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Singapore Lecture

Singapore Lecture

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Demographics -Aging, Low Birth Rate, Migration Sexuality and Gender issues Education Sports Economics and Globalisation
Med ia

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isation Science and Technology
Pol
Li bera
I

itical

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To highlight the relevance of issues already discussed

to

Singapore
A focus on arguments, supported by examples.

A clear move away from example-driven essays. GP is all about arguments and using logic to persuade your reader. The examples, merely support the arguments. We

often forget this and obsess over examples.

.

lssues/Arguments
The rise in our elderly population poses problems for Singapore as it would lead to a

r AlternativeViews
The elderly will continue to fuel the demand for goods (physlcal aids) and services (healthcare) that are related to their age and the groMh of that particular market would benefit both the country and the elderly. This is called the Silver lndustry. t'lore mature and experienced workers would also give our economy a competitive edge. The challenges of an aging population are not insurmountable and have led the government to make numerous changes to adapt. For example, the retirement age has been increased to reflect a heaithier workforce capable ofworking for more years. The qovernment has also done much to highlight the positive contribution older workers can make through campaigns.

shrinking workforce which would then reduce the economic productivity of the nation. Foreign investors would also place their money in countries with mqre young people that would fuel future growth. The current fertility rate stands at 1.29 which is below the replacement level of z,r. ln zoo5, one out of every 12 5ingaporeans was aged 65 or above. By zo3o, this ratio will becorne one out of f ve, This also creates a huge burden on the government as it will need to spend to suppoft these elderly through various qovernment services such as health
care.

r lssues/Arguments
The highly stressful and competitive society has both reduced our sex-drive and incentive to have children. Couples cdnnot seem to flnd t me away from their work to procreate or to spend time w th children, For example, the zooS Durex Survey showed that Singapore had one of the lowest frequency of sexual intercourse in the worldl This is especially true for the generatlon of married adults who find it hard to achieve'Work-Life Harmony'. Rising cost of living also deter cou ples from having ch ild ren.

. Alternative Views
The phenomena of decreasing birth rates is not unusual and reflects globaltrends where development often occurs at the expense of family. However, the problem is not insurmountable and Singapore has adopted measures similar to other developed nations, The government has put in place many ncentives for couples to have children by addressing their concerns. Cash gifts of $3ooo will be given for th_e :'t child, s6ooo for the second and sgooo forthe 3'd and 4th. Childcare subsidies of up to sr5o per month are a lso provided a long with a reduction of foreign maid levy. tMaternity paid leave has also been extended to 4 months from 3, These policies help address many of the concerns of cost and time as reflected by married couples.

. A possible Rebuttal
Howeverthe truth ofthe matter is that the incentives provided are either insufficient or do not address the root of concerns. One-off baby bonuses are mediocre compared to the cumulative expenses that would in incurred for bringing up the child, Maid and.childcare subsidies may not be sufficient in a id ing families with a lower income. The demands at work still do not change and the much needed parentaltime with children cannot possibly be replaced by childcare, maids or
even relatives.

.

lssues/Arguments
There are too many foreign workers in Singapore. The increased competition created has led to the Ioss ofjobs for the locals. ln zoo7, 6r% of newjobs created went to foreign workers. Th is also creates a potential problem for the ag6ing workforce that we have. Employers would prefer chea per and you nger foreig n workers to older localworkers.

. Alternative Views
Even if there were less foreign workers around, it would not necessarily mean that the newjobs created would go to Singaporean citizens. The skills required for the job and willing ness to take on the job are factors that need to be taken into cons'deration. Certain jobs that require foreign talent that Singapore is lacking would definitely have no 6ther better candidates. Jobs that are considered to be demeaning to social status or having too iow wages would also never be taken up by S ngaporeans. Recently/ the StraitsTlmes p blished the bottor-,- :o-obs that S ngaporeans do not want. These included Bus Dr ver, Waitress, Security G uard and Masseuse,

r lssues/Arguments
Singapore women today have greater status and rights and institution a lised sexism is close to non-existent, Women have clea r legal and human rights via.a recently strengthe ned Womans C ha rte r. Many women play prominent leadership roles in the private and public sector. Women are particularly we ll- represented in Singapore's education and legal sector. Examples include the Director General of Education at MOE Ms Ho Peng and High Court Judge Bellnda Ang.

