Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Don't get me wrong. I've always loved the Dim Sum Dollies (also known as Selena Tan, Pam Oei and Emma Yong) but this time, they weren't as savoury. Completely whitewashed by their male counterparts, they'd have held their own better had they done their own show than be part of a bigger cast like they were in SING Dollar produced by Dream Academy. For some reason, Pam was a disappointment with the inconsistency of her Filipina accent. She'd done better in other productions and I'd set high standards for her. An immersion trip to the Philippines might have been useful for her to regain her tongue. Emma was better off, endowed with wittier lines for her character Lan Lan, a Chinese prostitute who was literally red hot in that figure hugging dress becoming of Geylang girls in the alley. The Tiger beer auntie played by Selena was largely unbelievable. From what I know, they don't quite speak the way she did in the coffeeshops. Way too polished to have been an accurate portrayal.
Thankfully, things picked up a little in the second half. You could call Hossan the hero. I'm not just saying that because he's my brother, but I've never ever seen such nimble footwork from him until his performance in SING Dollar. The way he moved, Michael Jackson would have cause to arise, pass on the baton, and go back to sleep. Hossan was also quite a sight in a tiny yellow dress (Sebastian was also very convincing as a Thai prostitute), but speaking as a brother rather than a regular member of the audience, it was scary.
The opening sequence was well presented, with the cast impersonating the political figures whose faces graced four separate currencies - the US dollar, the British pound, the Indian rupee and the Singapore dollar. The ending? Weak. Just like the songs.
One saving grace is the currency (no pun intended) of the characters that were spoofed, from Temasek's Ho Ching to vulnerable venerable Ming Yi. You bet the creative team led by Selena Tan are news junkies. I suspect she tunes in to 938LIVE to to stay on top of the news while it breaks.
SING DOLLAR is now on till 8th Aug at the Esplanade Theatre.
Tickets selling at SISTIC.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
As an aside...
Friday, July 24, 2009
Sky Chia emails me every year around this time. This is when World Vision's 40-Hour Famine comes around and this spunky 18-year-old pledges to fast to raise funds for children suffering from hunger.
10am - 2pm
Singapore Management University
Thursday, July 23, 2009
This awesome, unassuming man was recently invited to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah was so impressed by his work (she's an avid reader & a long-time advocate of reading) that she urged her viewers to support Room to Read through donations.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
She's currently the world's top female bowler. She's a world champ! Her youth notwithstanding, she's rigged up with ambition, cloaked with resilience and armoured to push deep into the privy league of the bowling battallion's best. She's got it in her to be right up there with the rest of the world's greatest bowlers. She is 2o-year-old Jasmine Yeong-Nathan and more recently, earning the title of Singapore's Sportswoman of the Year. The last bowler to earn the coveted title was Grace Young sixteen years ago in 1993.
Jasmine has got a lot going for her and she's determined to compete for a long time to come. Up till now, I have evaded the need to provide you the scoreline when I rolled off against the world's top female bowler at the Singapore Polytechnic Graduates Guild Centre. I shall swallow my pride and have you know she thrashed me 194-138.
Had I been a world-class bowler, she would have without doubt upped the ante and added a hundred more points to her pinfall.
It's not far fetched; she trounced defending champion Ann-Maree Putney of Australia in straight sets with an almost perfect score of 298 to 215 at last year's World Cup in Mexico.
She didn't have to show me mercy. Thanks Jasmine for letting me keep some of my pride and for being game in accepting my proposal for a game.
Her recommendation and ours:
Ah Balling Peanut Soup
(Blk 20, #01-43, Ghim Moh Market)
Monday, July 20, 2009
Under his leadership, tens of thousands of students have filed through RI as well as Changkat Changi Secondary School and Temasek Junior College. So highly-regarded and much respected is the 75-year-old that students have referred to him as a father figure. Despite his strict ways to instil discipline, he made himself accessible to his students at recess, walking to the canteen and sitting among them.
Off the air, Eugene breathed that he was aghast after being told by a Malaysian tour operator who frequently leads school groups of a certain RI student who was bragging how his father had allowed him to use up to a thousand dollars on his credit card. That student was also complaining about almost everything on that trip.
