Yet another tipping point?

Could this be the final straw that will see an avalanche of migration to Linux desktops? I know that the Singapore government has one of the largest deployments Lotus Notes and has used that as a reason for not even considering Linux in their Standards Operating Environment project. Are there any more excuses left?


  1. Stress more on sciences, less on second language
    July 11, 2006
    Stress more on sciences, less on second language
    I AM very glad to see the launch of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council. The council’s deputy chairman, Dr Tony Tan, observed that efforts to create new job opportunities will need Singaporeans and it would be a shame if the posts have to be filled by more ‘foreign talents’.
    That is a very telling statement. Why is it that we are not creating more deep-thinking engineers, mathematicians, biologists, chemists and physicists?
    For the answer, we need not look any further than the school system. Instead of spending time and effort in the hard sciences, engineering and mathematics, our students are spending large amounts of time on Second Language (euphemistically labelled ‘Mother Tongue’).
    Take, for example, my son who is in Primary 3. He has 10 Second Language periods a week, while having only three Science, 11 Mathematics and 13 English periods.
    I do not expect him to be a master linguist, but I do expect him to be able to maintain a level of competency in the Second Language he is learning (Malay, which is not even his ‘mother’ tongue). He is also learning Mandarin (outside school hours) at a conversational level because I think it is fun to learn languages in general.
    However, I would want him to be able to spend a significantly increased amount of time, in school, doing Science/Mathematics (at the expense of reduced Second Language exposure) for that is what is going to be of more critical use to him than any second language.
    I would, therefore, urge the Education Minister to review the disproportionate amount of time spent on Second Language and reallocate the time to the sciences immediately. At least, students should be offered a choice to do more sciences or Mathematics and less of Second Language.
    The present one-size-fits- all model is untenable and I am sure the Ministry of Education is well aware of this.
    I dream of seeing a Singaporean win a Nobel prize in my lifetime, but the current skewed emphasis on Second Language means that this is, at best, a pipe dream. Years of exposure to a scientific and enquiring environment is needed before it will pay dividends.
    If a significant amount of time during the formative school years is taken up trying to cope with Second Language (and the additional tuition classes), I think we are fooling ourselves in believing that we can have the type of mindset that an innovating economy needs.
    I am not advocating a total eradication of Second Language, but a significant rolling back of the emphasis, perhaps to the levels when I was in school from 1966-1977, during which Second Language ended at Secondary 4 and was not a criterion for the pursuit of further education.
    Harish Pillay

  2. Stress language and creativity, not sciences
    July 15, 2006
    Stress language and creativity, not sciences
    I BEG to differ from Mr Harish Pillay (‘Stress more on sciences, less on second language”; ST, July 11).
    Children in primary and secondary schools have been winning top awards in major international mathematics and science competitions. This is evidence that we do place a lot of emphasis on mathematics and the sciences.
    What is more pertinent to ask are ‘Why are our award- winning kids not winning Nobel prizes?’ and ‘Where have all these kids gone to after all these years?’
    The problem and the answer lie with our education system. Our system has been very good at churning out engineers to man the manufacturing plants of multinational corporations. Unfortunately, our system does not encourage creative thinking. You don’t win Nobel prizes for manning manufacturing plants.
    Back in the 1960s and early 70s, superiority in the sciences would give a country the competitive advantage and I believe our education system was geared towards that. It was necessary then.
    In today’s flat world, where any new discovery and invention can be copied and transmitted across the world in nano-seconds, superiority in the sciences gives no advantage. Take, for example, our brilliant engineers in Creative Technology. They developed the MP3 technology but was beaten in the game by Apple. When Creative came out with the first MP3 player, Apple was not even in the game. Within a few years, Apple with its iconic iPod has captured more than 70 per cent of market share worldwide.
    That goes to show that having more engineers is no longer a winning formula. Apple conquered the market not because of its technological superiority but through its marketing genius.
    Singapore will never be able to produce as many mathematicians or engineers as China or India. If only 1 per cent of their people are engineers or mathematicians, they will have more engineers and mathematicians than the entire population of Singapore. Out of this, you can bet there will be some who would be Nobel Prize calibre.
    As we can never beat them in the sciences, we will have to be superior in other areas. The two most important areas are creativity and language. And language is the one advantage we have over many others. Our ability to speak English and a second language, such as Malay, Mandarin or Tamil, allows us to be the link to the world.
    Even though I am amazed by how fast the Chinese are learning English, they can never beat us at it. Language skills is something that you lose very quickly if you do not practise it often enough. In China and India, you don’t very often get the opportunity to speak English.
    There are many things the Education Ministry should change but not its emphasis on both first and second language.
    The one area that we should change and put more emphasis is to encourage more creative thinking in class. We need to create more Steve Jobs in our schools. We need our kids to be out-of-the-box thinkers. And first and foremost, we need to stop putting them into boxes. Mathematicians and engineers are, unfortunately, not known to be great creative thinkers.
    Patrick Tan Siong Kuan

  3. hehe SG is a robot factory …
    SG is a robot factory, we can mold a lot of people at a very fast rate, but everywhere the first thing they do is kill the odd man out.
    In my secondary school days, I wanted to take A maths, but wasnt allow caused I was just a “Normal” stream student. (killed)
    Next I wanted to learn Qbasic, but the teacher who knows just refused to help me in my learning, looking down on a “Normal” student.
    I hated my mother tongue then, simply caused all day long I was struggling to fit all the chinese character into my pencil case, scribbling down words on the table, writing words on rubber eraser, struggling to pass my dictions test so that I do not need to stay after class doing meaningless word copying and copying and copying and copying … (which anyway much didnt go in)
    I think I was the first person in my school to be ban from computer labs and joining computer clubs… for what I reason I just didnt know … oh well … guessed I was a “normal” student hehe
    Poly was good, I was encouraged to try stuff, read as much as I can, and even was motivated to learn more on my own.
    Next came army, (here is the part which inspired me to write this…) I am on alert status next week, and praying that army dont alert me. Why? caused if they alert me, I would need to go down Jurong Point, pay $10 for a 10min hair cut of my long hair (2years already). while a foreign classmate of my is having long long hair. I grew at the same time as him, but had to cut eventually. So that is the reason why SG boys are mostly having short neat hair cuts.
    How can I be creative if I cant even have Enstein hair styles?

    • Re: hehe SG is a robot factory …
      I can only emphathize with you on how the school system has failed you. I has a letter published in the press last Monday asking that we drop or signficantly reduce the 2nd language (mother tongue is an euphamism) and increase time spent on sciences and math. I am glad that you are able to find a level of freedom in the polytechnic system.
      I am not sure that long hair equates creativity. I have no issue you my colleagues have long hair, but I choose to keep mine short. It is a personal preferrence and convenience factor. Living in a hot and humid country and especially since I perspire very easily, I am glad to keep it short.
      The need to cut one’s hairlength when donning the NS uniform is one of those aspects of life that we cannot really compromise. I am a commander of my unit and during ICT, I have chaps who have coloured hair, pierced ears etc. I hate to have them cut their hair and turn it back to black hair. But, if we do not put discipline into the troops, the confidence levels of the public will be reduced as they will perceive that this is an ill-desciplined and perhaps, untrustable, group. It is a tough call. I explain to my men, they sorta accept it and live moves on.

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