller crowd which entered via the side gate.

The CCA Open House was congregated at the hall as well as the classroom block. And the CCA teachers or vendors and students would come forward to interest you further with their warm and welcoming chit chats if you so looked at the direction of their booth for what most would qualify as an 'interested look'.

I am thoroughly impressed, and as strange as it may sound, I feel proud of the school.

I told William when I got home,"I feel so proud of the school. I feel as if I am a student from the school too!"

He chuckled with a 'poof'.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Love them all!

Coco brought home a beautiful rose for me for Mother's Day.
It had the same faint, sweet fragrance that I once often received in church in my teenage days.
It brought back the pretty memories of those years for a short while.
She was even selective about the colour.
She didn't want to get a pink one as it's 'too common'.
She decided that this one was more beautiful.

And beautiful it was.

Baby made a cute bouquet of colourful flowers for me.
It could be mistaken for a cone of ice-cream, for how pretty it was!
I opened my mouth and attempted to put it in.
She exclaimed,"No! It's not ice-cream!"

Thank you, God, for giving me daughters.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

How holistic do you want your child's education to be?

Sometimes on Facebook and forums, I read posts about parents trying to decide if they should place their child in an above-average neighbourhood school or if they should become a parent volunteer to up their chance at P1 registration.

Then many others would respond to the posts, citing negative examples of what happens in top schools, and that it is more important to have a happy and 'holistic' child than to emphasise on results.

Then the poster would say something about her dropping the idea of enrolling the child in the school, as she wants her child to be happy and to be able to get a holistic education rather than one that emphasises on academic results.

And the respondents would be happy that the poster has reached a 'wise' decision.

I always refrain from responding to such posts. And if I do, I delete my response after typing it in.

Because my response would not be a popular one.

In truth, the top schools are actually better at giving students a holistic education.

Let's define 'holistic'. The term is so overly-used that sometimes I don't even know what people are referring to anymore.

'Holistic education' in short, is the education of the whole child. In Singapore's context, it probably means to provide an education that does not just emphasise on the academics. Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) is one of such means.

However, if you go to the MOE website, nowhere does it mention that our education system aims to provide a 'holistic education'. What it does have is a set of Desired Outcomes of Education, which aims to mould our children into:

a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor and a concerned citizen.

Of course, we may argue that to be the person listed above, the education he receives should ideally be a 'holistic' one in order to be such a person.

In any case, most people would define a 'holistic education' as one that does not emphasise on academic results.

Now, if the education system does not have PSLE as the yardstick at the end of our children's 6-year primary school education, I would say,"To hell with the academics!"

The fact that PSLE is, and will continue to be the yardstick for our children's education.

Academics aside, top schools are still better at providing a holistic education.

Have you seen children who excel in everything, academic, music, art and physical training?

That's how top schools are. They are good at the academics, and good at non-academic activities.

If you want a truly holistic education, the top or good schools are your best bet.

At P4, Coco learnt dragon-boating together with the rest of the students in her level.

What activity teaches you more about co-operation and groupwork spirit than having to row a boat together, to race the other classes?

I don't remember neighbourhood schools having such an activity. Of course, they can have other activities that promote co-operation and groupwork spirit among the students, but I am just quoting a convenient example to show that top schools have the resources and manpower that neighbourhood schools do not have.

Coco's school has an annual swimming event during the curriculum time. They simply play and swim with their friends, or take part in a swimming competition organised by the school during the event. If that is not 'holistic', or simply non-academic, I don't know what is. Again, I haven't heard of neighbourhood schools doing the same thing.

Coming from a school that did not place emphasis on the academics, I have a lot more insights on how a non-academic environment affects a child than an average Joe.

In the name of 'holistic education', the school would spend half a day (from after recess onwards) to celebrate an occasion. Be it Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Teachers' Day, Children's Day ... you name it, they had it. They also spent the precious curriculum time on giving students dance lessons in celebrating this and that occasion.

It is fine to be holistic, but by doing all these non-academic stuff during curriculum time and over-emphasising the need to celebrate festivals and occasions, the school had unknowingly sent the message that studying is not important to the students.

It was no wonder that the students' results were always very poor, year after year. The students were always excited about rollerblading, dancing and other non-academic programmes but only aimed for a pass at PSLE. As long as they did not repeat PSLE, all's well. Their Facebook posts could go something like this: I got 139 (t-score)! Yay!!!