Eugene looked at me and smiled. I smiled back because this was behaviour characteristic of ACS boys - snobbish, aloof and with dad's money to splurge. (Disclaimer: Not all of us are like that. Look at me! *grin*) Could the Rafflesians have robbed the ACSians of this ill repute?
Jokes aside, Eugene Wijeysingha's roots go deep. Retiring from the school as principal in 1994 hasn't decreased his attachment to and feelings for RI and the Rafflesian Spirit. In his latest book, For A Better Age - Musings of a Teacher (publisher: Candid Creation), he writes that there have been various attempts of defining this spirit, but no one has quite encapsulated this 'soul' in words. Eugene's best attempt in describing that spirit was that it's 'a powerful force that takes control of a person, inspires him and instils courage and determination'.
With thirty-five years as a champion of quality education, polished demeanour and discipline (of which half of the time was spent at RI), Eugene Wijeysingha is unmistakenably the Rafflesian Spirit personified.
We, retired teachers and principals, have never completely removed ourselves from the Singapore education scene. As my students reminded me when I took my retirement, old soldiers never die; they just fade away but never into oblivion. We track every new initiative. Whenever we gather, be it in the homes of colleagues or over coffee at “kopitiams”, while there might be some reminiscing, to begin with, invariably the talk turns to topical items in education. Of late, this has come to focus on the Education Ministry’s drive to draw in as many teachers, by the thousands, to shore up the number. This has to be sweet music for schools and education.
The initiative has drawn mixed reactions, some encouraging, some advising caution. Even the walls of parliament echoed concern, drawing a reassurance from the Minister that standards would not be compromised in the selection process. How does one ensure that only the sheep get through the net? Sandra Davie, in her commentary in The Straits Times of 18 February 2009, cited research findings on what constitutes a good teacher and then posed the all-important question, how does one spot a potentially good teacher when the traits of great teachers are so intangible and indefinable. She admits that all the traits identified would become evident only after one stands up in a classroom and faces 40 children. By then it may be too late. As a safeguard, she suggests that while casting the net wide, MOE take in as many, motivate them to make the cut but install the machinery to weed out the dead wood after a trial period. This might be one way of ensuring a supply of effective teachers for the long haul but it has its pitfalls.
Identifying a potentially productive employee at the point of entry is no easy task. The task becomes even more daunting when the anticipated intake is set to run into the thousands. What kind of a yardstick can be employed to identify one who is more likely to make the cut? Allow me to offer my own take on the matter. This would not be the product of systematic research but rather an analysis borne out of personal experience and close observation.
As long as a central recruiting agency did the hiring of teachers, the question of making a correct decision did not arise. This changed when schools were allowed to go independent and recruit their own teachers. It became a serious task taking a teacher on board. There was no one to blame if he or she did not measure up. Firing, we realised, would not be easy if a bad choice had been made. Hence, selection of a teacher became a serious matter.
Educating the child is a delicate, sensitive and multi faceted enterprise. One cannot assume that a child will learn simply by placing before him a teacher with a bagful of pedagogical tricks. One educator warned us when we were undergoing teacher training never to forget that as teachers we held the power to either distort, pervert or warp the minds of the young or set them on the path to self-actualisation. This underscores the seriousness of ensuring that the right person is placed before a class. There used to be a theory, known as the by-polar process. It underlined the fact that as there were two parties involved in the teaching-learning process, the teacher and the taught, nothing productive materialized unless the learner was willing and inclined to learn from the teacher. It pre-supposed that a bond based on mutual respect had to be cultivated first. The bond was more likely to arise from a conviction that the teacher was interested in the total welfare of the pupil and regarded him as a person and a human being. A pupil will switch off if he perceives the teacher as one with an agenda of his own, preoccupied with furthering his own advancement. I used to have pupils approach me for a change of class because they failed to take to a teacher who was in the habit of belittling and labeling them and passing disparaging comments about them.
