Thursday, July 30, 2009


Sudoku Masters 2009! You may have heard the trailers on all radio stations. Well, that's a nationwide competition organised by MediaCorp Radio and as DJs, we have to roll up our sleeves & help facilitate these competitions at shopping malls or schools.

Well, I was activated today for duty at Gan Eng Seng Secondary after I got off-air. I must admit I was a little jittery as I've never played Sudoku before. What if I screw up with the instructions? *gasp*

Thank goodness my best friend forwarded a Dummy's Guide link to me and I did a Sudoku crash course while chowing down my lunch. Then it was off to GESS with my colleague, Wei Yao [picured below, left].

Some sweet boys from Gan Eng Seng helped us carry packets of Marigold drinks up to the 4th floor computer labs.

Because of H1N1, many schools postponed on us - including RGS, which I was supposed to host last month. So it was great that we were able to do the Sudoku challenge in an air-conditioned computer lab today. I hear students have not been allowed to congregate in enclosed aircon spaces till now!

As I was a teacher before, the school environment is all very familiar to me. I realise today I kinda miss being among teenagers. But hey, I love my job at 938LIVE, so I'm not complaining! *grin*

The GESSians were really well-behaved. And even though there were oral exams next door, we managed to herd 50 of them from the 4th to 2nd floor to take a group photo after, without much of a fuss!

Taking up the Sudoku Masters challenge is Gan Eng Seng Secondary. We'll see you in the finals on 23 Aug @ Central!

Although I do feel sian about having extra off-air duties sometimes, I do enjoy meeting & working with colleagues from other departments within MediaCorp. And it is refreshing to get out of The Living Room once in a while and be in touch with people & communities other than our guests. And hey, I finally learnt how to play Sudoku! *grin*

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Theatre Review: SING Dollar!

Amidst a heavyweighted cast of theatre veterans, kudos to Najip Ali for turning in a brilliant performance at the show. He stole the show in the first half when he played hotel chambermaid Sa'adiah. With mop and pail in hand and decked in a baju kebaya and donning a tudung, Najip came alive like a butterfly out of the pupa stage in his song and dance routine, 'Keeping It Clean'. It wasn't the same Najip who hosted Asia Bagus on Channel 5 years ago. In recent times, Najip had retreated behind the screen and stage to take on director-producer roles. Not that he wasn't good back there, but what was he thinking?! Audiences were thrilled by his performance and showed it in their thunderous applause after his act.

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.

The first half seemed forever. A chat with a friend at intermission confirmed it. The plot was shallow and the scenes were very 'Malaysian gantry', i.e. Touch-n-Go. Character development didn't seem necessary; it's like having 8 starter dishes in the first half without ever being served the main course.

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

A Tribute to the Late Yasmin Ahmad

Join us for a special tribute to the late Malaysian film director Yasmin Ahmad
as we replay excerpts from our chat with her in The Living Room in April.

Wed 29 July
10.40am & 10.40pm

Don't miss it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Building Bhutan: The SIF Way

The Kingdom of Bhutan is breathtakingly beautiful, and for many centuries, has been isolated from the rest of the world. But with the fingers of tourism creeping into its social fabric, its people are desiring to keep up - in particular, to jump on the IT bandwagon & hit the Internet highway.

I feel proud that as Singaporeans, we have a lot to offer in terms of sharing knowledge, skills & resources. And thanks to the Singapore International Foundation (SIF), Bhutanese teacher-trainees now get the opportunity to learn from our volunteers.

We had the pleasure of chatting with two Bhutanese teacher-educators, Karma Galey (Samtse College of Education) and Ugyen Wangchuk (Paro College of Education) today. I must say I was very impressed by their spoken English! I've never met anyone from Bhutan before, and so relished the idea of discovering more about their culture.

We're told that college students in Bhutan are so hungry to learn that their computer labs on campus are open 24 hours. In fact, they have no qualms about queuing up to use the computers in the wee hours of the morning!

There's so much that can be done for the Bhutanese, like equipping their teachers so that they can in turn equip the students. And the ripple effect will be tremendous: Youths make up 45% of Bhutan's population, so you can imagine how their social fabric will be gradually transformed!

