Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘singapore

About a week ago, I received an email from the Public Lead of Creative Commons (CC) Singapore.

The email was in part a thank-you and a notification. I have been involved in CC-SG’s efforts by helping out in an event, promoting it in my former workplace, and creating edu-works shared under CC. So I appreciated the word of thanks.

However, there was some bad news. How else might you interpret “the current CC-SG team has been voluntarily dissolved”?

The email came with a longer explanation as to why the CC-SG team was going away. The details are in this blog entry, Invitation to Join CC Global Network; Notice of Termination of MOU or Affiliate Agreement.

The short version is that the overall restructuring of CC internationally necessitated the dissolution of the CC-SG team. There move seems aligned to a trend I noticed over the last few years — the removal of country-specific CC licenses.

This document points to a Creative Commons Global Network (CCGN), but I am not sure if this negates the need for country-specific teams.

The reorganisation of CC is in transition in 2018 and I do not know when the dust will settle. The six different CC licenses remain valid and operate as they always have.

I wonder (and worry) about who takes the lead locally and who interested parties here might connect with to learn more about CC. I do not think we have a critical mass or enough momentum in terms of CC here.

I recall being asked to provide advice for an event about open and CC licenses not too long ago. Back then I simply connected two groups of people.

There are two Cs in CC. For now, it seems odd that one C is missing with the dissolution of the local chapter.

I am happy that the electricity market here is open to multiple providers and that my neighbourhood is the first to trial the switch.

I am unhappy that the new providers seem to have either no strategy or just one approach to selling their service.

Based on what I have seen in roadshows and two items left in my mailbox and doorstep, the single approach seems to be “Save money!” or “Get money back!”.

Save $500 on electricity.

Cash rebate on electricity.

It is as if only dollars make sense to consumers. They do, of course, but that is not the only reason to switch electricity providers. It should not.

Last year I read about a local solar energy group that is joining the fray. Apparently, it already has big players like the Housing and Development Board and Apple, Asia Pacific, as clients.

Where is their outreach? What is their message? I am already sold on relying on solar-to-electric energy, but I want to know HOW to make the switch.

My guess is that I am also the minority. The “save your money” message appeals to a larger base; the “save our planet” resonates less. But this only makes it even more important that the solar-to-electric source provider spreads its message.

Please, shed some light on the WHY and HOW of switching to a cleaner and renewable energy source. The conventional message might save consumers some dollars, but the alternative is priceless.

The modern library is not just a place, it is a space. It is not just a place to borrow or read books, it is a space to expand your horizons.

Abandoned property and loud phone use in a local library.

Unfortunately, some people do the unexpected or the unacceptable. Modern libraries in Singapore, particularly those in the heartlands, are also spaces for:

  • Child daycare and playgrounds
  • Denture display AKA public napping
  • Using wifi to watch YouTube or video conference sans ear/headphones
  • Taking advantage of air-conditioning to engage in coffeeshop talk sans coffeeshop heat
  • Talking loudly on the phone
  • Displaying, abandoning, or donating private property

If libraries are microcosms of society, it seems to attract and concentrate the irresponsible and the selfish. They are not the majority, but they make a disproportionately large show of force. Please do not judge the rest of us by those examples.

One local newspaper tweeted:

Here is an excerpt of the article:

…as recently as 2000, 45 per cent of the resident workforce had below secondary school education, and only 12 per cent had university education. Today, those with less than secondary school education has fallen below 30 per cent, and the proportion of university degree holders has more than doubled to nearly 30 per cent.

This is my reaction: Having a degree does not make you educated.

Another paper tweeted:

Here is an excerpt of the article:

The test, sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, evaluated pupils’ reading and comprehension skills, such as connecting pieces of information, and making inferences from texts. Pupils were given two reading passages – narrative fiction as well as information-based texts such as news articles – and had to answer multiple-choice and written-response questions.

This is my reaction: Being able to decipher or make inferences from text on any medium does not make you sufficiently literate.

There was a bruh-ha-ha in April last year when the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore, announced the merger of some junior colleges (JCs).

Just when the dust settled, the press huffed and puffed to brew up a storm in a teacup. The latter article reported negative responses to the move to combine the names of the combined JCs.

Apparently people on social media — the painted villain in every other press article — thought that the naming was pointless, a waste of time, or just lame.

All this fuss was over the renaming of JCs like Anderson and Serangoon to Anderson Serangoon. Perhaps a scholar in the family planning unit offered the idea of hyphenated surnames. To sound original, a scholar from the MOE said they should leave out the hyphens.