Observing teachers at work, I used to wonder why some teachers were more effective in the classroom than others. Closely observing their behaviour and examining their profile, I drew conclusions. These provided me with an insight into what to look for in identifying a candidate who was more likely to gel with young people. I found that those who proved effective bore a certain personality and manifested some common traits. They were more effective in inspiring and motivating pupils to learn and make progress. These were teachers who relished the company of young people, held a positive view of them, engaged in activities like sports, hiking and camping, savoured the outdoors and were or had been actively involved in youth groups in the larger community. I found such teachers willing to spend more time with their pupils, engage in joint activities with them and go the extra mile. They invariably firmed up a close relationship with their pupils. They appeared to have gained the trust, confidence and friendship of their pupils. This then found its way into classroom interaction and influenced pupils’ motivation to learn from such teachers. Hence, in selecting teachers I would look out for those with such traits and probe their personalities to establish whether they were cast in such a mould, whether they had demonstrated a feeling for others and carried traits that were likely to prove appealing to young people.
I recall visiting University College School in London, a prominent independent school, with fellow principals in 1986. We asked the principal, a Mr. Slaughter, what he looked out for in recruiting his teachers. Let’s say, he was in need of someone to teach physics to his graduating class. He advertised for a graduate in physics. A number applied. Some held Masters Degrees. Others were from prestigious universities. He would narrow the field down and invite those shortlisted for interviews. A panel comprising the principal and some senior members of the staff conducted the interviews, after which they were asked to write an essay of a certain length as to why they wanted to teach. They were then let loose into the school community and closely observed to see how they interacted with pupils. At the end of the day, the panel members would meet with the principal and a decision was made based on their collective inputs. In adopting this vigorous and time-consuming process, he explained that the objective was to secure not just a teacher of physics, but a “master” as well, one who would be a good mentor to his pupils, one who was likely to take an interest in their total growth, had a way of drawing pupils to him and was a complete person himself. If the lot fell on one with a higher post-graduate qualification from a prestigious university, then it was a bonus. In my time, I found many non-graduate teachers who made excellent teachers because they had a way of working themselves into the lives of their pupils. Their pupils, invariably, did well in the subjects they taught. They bore a personality that appealed to youth and with whom their pupils were able to relate.
I will not discount the importance of effective pedagogic skills, a passion for the subject and mastery of content. These, however, can be acquired through training, upgrading, experience on the job and observation of good teachers. They come on the job and in time. In my assessment, what decides the quality of the final and pertinent outcome is the closeness, the extent of human warmth and the rapport between the teacher and his or her pupils. We have neighbourhood schools doing well, in some cases outdoing the more established ones. I dare say that the secret must lie in their paying equal attention to the pastoral and emotional needs of their charges, knowing fully well that this will serve to motivate them to learn, especially if they come from less-advantaged backgrounds. Evidence emerged from the studies of a number of effective and high-achieving schools in the United States and the United Kingdom that they all revealed correlates of a close rapport between teachers and pupils and a strong pupil welfare programme. Teachers believed that they could make a difference to their pupils and pupils believed that their teachers could do so.
In citing the University College School’s model, there was no suggestion that we adopt it. When thousands are likely to be involved, the interview process could become too tedious and long drawn out. It was to simply make the point that we need to have an image of the person we want to bring on board. If the number responding turns out to be large, we could have a number of panels, with each briefed on what to look out for.
No doubt, the net has to be cast wide in order to rein in the numbers but it is at the initial recruitment point that greater care must be taken to separate the sheep from the goats, so as to minimize errors in judgement. It may be easier to recruit than to dismiss later. Knowing what to look out for, even if the task proves tedious, will eliminate the heartache in releasing those who fail to make the cut and may be more cost-effective, in the long term.
The era of massive physical expansion and infrastructural investment are over. We are in the phase of enhancing quality. All schools are set to go single session. Independent and autonomous schools dot the landscape. Pedagogic innovation is encouraged and supported. Teacher recruitment is to be stepped-up. The base academic entry point is to be raised. The critical issue to achieve maximum quality, it has been acknowledged, lies with the quality of the teaching force. Taking on board those who can be identified with a real zest and passion for teaching, those who can inspire others and command respect will make a major difference. In this connection, it may pay to visit the address of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew when he spoke to principals in 1966, especially in the context of a nation-building Singapore. In it, he talks of teachers who cared, who took a personal interest in their charges and cited other traits of good teachers.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
It's the first time we've broadcast the talkshow on a weekend, and the first time we've had a live broadcast in the afternoon from noon to 2pm! So off we went, carting our furniture to Hall 601 at Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Centre where the first-ever Asian Investment Conference & Exhibition 2009 was held.