Tam Peck Hoon, Manager at SIF, joined us today to tell us more about the NGO's work in Bhutan. What struck me about what Peck Hoon said was that for every computer that foreign organisations donate to Bhutan, a new one gets replaced by their government when it becomes obsolete. So their leaders are taking ownership and taking over.

Our friends from Bhutan Karma & Ugyen, together with SIF manager, Peck Hoon.

It's wonderful that in The Living Room, we have friends from all over the world warm our couch. Sure, it may not be the same as chatting with locals at a tea house 3,000m above sea level, but it sure comes close.

As an aside...

Stan & I were given new flat-screen monitors at work! *woohoo* This has freed up so much space that I can actually see my desk! I was so inspired that I springcleaned my table that very afternoon! *grin*

My desk looks pretty decent now. So Stan.... when are you levelling your moutain? Or shall I take a snapshot of your desk and post it on our blog? *evil cackle*

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fasting for Funds. Fighting for Funds.

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.

Yes, there is a Global Food Crisis, and 900 million people are chronically hungry around the world. Every day, 25,000 children die from hunger and preventable diseases.

This is the 5th year Sky is participating in this fundraiser. And for 3 consecutive years, she's been among the top 25 fundraisers in Australia, and the National Top Individual Fundraiser in 2006.

Believe it or not, she started out aiming to raise A$300 from her first fast, but she was challenged by dad Chia Ming Chien - who was also my guest today - to simply go out on a limb and ASK. He gave her a list of his close friends' contacts, and Sky took the initiative to email them and explain to them what she was doing for World Vision.

"That's the biggest lesson I've learnt," Sky says in retrospect. "People generally want to help. All you need to do is to ask." That first year, she raised A$3,000.

Well, if you'd like to support Sky in this year's 40 Hour Famine (21-23 Aug), you can pledge your donations here. Click on DONATE and you'll be prompted to key in a Famine Number. Simply type in 670852581. Or if you'd like to send her your well wishes, email her at sky.chia3@hotmail.

18-year-old Sky Chia embarks on a 40 Hour Famine. Supporting her endeavour is dad, Chia Ming Chien.

This year, Sky will not only go without food for 40 hours, she will also bake cookies & cakes to raise additional funds. On top of that, she will go without her voice. Complete silence. Tall order for a teenage girl, won't you say? She targets to raise A$2,000 this year.

Divorce rates are rising in Singapore. And one of the problems we're facing is the enforcement of maintenance order, i.e. when the Paying Party defaults on payment and the victim has to chase.

Li-Ann, a single mum with an 11-year-old boy, shared that each time that happens, she has to turn to the Family court, make a report, fill up forms and prove that her ex-husband has not paid. They would then have to go before the judge. The process often takes over a month. Sometimes, before the arrears is settled, she's back in court again filing for another breach. Since Dec 2005, she has been in & out of court over 15 times.

Providing us with the breadth and depth of the issue were Laura Hwang, Chairperson of the Taskforce for Improving the Enforcement of Maintenance Order & 2nd Vice-President of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO); Wee Wan Joo, also a member of the Taskforce & immediate past President of SCWO; and social worker Azita Abdul Aziz, Centre Director of As-Salaam PPIS Family Support Centre.

It was a very eye-opening, informative chat and I realise now just how the current system puts the burden squarely on the shoulders of the victim. This should not be the case. After studying other jurisdictions in Britain and Australia, the task force will present their proposed structure and recommendations at a forum next Monday. For details, click here.

Maintaining the Family: Forum on Improving the Enforcement of Maintenance Orders
Mon, 27 July
10am - 2pm
Singapore Management University
Conference Hall 1 (Level 5)
Administration Building @ 81 Victoria Street

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Changing the World... Through Books.

10 years so, at 35, he left a cushy job in Microsoft to change the world. Every idealistic young activist has a strategy to do this. And for John Wood, it was through bringing books, books, books to as many children in the developing world as he could!

It started out as a dream to bring books to kids in the developing world...

That dream spawned the setting up of an organisation called Room to Read - which is one the fastest-growing non-profits in history. Its presence is currently in 9 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, South Africa & Zambia.

To date, it has established more than 750 schools and 7,000 multi-lingual libraries across the developing world. It has distributed over 5 million children's books in multiple languages and supports early 7,000 girls with long-term scholarships. And counting..... John says he plans to open 20,000 libraries and schools, serving at least 10 million children, by 2020.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Meade ~

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.