The new principal who came on board frowned when she saw the results. And she said something that I couldn't agree more:

A child can be as holistic as he can get. At the end of the day, if he does not have the results, many windows will be closed to him.

I know of a child who was a champion at hockey. He had dsa-ed into a neighbourhood school using hockey.

However, he failed his PSLE, so he had to go to a school for PSLE failures, and he never gets to develop or realise his talent.

I find it strange that parents would think that neighbourhood schools are not so result-oriented, and therefore they would be more 'holistic'.

A holistic education is not something that you have when you are lacking in the academics. We have only 6 hours as curriculum time. If the school is not spending them on the academics, I would be very worried. I don't need a holistic education at the expense of what I send my children to school for. They should finish what a school ought to have done before they give my children something extra.


This was taken at about 6.30 am on the Voting Day.

My aunt had gone for her morning exercise. I was looking at the exercise group when I saw the whimsical picture of a morning moon and the pastel skylight.

Didn't have my camera with me, so had to make do with an iPhone.

The villagers voted at a Malay primary school which was just across the road from where I took this picture.

And the poll result shows that they want an ubah (change).

The ubah does not come without a struggle.

Families quarrelled among themselves over which party to vote for.

Even my eldest paternal aunt came to my aunt's place to persuade the household to vote for 'the balance', and quarrelled with her husband over it.

The older generation leans more towards the ruling party as they believe that the benefits such as the pension and monetary handouts are the result of the reign of the ruling party. For half a century, they have been under them and life, though hard, have been relatively safe and peaceful. So they would prefer to have the country continued to be run by them. They don't want a change.

These were what I saw on the drive back to my hometown:

Rows and rows of flags, streamers and banners in seas of blue. Wherever you go.

For a working adult, the first thing that comes to your mind would be: holycow (pun intended), how much of taxpayers' money have gone into this?

Printed and made in China.

How do I know? One of the banners was on the road divider, and it was so close to the car that we could even read the fine prints at the bottom of the banner. The name and contacts of the printing company were clearly stated, and the number started with '+85', the code of China.

My first thought was: Oh, at least they tried to save the cost of printing.

But my nice thought about them was dashed by my sister's exclamation,"For all you know, they filled in 'RM2 per banner' when it cost just 'RM 0.02 per banner'!"

Oh the naive me!

They not only hung the banners and flags in an overly-done fashion, they also wrapped tree trunks and branches and town icons with them!

The only reason for them to do that was probably they printed too many!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Voted and repulsed

I went to vote with a bad cold.

I hate travelling in cars for hours, but I did it anyway just to cast a vote and returned to Singapore within 24 hours.

Like many Malaysians, I am angry and bitter with the polling result.

Like many Malaysians, it is not just because the result did not turn out the way we wanted it that we are angry.

We are angry because the ruling party cheated. And cheated blatantly. Yet there was nothing we could do.

I am going to pen down what they did to cheat, for the record, and to assert that these 'allegations' are absolutely true and fact-supported:

1) They imported more than 40, 000 Bangladeshis days before the election by their party's planes.

When asked if they were imported to Malaysia to increase the number of votes, they denied it, saying that they were mere supporters of the party. They were there to show support for the party.

What crap!

2) They gave them a Malaysian IC each within a month.

3) They could not handle the 40, 000 sudden immigrants-turned-citizens, so much so that they house hundreds of them under one tiny roof.

When probed on how it was possible for 100 people to have the same address, they dismissed it as 'technical glitches which we are unable to explain'.

4) They were too lazy to come up with proper names for the Bangladeshis.

And we are supposed to believe that a new citizen goes by the name of 'Betik Bin Kobis', translated as 'Papaya Bin Cauliflower'.

5) They are beyond reasons.

When the supporters of the Opposition Party rallied for public vigilance to 'catch the phantom voters' by looking out for Bangladeshi voters, the ruling party asserted that nobody could stop these Bangladeshis from voting since they carried valid and legitimate ICs.

6) They drove boxes of votes into the polling centres under the public eye.

When the public tried to stop them, the police came to their aid by surrounding the car, and released tear gas to disperse the crowd.