. Alternative Views
improvements are cosmetic in that women do not hold positions of real power in politics, the military, law enforcenrent and the judiciary. Singapore is still run by the 'old boys club'. (Eg/Elab) Since independence, Singapore has seen a maximum of one female cabinet minister at any one time. (Eg)

_These

.

lssues/Arguments
Singapore is still largely a conservative society which frowns on alternative sexual lifestyles, S -ch rntolerance 's iot co.qruent to tl'e level of education and eco-oiic de\ elopment of Si-gapore. In zoo8, Parliament voted to keep Section 3774 of the Penal Code, maintaininq that sexual relations betwee- nen is illegal, in spire of an arenome^which legalised un^arL-a ra.al) sex between co.rsenunq l^eterose".-ral couple:. I'l^ s shows tl-at rye are far from developed n our attitudes.towards people wno are drffere.t.37'A also makes l'rtle 5ense, e\cept as d syrbol ofour national Intolera.ce/ as politrcians c'early sard rha'tl-e aw ,.rou d neler be enfo-ced. Why keep a law rhdt aon r be usedt The 'e( e.'AWARE saqa where o smal gro Jp o! co- servatives laurched a coup of fe'rrrnist organisatlon also highlights our national conservatism in sexual matt€rs. While the liberals returned to power, the l,4inistry of Education suspended work with AWARE on sexuallty awareness co-rses, reflecting trar rhe p:br c per(ei/es AWAaE to be p-o horose",al and that this is nof a(ceptab e to the ra nsT.ea - The issLe also righ,ignred tl'at S.rgapo-eans are una ble to l-a-dle deba"es on sLrcL iss.es in a ba anced way.

r

Alternative Views
.
Given that we are an Asian and highly paterna listic society, Singapore has done well in slowly accepting people of alternative sexual orientation, The public sector now recruits homosexuals even in highly sensitive positions in the m ilitary, law enforcement and education, The government is also ir creasing.y to lera nt of gay n ig htspots and activities as long as these do not violate the law in any w5y. The AWARE saqa actuality did in fact reflect national maturity and growing liberalism on sexual mattera as a dlverse range of views weTe reflected.

. A possible Rebuttal
These so-called improvements are in fact a fagade and merely represent the mercenary nature of the Singapore government, The government is still very intolerant of homosexuality, but tolerates gay nightspots and activities as they help earn 'pin k dollars'- a very iucrative and fast-growing economic.sector. 'Pink'spenders and tourlsts tend to be hig hspending. Also, such nightspots contribute much in terms oftaxation (alcohol, cigarettes and licensing), The government is also aware that many homosexuals are highly talented and wishes to retain and attract such talent to Singapore.

r lssues/Arguments
The privileged status of elite school students has sparked resentment and suspicion of many, A keen sense of difference is felt by most students that are in better schools. They are generally proud and have a higher level of self-confidence/esteem as a result of school brand ing. Such students tend to believe that not everyone is born equa I in life and that they shou ld accept their fate and seek to excel in other area. Society also appears to adopt a biased view of students from the elite schoois. TheWee Shu Min saga of zoo6 h igh lig hts this. She wrote a rude blog entry reflecting a dismissive attitude towards the non-elite and was soundly rebuked by the pu blic. Her father, MPWee Siew Kim was told by the PL4 to apologise a second time following a halfhearted first apology, Th s reflected the political sensitivity of such divlsions in society,

. Alternative Views
The stratification of students according to academic ability is a natural element of any society and should not be resented. Any progressive society must filter out its leaders and talents. While it may indeed be true that Gifted Education Programme students are proud to be part of a privileged class, they are often mistaken to be arrogant when being earnest/ aggressive when passionate and condescending when ind ifferent. Such students also suffer the same teenage woes and ind ulge in the same interests as other teenagers. There is no discrimination, only
d

iffe

re n

ce.