"We had dedicated 8 servers to manage the online donations that we expected would stream in. But within minutes, all 8 servers had to be rebooted!" John shares with an incredulous chuckle. "From Oprah's viewers alone, we raised US$1 million!"

John Wood, Founder & Executive Chairman of Room to Read, in The Living Room!

Well, we may not be The Oprah Winfrey Show, and we may not be able to help John raise US$1 million through one airing of The Living Room, but you can't fault us for trying! *grin* So if you're prompted to make a donation, click here now.

GOOD NEWS! You can catch that episode of John Wood as a guest on Oprah's show on the 3 & 4 Aug @ Hallmark Channel.

Or if you want to read his bestselling book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children, it's available in all major bookstores. It's been translated into 18 languages.

When I first met John Wood and shook his hand across the Conty counter, I wasn't aware I was in the presence of such a phenomenal man. He's such a warm, easy-going guy! I feel honoured indeed to have met & chatted with him. Sometimes, I can't believe I get paid to do this!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Passion, Education... and Confusion!

When someone is passionate, you immediately sense it. And that was what I experienced from Oliver Goh, one of 10 recipients of this year's EcoFriend Awards, organised by the National Environment Agency. He's 24, and an environmental engineering undergrad from NTU, but his vast knowledge and his quiet maturity really impressed me.

He's also a recipient of the National Youth Achievement Award (Gold) for his environmental work. Listening to him share about his desire to better the water & sanitation conditions for developing countries, and also the sacrifices he's had to make (he was an avid sportsman in dragonboating & judo) for this passion, made me conclude: "This environmental champion will one day be a Nominated Member of Parliament!"

Doesn't he remind you of a younger version of Teo Ser Luck? *wink*

Green Ambassadors: EcoFriend Award winners Oliver Goh and Lee Wanli.

Also, our guest today was Lee Wanli, who sits on the Youth Executive Committee at Ci Yuan Community Centre. She's also an undergrad from NTU, pursuing a business degree. And with a specialisation in marketing, it's her desire to be create platforms for people to contribute. And that's exactly what she did - with National Youth EnvirOlympics.

What impressed Stan & I was that Oliver brought us a book. According to Stan (who has been doing The Living Room since 2002), it's the first time a guest has gifted us with a book that he/she did not write, or is not a review copy from a publisher. The book is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. And Oliver gave it to us because it made a difference to him. He even scribbled a handwritten note inside.

Today, we also found out about a new specialised independent school that will open its doors in January 2010. Its focus: Creating thinkers, innovators & entrepreneurs. Well, the institution is called School of Science and Technology and the man at the helm is Principal Chua Chor Huat.

To be frank, he isn't a fiery, dynamic speaker. His responses were always measured. But here's a man with a vision. Anyone would be overwhelmed if tasked with setting the direction for such a school, and creating a curriculum that equips students to solve real-world economic problems of the 21st century! But he takes everything in his stride.

Well, we wish him all the best! And I'm personally looking forward to seeing what SST has to offer...

After getting off-air, Stan & I joined some colleagues for a quick lunch at Novena Square. Then it's back to the office at 2pm for a Protools 101 Workshop!

Yes, besides reading the news bulletin and producing & presenting The Living Room, we have to produce trailers as well. And Protools is a supposedly comprehensive programme that allows you to layer Voice-Overs (VOs), audio files and special effects to create the cool trailers you hear on air. Awesome!

Instead of relying in our tech-savvy interns, we decided we'd try our best to master Protools ourselves. I was excited & ready to roll! Bring it on!

Before the Protools 1o1 Workshop: Janice (Body & Soul), Stan & me...

This is a picture we took before the workshop - which was also attended by DJs from our sister stations Class 95, 987FM, Gold 90.5, Symphony 92.4 etc. I must say Stan's expression totally cracked me up! *chuckle*

But after the Protools workshop, I have only one thing to say: I totally identify with Stan's expression...

The tech stuff went way over our heads. And about 10 mins into the workshop, I knew I'd still need my interns...... Can someone please organise a Pre-101 course for us? Pretty please??? *sob*

And you thought being a producer-presenter was easy, didn't you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taking on a World Champion!

