Archive for the 'education' Category

you learn something new every day

The top mathematics undergraduate at Cambridge University is known as the Senior Wrangler, a position which is considered ‘the greatest intellectual achievement attainable in Britain’. Singapore’s current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong was Senior Wrangler in 1973!


top psle scorers, take a bow

I completely agree with this article!!!

Top PSLE scorers, take a bow
By Chua Mui Hoong

Yes, we should broaden our definition of merit but there’s no reason to downplay academic achievement

I don’t remember the PSLE score I got as a 12-year-old. But I know it was good enough to get me into Raffles Girls’ School which, then and now, is a school that strives for academic achievement – and may it never be ashamed to say so.

I was happy to get into RGS to follow in the footsteps of my big sister. But I wasn’t particularly chuffed one way or another about my score or that I had topped my neighbourhood school.

In those days, no one boasted about his or her scores, but no one was ashamed of doing well either.

Continue reading ‘top psle scorers, take a bow’

you learn something new every day

A couple of weeks back, I read this article about the finals of this year’s RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, which was won by a boy from Rosyth School. Several of the words that the competing pupils were asked to spell were mentioned in the text, and I knew most of them. Except porraceous and eglantine. :O

aloha anaphora

One of my friends, B, who teaches at a top secondary school, posted this on Facebook on 6 January:

exasperatedly, I asked my class how come they’ve forgotten so many of the rhetorical devices we’ve taught them almost every year for three years now:

“Remember metaphors? Anaphora?”

Boy: “Huh? I only know Sephora.”

(Incidentally, while I did learn about metaphors in secondary school, I only learnt about anaphora in university……!)

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shaolin and wudang

So the annual Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results were released last Friday. As expected, there was an explosion of PSLE and secondary school selection threads on the KiasuParents forum. Read some of them today, and this really amused me……

Someone, on choosing between Dunman High and Raffles Girls’:

This is an easy one to me.


Being a Rafflesian is one of the best things that you can get as a Singaporean student. The only other comparable one is to be a HwaChongian. They are like the Shaolin and Wudang in Singapore’s education system.

from here

a rose by any other name

I was fact-checking a local medical history piece, contributed by one of my writers, a couple of months ago when I stumbled upon this 16-year-old news article, which may prove instructive with regard to the Angsana Primary naming issue. I quote (and I do find this portion particularly incisive):

What is needed is not a clinging to historic names but someone to trace their history and evolution, and explain the changes in the context of the social and political developments that they mark. For example, what we know as Fort Canning Park, was once a real fort, called Fort Canning and named after the first viceroy of India.

Before Stamford Raffles annexed Singapore for the British, it was known as Bukit Larangan, or Forbidden Hill, the home and burial grounds of ancient Malay kings. Who knows what it was called before that?

Now, if Singaporean leaders of the 21st century should change the hill’s name to Lee Kuan Yew Park, to honour the man who led the country to independence, would it rob Fort Canning of its history?

Of course not. A place’s current name is like an onion skin. Peel it away and another name, another story lies below.

Continue reading ‘a rose by any other name’

what’s in a name?

I have always been interested in the linguistics of names, and this issue naturally piqued my interest……

Griffiths and Qiaonan alumni upset over new name for merged school – Angsana Primary
Qiaonan and Griffiths hold plenty of history and memories for former staff and pupils

By Pearl Lee And Ho Ai Li

What’s in a name?

Plenty of history and memories, say former staff and pupils of Griffiths Primary School and Qiaonan Primary.

They are upset that the two pioneer schools, which together have been around for 145 years, will be merged to form Angsana Primary School – a name with little connection to its predecessors.

“Why Angsana? Why not something like Griffiths-Qiaonan?” asked 86-year-old Eunice Tan Khe Tong, a retired principal, who was there for Griffiths Primary School at its start, and its end.

Continue reading ‘what’s in a name?’

the power of social capital

Once upon a time, I looked at my boss’ list of Facebook friends, and noted, with some admiration, that it was full of doctors, lawyers, civil servants, academics, and other movers and shakers of the like.

Then I looked at my own, and realized that it was exactly the same.

