Monday, December 27, 2010

Unfair study fees - prove me wrong

(Update 28/12)
Latest: Does anyone how many foreign students get the subsidy vs the local students?

The MOE website (click here) states that the subsidy is S$2,400 for both foreign and local students. But the initial entry school fee is different, ie local pays S$3,600 while a foreign student pays S$7,200.

In essence a local student has a significant lower school fee. This is a very encouraging perk being a Singaporean citizen. Well done, MOE. It killed the niggling doubt in my mind and put it to rest.

PS. Thanks to those who have responded. I am glad it was clarified. :)

(Update 27/12)
From a reader's response, the table is a portray of the types of category a student falls under. By default a student is categorised in one of Cat A, B, or C depending on his nationality.

Based on the type of scholarship, he is then required to pay the amount stipulated in the category he falls under, ie a Cat D local student pays S$1,200. The S$1,200 is NOT the subsidy amount but the actual fee.

Is my understanding correct? If it is so, then kudos to the MOE for giving the locals a substantial subsidy. Well done!

Can anyone clarify with a response?

I happened to chance upon a categorised table of school fees paid by Singaporean locals, PRs and locals for a well-established school. Unless someone can prove me wrong, I believe Singaporean locals are sorely disadvantaged.

I could hardly believe my eyes even though I always had niggling suspicions about how the school fees are heavily subsidised towards foreigners.

At a glance under the 'Per Annum' column, it seems like a Singaporean student pays only S$3,600 per year while a foreigner pays S$7,200 for the same year.

But don't rejoice too early thinking locals are heavily subsidised. Read again, I urge.

Just say a local falls under Category D. That means he effectively pays S$2,400 (S$3,600 - S$1,200 of subsidy award). There is only one kind of subsidy. From what I gather, a foreigner usually falls under Category E (which most of the students are categorised) and he pays S$2,400 (S$7,200 - S$4,800 of SMA subsidy award) too!

So what is the difference? Absolutely NOTHING! I think we have been hoodwinked thinking we are heavily subsidised. That goes for the students categorised under the MEP programme. It's still the same amount!

Another peeve is why are subsidies for locals (S$1,200) different from foreigners (S$4,800)? I do not know if this is called marginalisation but it sure fits the bill. Should not subsidies be based on performance and a student's result instead of nationalities? Why is there a distinction - are locals less deserving?

The school fees seemed twice the amount on paper but there is actually no difference in the net school fees paid. How can that be? I am bemused by the recent 'citizens come first' promised by the PM. Are these words easily forgotten or are they just airy-fairy words that are used to 'tickle our b*lls' to gain an election victory?

Someone had better give me an explanation because I am fuming mad.

Prove me wrong.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

He came knowing He would die. Yet He came

Luke 2:11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."

1) Jesus came to die.
- Cloth Linen. Jesus the babe was wrapped in swaddling cloths. When He died, He was wrapped in burial cloth. "So Joseph (of Arimathea) bought some linen cloth, took down the body (of Jesus), wrapped it in the linen..."
- Manger. Jesus was lying in a manger. During that time, a manger is a concrete trough cut out of rock. When Jesus died, He was placed in a concrete cave. "... and (Joseph) placed His body in a tomb cut out of rock."
- Feed. A manger is where horses and animals feed from. Jesus came to be fed upon when He said, "This is My body broken for you. Eat this in remembrance of Me."

2) Jesus came to save.
- Birth. Born to us. A birth signifies new beginning, new hope. The old has passed, the new has come. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..."
- Saviour. In the city of David, a Saviour. That is His name - Yeshua, meaning 'He saves'. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
- Babe. You will find a babe. A baby is in total submission to the hands that hold him. "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."

3) Jesus gave Himself both as a present and His very presence.
- Present. Born to us a Saviour. Jesus is a gift. A gift is not a gift if we try to earn or purchase it. The only thing we can do to honor God is to receive with thanksgiving. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son..."
- Presence. Jesus will never leave nor forsake us. He gives us His peace and abides with and in us. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)
- Light. Born to us this day. When all is dark and bleak, see Jesus in the situation today. While the skies were dark in the night, glorious light and songs of joy burst forth amid the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."

Luke 2:9-14 "An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

  Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Did you notice that peace was only given to those whom His favour rest? Today God's favour rests on each one of us because we are the beloved in Christ Jesus. We have the peace of Christ which the world cannot understand. We cannot fail but have successes in every area of our lives because of His favour.

The shepherds were then in their throes of mundane life. Just like us who are milling about our daily lives. They were caring their sheep in the middle of the night. And so are we who are caught up with our cares, bills to pay and Christmas shopping. At times life's journeys can be as dark as night.

An angel appeared bearing the good news of a Saviour, and the heavenly hosts suddenly exploded in the midst singing praises to God. Likewise heavens are opened and the glory of God will fill our dark nights when the good news of Jesus is shared. The power of the gospel will transform lives and bring hope to all who hear. Our fears are dispelled; our nights become days. His praise will automatically fill our lips.

Luke 2:15-20 "When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."

No one told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem. Yet they were willing to leave their flock to search for Jesus. No one reminded them to spread the word concerning Jesus. One look at Jesus was enough for them to spread the word concerning what they had seen and heard. And the people were amazed. Throughout our daily lives, all we need is to behold Him. One glimpse is all we need. One revelation  from His Word is enough to light up our dark situations to change our perspective of life and give us the strength to carry on.