No guy would hold his head up high and admit losing to a woman. It just won't do for a man's ego. So you'd probably find my confession a rarity. "I'm happy to lose to a woman!"

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.

The Singapore Polytechnic graduate is awaiting the commencement of her first semester in university next month and while doing an internship of sorts, Jasmine's been training hard on the lanes for the 2009 World Tenpin Bowling Association World Women's Championships that will be commence this Saturday, 25th July till 3rd March in Las Vegas, USA. We wish Jasmine and her team mates Jezreel, Cherie, Bernice, Shayna and Geraldine strings of strikes at the tournament.

Stan challenges World Champion Jasmine Yeong-Nathan to a friendly game.

"The Living Room" is proud to be the first ever media to feature the much-fancied bowler and have the guts to roll off against the world champion. Pamela and I are always on the prowl for fresher ways of presenting our talkshow and we're literally trying to put ourselves where our mouths are. That would mean taking the show out on location, to have our interviewees in their 'natural' environment (we're not just talking chimpanzees!) and physically involving ourselves in what we talk about. The best ambassadors of any cause would be those who go beyond the 'talking' and get into the 'doing'.

We take The Living Room onsite to Singapore Polytechnic Graduates' Guild.

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.

Sportswoman of the Year, Jasmine Yeong-Nathan. What a gem of a girl!
Yes! We actually went to buy the glutionous rice balls with peanut and sesame fillings that Jasmine had recommended that would be in the vincinty of the polytechnic's campus. Mmm...
Her recommendation and ours:
Ah Balling Peanut Soup
(Blk 20, #01-43, Ghim Moh Market)

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Guest - The Rafflesian Spirit

He may be retired and no longer on their payroll nor captain of the ship, but if ever he sees the boys in white misbehaving in public or with their shirts tucked out while still in uniform at the bus stop, he'd stop his car, get out and give them a stern talking to. That's the decorum and standards becoming of a boy from Raffles Institution and that is the expectation of former principal and teacher of RI, Eugene Wijeysingha.

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.

Identifying Potentially Effective Teachers

The following letter titled "Identifying Potentially Effective Teachers" was penned by Mr Eugene Wijeysingha, veteran educationist and former principal of Raffles Institution. He had intended the letter for publication when he sent it to Singapore's main English daily. However it was never published, much to his dismay. The Living Room on 938LIVE is therefore proud to be the first media to publish Mr Wijeysingha's letter regarding his concern for the identification of good teachers for our students today, who will be leaders of tomorrow.


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

Investing A Saturday Afternoon

Two milestones were set today and I'm happy to have been involved in these 'firsts' in the history of The Living Room!

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

11 & 82-Year Olds

I was speaking in jest with a guest in The Living Room just the other day about not having a job that allows me to travel the world. He shot back, "But you have the world coming through The Living Room!". That was fresh perspective I thought! I get to 'travel' the world through my guests who come from down the road to as far flung as Romania and Jamaica.

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

In A Nutshell: "Intimacy in Marriage"

I was brought to remembrance "Love & Marriage" sung by Frank Sinatra's during this morning's chat with Dr Huang Wei-Jen. In marriage, it sometimes seems like it's the spouse pulling the carriage and that's when things start to break down. There was much insight to Dr Huang's sharing on marriage and and how each party's expectatations, desires, interpretations and reactions in marriage is hugely complex. The analogy of marriage being like a dance was beautiful. How synchronisation is everything! Yet, how many times have you and/or your spouse fallen out of step, throwing the other off.

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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Believe That Children Are Our Future!

Way before I was a radio DJ (for want of a better word)... yes, even way, way before I was Deputy Editor of a magazine... I was a teacher in a secondary school.

For 3 years, I taught English & Geography to Upper Secondary School kids. I was also a Prefects Mistress, teacher i/c of Boys Brigade, and a Form teacher to 3 batches of students before I left to further my studies.

And then, I went back to school again after completing my Masters degree in Psychology. I became a school counsellor at my alma mater. Back among teens - where I feel most at home.

So in many ways, today's conversations struck a chord with me. The Necessary Stage (TNS) is putting up a play called Talentime, which targets teenagers, aged 13-16. Director Alvin Tan (whose also Artistic Director of TNS) tells us that they've opted to use Forum Theatre to engage these teens.