r lssues/Arguments
The Singapore education system has been successful. Singapore has a hig h literacy rate of 96%, with 89.5%o having Secondary or h ig her education (zoo8 demographics). lVuch of its success has been attrlbuted to disciplined rote learning where students are constantly d rilled and made to memorize answers, enabling them to fair very well in national examinations, such as the GCE 'O' and 'A' levels. Our education system is also popular with other countries in the region such that many foreign students come here to pu rsue their ed ucation, This reflects the perception that Singaoore education prepares students for a globalised future in a holistic
fa sh io n,

r Alternative Views
Others criticise our education system, arguing that it has churned out students that are ill-equipped to handle the global economy, The "force-feed ing" approach employed i- many Asian countries, includ ing Singapore, will not be able to prod uce th in king, questioning ind ividuals for the knowledge economy. Students need to create their own knowledge as it is not possible for a teachelto transmit all of his or her knowledge to students.The h igh ly d isciplined school system has also been accused of stifling creativity and ind ivid ua lity in stude nts. Teache rs are known to be more criticalthan affirmative in Singapore too.

. A possible Rebuttal
The Singapore government has made changes to the education system to address criticisms and concerns. To address the problem of rote learning and lack of creativity, MOE placed greater emphasis on th in king skills and stream ined the currlculum to.allow for infusion of more activities that promotes creative and critical thinking skills. The introd uction ofthe inter"disciplina ry Project Work at the JC level a lso a llows students to learn better problem solving and com mun ication skills. Vision statements such as'Thinking Schools, Learning Nation'and initiatives such as 'Teach Less, Learn More'all reflect MOE's shift towards a more effective education system for the future.

r lssues/Arguments
ln a globalised era, where high migration flows are occurring, there is no pride lost in importing foreign tal€nt to achieve sporting glory (and thereby further national pride). For example, the entire 5 inga pore Olyrnpic team that wo. a Silver ar rhe Beijrng Olyn pics '.tere China-born, natura ised Singaporeans. lf we had utilised only Singapore-born talent, we may never have achieved this monumentalfeat. Foreign-born talent is also used in other Singapore national spofts teams such as football and badminton. Besides, why should Singaporeans be over-sensitive about such foreign-born talent when major first worid countries like the US, UK and Australia also adopt sim ila r policies?

. Alternative View
Critics argue that many ofthese foreign.talents are economic mercenaries who do not speak English or adopt Singaporean habits. So, are they really Singaporeans? One Brazilian football import returned to Brazil and has reporlediy reapp ied for Brazilian nationality. Furthermore, such practices deprive up and coming local sporting talent from playing for the country.

It makes no sense to spend millions on a Spods School and then imporl a foreign-born athlete to represent Singapore.

r lssues/Arguments
With insufficient talent it makes more sense to focus on school sports (to develop character) than waste millions on international sport, which bring negligible returnS to SingaPore,

. Alternative Views
While it is indeed true that school sports are key to building character, it would be a grave error to abandon international sports simply because we Iack world beating results as international sports are a fundamental glue that bind people from various races and religions together. lt is impossible to speak of national pride without international sports teams to cheer on. For exampl<!, many Singaporeans look forward to football matches between Silgapore and lValaysia as an oppoftunity to don the national colou -s and d isplay nationalpride.

. A possible Rebuttal
These foreign-born talents do not seek to replace localtalents but actually stretch and further develop local sports standards as far as possible. By acting as sparring partners and teammates, they eventually draw ocaltalents into the ranks of regional and international sporting elite. Kendrick Ng, a local badminton prodigy is one such example. He used to spar with Ronald Susilo, an lndonesian-born Singapore badminton player, Kendrick is now a regionaltalent. Also, if imported at a young age, many ofthese foreignborn talents do become Singaporean in their habits. Susilo and China-born Singapore national swimmerTao Li are two such examples. Tao Li now speaks Eng lish qu ite fluently, and her ma nnerisms are very local.