There were high-fives all round and the two scholars are now on the fast track to be deputy director, or if they keep generating gems, junior ministers.

That is what played in my head. Now back to the news.

So might this be a case of making news where none exist? Perhaps.

I am glad that some people, particularly the alumni of the affected JCs, are upset. It means that they care. The labels mean something because of the shared history and experiences they had when they were students or teachers there.

Those words carry value and mean something to those people. I will have to remember this when I remind people that pedagogical and edtech terms that seem alike are different. Terms like the flipped classroom and flipped learning; choice and agency; “self-directed” learning and actual self-directed learning; schooling and education.

Last Saturday, STonline reported the International Baccalaureate (IB) performances by Singapore schools. As usual, it featured pass rates and the number of perfect scores.

The local rag does this with our PSLEs, GCE O-Levels, and GCE A-Levels, so the article almost writes itself with a template. To be fair, the template has been updated to include human interest stories — the people behind the numbers — but these can seem like afterthought or filling newspaper space for a few days.

The IB result article fit the mould perfectly. It featured the usual suspects with the usual stellar results. Then it zoomed in on twins from the School of the Arts who got perfect scores.

What is wrong with doing this?

There is nothing wrong with human interest stories provided the children are not coerced into doing them and if the overcoming-the-odds stories inspire others.

What is wrong is the almost perverse fascination with quantitive results. It is one thing for schools and the Ministry of Education to keep track of these statistics, it is another to tout them and lead stories with them.

The health of our schooling system is not just measured by numbers. This would be like diagnosing sick patients by measuring only their temperatures and blood pressure. Even a layperson would say that stopping at such triage is irresponsible. The same could be said of the STonline reporting.

About five years ago, the MOE stopped revealing the names and schools of the top Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) students. It also discouraged the ranking and banding of schools into socially-engineered leagues in order to operate by its “every school a good school” principle. The move was meant to emphasise the holistic development of each child.

The IB results article and its ilk hold us back. Yes, the template includes human interest stories and background information about the IB. But the newspaper conveniently forgets or ignores that the IB practically an alternative form of assessment. From the article:

Founded in Geneva in 1968, the programme is now available in 4,783 schools in over 150 countries and territories.

IB diploma students take six subjects and Theory of Knowledge, a course that combines philosophy, religion and logical reasoning. They also learn a second language, write a 4,000-word essay and complete a community service project.

Why not focus on how the thinking and value systems are nurtured? What are the impacts of the community service projects on all stakeholders? How might the rest of the schooling system learn from the IB process? Finding these things out is not easy. Then again, nothing worth doing is easy. Using a writing template is easy.

STonline might think it has the perfect template for reporting academic results. It might. But this template has lost relevance given MOE policy changes. In emphasising the numbers game, it creates speed bumps and barriers in a schooling system that is trying to plod slowly forward.

If you do not point out that something is odd or wrong, it soon becomes the norm. This is another way of saying what Jon Stewart said in his final episode of The Daily Show:

The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something. -- Jon Stewart

The oddities or wrongdoings do not have to be outlandish or major crimes. They can be seemingly mundane events that we choose to ignore or forget to question.

Take our need to pay before you actually pay. In Singapore, this happens for simple things — like when you wish to buy a cinema ticket online or when you want to pay for a cab ride with your a phone app.

I was reminded of the latter when my family took a cab ride home from the airport. I noticed that the NETSPay QR code scheme was available. I opted to try it as every retailer I had asked before was not ready (even those that had the scan here sign or a QR code on point-of-sale devices).

However, the cabbie warned me that there was a 30-cent surcharge. Service and sales providers call this a “convenience fee”.

Really. I had to pay to go cashless. I should charge an inconvenience fee for forcing me to withdraw money from an ATM and for miring me in the past.

How are the authorities, retailers, and providers to encourage widespread adoption of cashless payments when we are penalised by paying in order to pay?

What else does the Goods and Services Tax (GST) do if not to also improve the sale of products and services — seamless and secure being one area improvement?

Imagine if our banks, utility services, and telecommunication providers charged a “convenience fee” for electronic statements. We might go backwards to snail mail-based statements because people want to get and feel something for their money.

In schooling and education, I imagine a ridiculous scenario of attending a class where you can see the teacher talking but you must pay extra to hear what s/he is saying. The teaching resources are also blurred or redacted and you must pay to see it in entirety.

The scenario is as silly as the convenience fee is stupid. The providers who charge this fee are greedy and the regulators inattentive. Collectively, we are stupid to pay in order to pay. We have a long way to go to be a Smart Nation if we cannot get something that is as mundane and mainstream as cashless payment.

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