Organised by the Securities Investors Association of Singapore, the two-day event wooed an endless stream of visitors, some of whom gathered to watch me at work conversing with my guests. The Living Room was proud to be part of the action where I engaged experts on issues that would have easily made a non-investor feeling totally inadequate discussing - investments and investment instruments. We spoke about investment strategies, equity markets, ETFs, shipping trusts and more. Among my guests were the CEO of Bursa Malaysia Berhad, Dato Yusli Mohamed Yusoff and Vice President of OCBC Bank's Wealth Management Unit, Vasu Menon.
Feel free to come by and catch The Living Room when we next broadcast it from outside our studios at Caldecott Broadcast Centre. See you in the audience soon!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Today, it wasn't so much where they came from, but the span of ages. Our youngest visitor today was 11-year-old Matthew Supramaniam (above: seated on the right in the photo) and the oldest was Jolly Wee, who's 82 years old.
Matthew is a primary 5 student Anglo Chinese School (Junior) and was on the programme with fellow ACS(J) String Orchestra member Chester Tan who's in Primary 6. They were accompanied by senior teacher Benedict Tan. The students are possibly the first primary school students to be playing with the members of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at a concert next Thursday, 23rd July, 7.30pm at the Victoria Concert Hall. This will be for the benefit of the school's Arts Alive Fund. Chester wants to have you know that the boys are feeling excited and only 'just a little nervous' performing on stage with the professionals of the SSO. The Best Is Yet To Be! If you want to catch the young musicians in concert with the SSO, please call 6733-7911 to purchase your tickets (between $50 and $500).
If you're more attracted by Peranakan cuisine, get set to book your place at one or both of the culinary workshops conducted by Baba Chef, Jolly Wee during this year's Singapore Food Festival. Jolly together with his 22-year-old grand daughter Cheryl Wee will be conducting a dessert-making workshop, Sweets for the Sweet, next Monday afternoon, 20th July, 2.30pm - 4.30pm. If you've got a sweet tooth for Kueh Dadar, Apom Bokwa, Apom Balek and pulot Hitam, click here to sign up for the workshop listed under 'Culinary Workshops'. If your preference is to learn how to prepare Nonya Laksa, Kueh Pie Tee and Poh Piah, jolly good! There's another cooking demonstration and workshop, One Dish Meals, that you might want to attend next Wednesday morning.
There's no lack of options what you can do next week. The choice is yours whether you're 11 or eighty-two and into music or food.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Dr Huang who's clinical psychologist and professor at Northwestern University 's Feinberg School of Medicine in Illionois, Chicago, puts it down to passion, psychological intimacy and commitment in ensuring an enduring marriage and one that can witness a fairy tale ending with a "happily ever after".
In A Nutshell, here are
Dr Huang's thoughts on
"Intimacy in Marriage".
Q: What is the most common warped impression of how marriages are kept alive?
A: That love is a feeling and 'you' are responsible for 'my' happiness. If you make me happy, I love you. If you don't make me happy, I punish you.
Q: What is over-rated in marriage?
A: That our spouse meetd all our needs and we live happily ever after.
Q: What is under-rated in a marital relationship?
A: That marriage can help us grow and develop into a better person.
Q: If Banana Boat soothes sun burnt skin and Panadol treats headaches, what will treat conflicts and promote reconciliation in marriage?
A: One (word or gesture of) appreciation a day. Always scan for positive efforts and intention. Remember that 'relationship' is more important than 'efficiency' or 'perfection'.
Q: I would tell couples who're struggling in their marriages to...
A: ...keep learning and loving. If you are willing to do so, there's hope.
Q: Marriage is...
A: ...a crisis made up of (i) danger and (ii) opportunity to grow, learn and be happier.