.

lssues/Arguments
The influence of globalisation can weaken national identity and disrupt social cohesion within the country. The young are especially vulnerable to foreign values and life styles as a result of globalisation. The world has become borderless. Our own citizen s comprising young mobile profess ion a ls and budding entrepreneurs no longer Iimit their dreams within the confines of Singapore or even Asia. The world is their hinterland. This loss of national identity and belonging can translate to brain drain and a reduction in motivation to contribute to society.

. Alternative Views
Although globalisation's detrimental impact on social cohesion is valid, awareness of it has.resulted in both the people and the government making a conscious effort to resist it's impacts.
Educational policies such as national education help teach the public to value what it means tcbe Singaporean. Sin ga po rea ns are also proud of who they are. Although they appear to embrace foreign culture, they are often proud to be identified as Singaporeans when travelling or living abroad. Singapore Day, a h iqhly successful Singapore festival hosted in a different major city every year is one such example. (Elab)

r lssues/Arguments
Toyota a nd Pa n ason ic have become h ouse h old brands in Singapore. Local brands such as Enzer and Akira are unable to compete in terms oftechnology and quality, and have no choice but to reduce prices greatly in order to get a small piece of market share.
So ny,

.

AlternativeViews
However, globalisation has also allowed local brands to attain international recognition by rising beyond our shores to compete against other major brands in the global market. One such example would be London-based desig n er Ashley lsham. Other successful local brands include Breadtalk, Hyflux , Adam Khoo Lea rn ing Technologies and Pasta ma n ia.

.

lssues/Arguments
The Singapore media, while increasingly bold in its coverage and opinions, is still viewed by the West and more liberal Singaporeans, as a mere mouthpiece of the ruling party and elite establishment. Editorials and think-pieces may be more openly criticalthan the 8os and 9os, reflectinq a new breed ofjournalists, but often they siop short of making pointed criticisms of politlcal office-holders, as in other democracies. For example, following the escape ofSingaporean terror st N4as Selarnat from a detention centre, ma ny called for an a pology from the M inlste r of Home Affalrs. The Straits Times, did not, podraying such calls as reactionary and logically flawed.

r Alternative Views
The balanced and responsible and approach taken by the StraitsTimes is in fact a correct one. Unlike the adversarial role take by the Western press, the Singapore media sees its role as more const'uctive. lt olfers alternat ve views, but stays clear of politicking by not taking s des in palV oolirics. Whrle the 5ingapore media may advocate issl.ies, they see it as beyond their role to interfere in the political process by advocating against the government. The local media also never criticizes or mocks local leaders, ln adopting sucl- p-acrices, it is keeping within the available political parameters and practicing responsible journalism.

. A possible Rebuttal
It is not responsible ofthe mainstream media to stop short of criticising politicians. Suchjournalists are in fact accountable to the public. lt is also disjngenuous to attack or mock foreigr leaders with a free-hand, while treating local leaders with kid gloves, This is simple hypocrisy and patronising towards the educated pu blic. The New Media has in fact been more bold than the mainstream in criticizing the government, and the government is find ing it increasingly hard to control this new mouthpiece ofthe people. For example, durinq the recent organ trading
case against retailerTang Wee Su ng,

. A possible Rebuttal
The New Media has also played a major role in pushing for greater transparency. ln light of massive losses by government owned Temasek and the Government of Singa pore lnvestment Cooperation (GlC), netizens were far more vocal in their call for open ness. The mainstream media was far more circumspect.

netizens were h ig hly critica I of the governme nt's elite-biased a pproach.

r lssues/Arguments
The Singapore political scene is liberalising, albeit slowly, and in a manner which reflects the usually cautious approach adopted by the ruling PAP and Singaporeans in general. 1n June 2009, PM Lee announced legislative changes that would ensure smaller Group Representative Constituencies (GRCs) and a minimum of 9 oppositlon m€mbers of parliament, all in a bid to i-duce g edte'debate and a te-^ar ve views in parliament. These may not be big changes, but they indicate thdt the PAP acknowledges the needs of a modern, highly-educated and traveled populace, who find a'rubber-stamp' parliament patronising and not befitting a modern developed first-world nation.