7) Of course, the infamous Blackout Magic.

I knew something was wrong when Singapore was supposed to report the results of the election at 8pm and yet, many stations' results were not ready for announcement even at past 11pm.

The votes cast by the overseas Malaysians were more than 70% in the favour of the Opposition Party, leaving the ruling party with just a pathetic 3% to 4%. How is it possible to have boxes of mailed votes, delivered in darkness and appeared out of nowhere, polled in favour of the ruling party?

We are angry, very, very angry, because they treat us as idiots.

We are angry that they have dirtied our homeland with their filthy hands and minds.

We are angry that they trash the notion of democracy in their blatant quest for money.

We are angry that they just want to win the election for their own pockets and support their wives' and children's lavish lifestyles.

When back in Malaysia, a distant relative told me that he has submitted his application to be a Singapore citizen.

He has been living, studying and working in Singapore since 20 years ago. For someone who had left his hometown at 19 or 20, he felt that he had belonged to Malaysia, and did not want to give up his citizenship if he could help it.

Now that his children are living and studying in Singapore, he sees the need to.

As a PR, he pays more than $100 in school fees for each of his children.

The teachers of his firstborn called his wife up and asked why they did not convert to Singapore citizens.

When asked why the teachers were such busybodies, they explained that they had many awards waiting to be given to his firstborn, but he was not eligible for them since he was not a local.

He told me that when his application is approved, he would vote for the ruling party come 2016.

He said,"You have not seen worse."

After this trashy election, I have to admit: I had not seen worse.

Worse blatant stupidity. Worse blatant laziness. Worse blatant greed for money.

Worse blatant corruption.

Yes. I had not seen it.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

No MC required

I received the email from the admin manager yesterday:

Civil servants now can call in sick without MC for two days.

As usual, with conditions attached.

The first condition is to seek approval from the First or Second Boss.

I shared the news with my cubicle mate.

She scratched her head,"How does that work?"

I replied,"Perhaps it means: we can go and ask them,'Can I take an MC next Wednesday?'"

A colleague from my previous school posted this on her facebook:

If we need substantial proof in order to get non-MC medical leave, how do I prove that I am having menstrual cramps?

Other colleagues replied:   'You know ...'   'I also know ...'   And that made me 'know' too!      

Jokes aside, I read from the internet that many commented that these two days would be abused.   I don't even get to utilise my 6-day childcare leave without MC and my 30-day MC. And you think we could abuse these 2 pathetic days? Seriously?

My vote counts

Today, I will return to my hometown.

My fourth sister will drive out to Singapore to pick my uncle, auntie and me up, so that we could cast our votes tomorrow, first thing in the morning before we head out to Singapore to rush back for my brother's wedding.

That's right. My brother's wedding.

Of all days, he picked my father's birthday as his ROM date, and wedding day. The Voting Day was announced about a month before his wedding day, so there was little he could do to change it.

Malaysian friends whom he and his wife had invited had decided that the national issue is a bigger concern, so they are not turning up for his wedding.

As for my family, just about me would be the only one returning to vote. Quite a pity. We would have 5 votes in our family alone that remain in Singapore. I have not even counted my sister-in-law's family who consists of 2 parents, 3 sisters and a brother-in-law.

Even my father who sees my brother's wedding as the most important event in his life is contemplating returning to vote, but I would understand if he doesn't. He has to prepare to receive the bride. I am quite disappointed that my sisters are apathetic towards the political situation in Malaysia though. They feel that they have no stake in the country so it does not make a difference to them who the ruling party is.

We always talk about love and loyalty for our country. We don't always love it to the extent of dying for it, just like we may love someone but may not be willing to lose our lives for them, but if voting isn't a time to prove your love for your country, to exercise the option to right the wrong in the political arena, then when is?

A Chinapress pic of the recent rally at Penang.
The crowd was estimated to be more than 100, 000.

Penang is governed by an opposition party and it has been known to be peaceful and safe as opposed to KL's notorious traffic jam and JB's outrageous robberies.

Someone posted this during the Singapore election period and for some reason, it sticks:

When they came for the communists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a communist.

When they came for the social democrats,
I did not speak out;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.

I don't live in Malaysia. I don't study there. I don't work there. I don't travel there. I don't even speak her language. But my vote counts.