And that is, perhaps, one of the most best legacies that attending a top school can bestow upon you…… yes, the power of social capital……

5.30 am

Daphne Whatsapped me at exactly 5.30 am this morning, which I assume was when she woke up for school, and that she didn’t stay up till then instead. :P

When I was in junior college, I woke up at 5.30 am to get to school by 7.30 am every day. Sometimes, when I passed a certain neighbouring block on my way to the MRT around 6 am daily, I would see this little boy sitting at the void deck, presumably waiting for the school bus. He looked like he was in lower primary, and judging from his uniform, he was probably studying in Nanyang Primary or Pei Chun Public.

It just so happens that neither school (two of the ‘better’ primary schools in Singapore) is anywhere near my estate. So whenever I spotted him, I always felt a frisson of sympathy. He should have been still in bed at that hour, even if only for a little while more! I chose my school, and getting up early was par for the course, so I couldn’t complain. But I was quite sure that he didn’t choose his!

That was nine years ago, so the little boy is probably in secondary school or even in a tertiary institution now. Occasionally I wonder how he turned out. Hopefully well. Am I the only one, or does anyone else think about the people they encounter, even for a fleeting moment – how are they now?

advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young
Mary Schmich

Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who’d rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there’s no reason we can’t entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt. Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

Continue reading ‘advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’

a piece of creative writing

Friend B, who teaches in a certain boys’ school in the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio area, posted this on his Facebook wall yesterday:

creative writing paragraph of boy whom I had punished for misplacing a worksheet by sending him out of class to copy the whole worksheet by hand:

“Nevertheless, John did regret losing his creative writing piece. The main reason was that he would probably be forced by the evil, dictator-like teacher to stand outside the class, and worst of all, to rewrite it, as many times as the teacher wanted until she was satisfied. Ms Lee was not for softies. In fact, if she had her way, she would declare the school under martial law Kim Jong Il-style for as long as it would take every student to get an A* in every subject. Which is to say, never.”

And his amusing post garnered over 90 likes, including mine! :D

don’t stigmatise academic successes

I like this letter, published in today’s Straits Times Forum Online, as it echoes my views……

Don’t stigmatise academic successes

FOLLOWING the Ministry of Education’s decision to discontinue the practice of naming top students in the national examinations, one wonders if this cosmetic move has yielded significant changes or improvements in attitudes (“The going got tough, but they got the As”; last Saturday).

Even if the move is meant to be purely symbolic, it has been a half-hearted endeavour to broaden the definitions of success, and by extension reduce the purported disproportionate emphasis on grades and results per se.

Vis-a-vis sporting and artistic achievements, for instance, I find it strange that we have no issue celebrating the successes of athletes and artists who have excelled in their respective fields, but are uncomfortable with naming top scorers. Is the act of naming top students detrimental?

Continue reading ‘don’t stigmatise academic successes’


An awfully amusing advertisement from McDonald’s, which appeared on the front page of the Straits Times today……


‘O’ Level results were released today. As usual, there was a media blackout on the top scorers……

primary school leaving examination once more

Thank you, Mr Warren Fernandez!

In its effort to avoid the kind of stress-inducing comparisons that are often made among schools, the Education Ministry decided, rather too abruptly and without enough preparing of the ground, to impose a news blackout on the top pupils in this year’s PSLE.

Its intentions might have been good but the outcome was a bit of a farce. When school principals start telling 12-year-olds that their exam scores are a secret and a schoolboy declares he cannot disclose how he did because “the minister says cannot say”, you sense that something has gone quite wrong. Even tuition centres, which used to trumpet how they helped improve students’ performances, have grown coy for fear of incurring the wrath of the good folks in Buona Vista.

Clearly, as a society, we have gone overboard with this frenzy over exam scores.

Making these results something to be whispered about – or hunted down on the Internet – only reinforces in many people’s minds how seriously this is to be taken. In my view, anxiety and ignorance are never helped by a blanket of darkness. Far better to shed more light.

excerpted from PSLE not a good guide to success in life’s race, The Straits Times, 2 December 2012, page 47

primary school leaving examination again

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education announced that it will stop releasing information on top performers in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and all national examinations, presumably in an attempt to reduce academic pressures on students.

Then the PSLE results were released yesterday. Media reports were somewhat muted, at least in the Straits Times (which carried a couple of reports on students who have done well both in academics and co-curricular activities today).

Personally, I have no idea whether this is a step in a right direction. However, I question the wisdom of this decision.

Continue reading ‘primary school leaving examination again’

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