The message of the good news (gospel) the angel spoke drew the shepherds to Jesus. The Word the angel carried was actually Jesus Himself. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. This Christmas, not only is the message of the birth of Jesus important, the Jesus we bring especially the Saviour gives hope and light more than people care to admit it.

It was not His birth that saved us but His death and resurrection.

Jesus came knowing He would die. Yet He came.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winning winners, not losing winners

I was reading the latest entry in My Singapore News (Redbean's blog). I usually pen my thoughts down in a notepad that comes with Windows. I had such a lengthy reply that I decided to blog about it.

It is every parent's dream to see their kids grow up successfully. This is especially more prominent in Singapore when the paper chase has gone to unprecedented levels. We know it when the tuition and enrichment classes have become money-making million-dollar industries.

Apart from that we have parents who will fork out sums of money and savings to buy and live in overpriced housing locations near good school zones. It has also become increasingly stressful for parents to get a chance to parent volunteer because it is the first step for a secured place in the school.

And then we have the infamous Primary One balloting exercise. The common denominator here are the tears. What differs is either the shedding are tears of joyful thanksgiving or tears of unjust beleaguerment and missed opportunities.

That is how much good grades and academic focus mean to us. There is no failure and seldom other alternatives. Uniquely Singapore?

Interestingly the big names often mentioned as shakers and movers, eg. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bono and the latest Mark Zukerberg are all philantropists. There is also a whole bunch of other people who have made it big in life but give back what they have received to help humankind. This is another quality that sets winning winners and losing winners apart. I dig shows like 'Undercover Boss' and 'Secret Millionaire' because they give glimpses of bosses coming down to a worker's level.

I often wonder - does that come with academic qualifications that Singapore brags about? The Singapore education is a very resulted-oriented system that demands tangible results with factual numbers. And we are often lacking with a mature mindset about life and critical thinking beyond ourselves. Much of it is about getting the best grades, getting ahead in career and obtaining a scholarship if possible. Let others care about human lifeforms, social balance and enriching humanity.

I have come across incredible and dedicated teachers who are passionate about their work and their students' welfare and growth beyond just academics. How often were they bogged down with other 'value-added' programs that stole away their aspirations to mold lives? I have known how these people were graded low in ranking and often thumbed-down by their superiors and principals because they do not produce the necessary, tangible results expected of them from the school and the education system. Many of them have retired early or left teaching because they no longer saw their purpose anymore.

Just recently I came to know of a mother who met the form teacher to collect her son's report book. Her son's result was of average standing among his cohort. She had expected him to be promoted to a class of mid-level grade, perhaps Class D among classes A to G.

When she received news that her son was going to Class F, she gave such a cataclysmic gasped that the teacher had to reassure her and explain away the fears. Apparently the first two classes were dedicated to the top of the cohort while the rest were randomly assigned to their new classes.

We can laugh at the silly fear. But it goes deeper. Its roots have buttressed into many areas of our lives more than we care to admit.

In the end we may be winners as in the recent international Maths and Science competition. But whom did we kid? I hardly see many top Singaporean CEOs or Singaporean movers-and-shakers who had made the international scene. In my youth Sim Wong Hoo was our local hero and 'Bill Gates'. Mind you, he had just a Diploma to his academic qualification. But he sure rocked the gaming world with the Creative Sound Blaster.

It takes more than just academics to call ourselves successful winners. I hope we can be lasting winners who can not only impact lives but also leave a lasting legacy.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who says we need an A-team to come up with a sound policy?

Many of us need a car. Some of us more urgently than others.

My prediction is many may not see their cars until the Chinese New Year is over if I read the COE price graph correctly. The recent astronomical hike in the COEs provided little explanation other than if you need a car urgently, cough out the extra money.

Many of us need a car. Some of us more urgently than others.

It may be for whatever reasons ranging from transporting elderly, near-immobile parents to sales-line job to simple travel convenience to a show-off to impress someone who might not even care. In Singapore it does not matter if you live in the prime District 10 area or in the rural Sembawang heartlands, the COE knows no name or location. It speaks the language of dollars. No money, no COE.

Many of us need a car. Some of us more urgently than others.

Those who really, seriously need  a car will cry foul? Why should anyone be penalised for trying to fulfill a need?

If you are wealthy and have the buckets of cash to give away, you'd probably be living near the town area. Perhaps Novena, Balmoral, or even along Orchard Road itself. The number of ERP gantries a rich person have to pass through daily will probably be less than a person coming down from Pasir Ris or Woodlands. As we can see the one living further away will probably need the car more than a person living in Orchard Road does. Yet he pays more for the matter.

Personal note: I'm not against the wealthy owning cars. It's their money anyway and they can spend how they like it. I'm against how the current COE system does not help a family who needs a car urgently.

This is one of the major flaw in the current COE system. In lieu of what I had mentioned, I urge you to read this proposal from the SDP. I was impressed.

*gasp* SDP? Are you certain? SDP members are very emotional (I'd rather say passionate) and will corrupt your mind (I'd rather say open your mind to alternative views). For the matter they are not just a bunch of opposition who plead human-rights this, human-rights that.

I assure you, the proposal is quite a viable solution. Needs more detailed analysis. It is not all fool-proof... yet. For the nay-sayers, is the current COE system working well for us anyway besides the usual 'show me the money' phrase?

Read it and make your own judgement. You'll be surprised that paying a million bucks does not necessarily equate better solutions. Or policies.

Many of us need a car. Some of us more urgently than others.
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