. Alternative Views
The liberalisation of Singapore's political is moving at far too slow a pace for some. The openness of Singapore's political scene is completely incongruent to the level of openness of the economy and the globalised nature of the population, Given their exposure to foreign lifestyles and political systems, many rnobile young Singaporeans find Singd-pore's political climate stifling. ln pafticular, the media is seen as a rnere mouthpiece ofthe PAP, The recent changes are viewed suspiciously as piece mea I efforts to control and pacify the desire for more political openness. The argu ments is that many won't vote for the ooposrllo- \rov. ing rl-at alte.'ratrve /iews in Parlrament are now guaranteed.

r lssues/Arguments
The Singapore government has moved too fast in instituting technology in government processes. For example, in most government counters, until recent complaints, custorners were expected to go cashless. This was very inconsiderate to the poor and elderly who don't have such ba nking services. The government should adopt a more gradualapproach. Elements of E-government wh ich have crept into the mainstream have greatly inconvenienced those who are not internet sawy and highlighted the growing technological divide in Singapore. For example, whe r the gove rn ment issues Eco'o^iic Restructuring Shares and CPFTop"ups for the elderly, the recipients often have to apply on line. They often turn to community centres and volunteer organisations for help. This is grossly inconsiderate to the needy and elderly poor.

r Alternative Views
Arguments against the rapid development of technology in government services fail to see that slowing down the process would in fact slow down the technological pace ofthe entire country as government services are fundamental services which have national impact. While some minorities may be affected, the vast majority adapt fast and this leads to great nationaltechnological leaps. There is then a ripple effect, impacting the private sector, and other areas of technology. For example, the eNets function first used by the lmmigration and Customs Authority for online passport applicatlons, was later used by several prominent driving schools and other service providers such
as Singa pore Post.

For example, in the case of embryohic stem-cell research, a hot-button topic in rnany countries/

the Singapore government allows such research as long as embryos are less than 14 days old. The religious communities agreed that embryos after r4 days had heart beats and were thus 'ensouled'. (Elab) Aborlion and in-vitro fertilisation are also allowed in Singapore as long as patients are fully briefed on the physical and emotional considerations. This in spite of opposition from the religrous camp. This highlights the balanced approach taken by the Singapore government.

Singapore's seemingly pragmatic and balanced approach to bioethics is in fact a fagade aimed at creating the appearance that the needs of the various communities have been met. ln fact, the decisions are largely driven by a mercenary desire to allow embryonic stem-cell research/ abortion and in-vitro fertilisation (amongst others) as these a.ctivities represent an active segment of our diverse economy. Despite widespread concerns about the easy ava ila bility of abortion and the social and emotional consequences/ the government allows these services to be ava ila b le with the caveat that 'education'should be undeftaken. Moral and religious considerations are merely given lipservice and are not major factors in decisionmaking where the economy is concerned.

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lssue/Arguments
5ingaporean society has overemphasised education in and developments of science and technology, so much so that Singaporeans lack soft"skills and the local arts scene is poorly supported. All this leads to a country with a strong economy, but lacking in soul and character. lt is often noted that Singaporean students cannot present or spea k and argue well.

r Alternative Views
The early emphasis on science and technology was a necessary stage of our development as a modern nation, Now that we have consolidated our status as a Asian hub for research and development, we have staded pushing for more holistic education, balancrng a scienrific focus with a growing focus on vaiues, a deep sense of history and soft skills such as speaking and advocacy. A simple example would be the introduction of both the International Baccalaureate and the compulsory status of Project Work in the A Levei syllabus. Both ofthese developments emphasis public speaking and the art of
pe rs ua sio n.

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