What's Forum Theatre?
Forum theatre was developed in the early 1970's by Brazilian director Augusto Boal. Boal believed that theatre could serve as a forum for teaching people the strategies they needed to change their world.

Cast members Karen Tan and Andrew Lua explain to us that after acting out a 10-minute skit - featuring a teenage girl who makes all the wrong choices - they then replay the skit, inviting the teen audience to come forward & role-play what they think she should've done.

In so doing, they process the issues themselves, and seek to find better solutions to problems. Therapy through theatre? *ponders* Maybe, maybe. I wish I had this creative tool to engage my students back when I was a teacher & school counsellor. It sure beats imparting a boring Moral Education lesson!

Tasked to engage & transform teens through the power of Forum Theatre. TNS' Director Alvin Tan, with Andrew Lua and Karen Tan.

I must admit that throughout the interview, I kept thinking "Where have I seen Andrew before?" He looked so darn familiar... But somehow, I just couldn't place him.

Until after the interview, when we were chatting briefly outside the studio, it suddenly hit me. OMG, he's the Starhub man! *chuckles*

Remember that TV commercial where a bewildered wife faints upon seeing three of her husband dash out to do a silly celebratory dance in front of the TV, when a goal is scored?

Well, that's him! He's the Starhub man! After my mini epiphany, I just had to take a photo with Andrew. Hey, I'm a fan girl! *grin*

Anyway, back to youth. Today, we also chatted with 3 undergrads from the Singapore Management University about their charity involvement.

Irene Ong, Justin Chan and Jerome Tang [pictured] are each heading a different Community Service project at SMU. And it was heartwarming for me to hear them share with such passion and conviction.

What I love about SMU is that they do not only look into the academic development of each student, but also their overall development - right down to instilling compassion and encouraging contribution. That's true education for you.

Also joining them was Theodore Teo, Assistant Director of the Office of Career Services at SMU [pictured, in orange]. Outside of work, he's also Vice-Chair of an organisation that shares best practices for international volunteerism. So this is a man who walks his talk!

Theodore really impressed Stan & me because he actually lugged a 12kg foldable bicycle into the studio. After our chat, he was planning to cycle to an appointment in town. He tells us that he used to ride a motorbike, but because it didn't do much to save the environment, he's resorted to cycling everywhere. Now that's another conversation for another time!

Oh, what inspirational & spirit-lifting conversations for a mid-week morning!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Of CosPlayers & Clubbers for Cause!

Her name is Fazylah, but you can call her Fuzzy. She holds a Masters degree in English Literature from the National University of Singapore. Clad in traditional baju kurong and looking every bit the intellectual in her glasses, it's hard to imagine this soft spoken young lady is a CosPlayer.

In the fascinating fictional world of CosPlay ("Costume Play"), Fazylah is known as Fuzzylogic. And there's no doubt this girl takes great pride in her hobby - or shall I say, craft.

I was intrigued when she revealed how she researches her various characters, takes great pains to sew her own costumes so that they match the characters' to the minutest detail, then suits up and takes on the persona of these manga & anime characters.

Is it a form of escapism from reality? "Maybe at the beginning," she admits. "But there's so much more to CosPlay than just costumes. It's a whole array of skills you pick up if you do this well."

I couldn't for the life of me imagine how Fazylah would look like as a Cosplayer, so I handed her my name-card after our chat and begged her to send over some photos. Well, she did. So Feast Your Eyes.

pic 1: (white coat, black braid)
character name: Unohana
series title: Bleach

pic 2: (pink hair, black dress)
character name: lacus clyne
series title: Gundam Seed Destiny: Final Plus

pic 3: (blue hair, red jacket)
character name: Misato Katsuragi
series title: Neon Genesis Evangelion

pic 4: (couple shot)
character names (from left): Lacus Clyne, Athrun Zala
series title: Gundam Seed

Well, if you'd like a glimpse into the world of CosPlay and would like to rub shoulders with fictional manga & anime characters, head down to D'Marquee @ Downtown East this weekend for CosFest VIII. You'll be treated to a real visual spectacle! *wink*

Also causing quite a stir in The Living Room today was another lady by the name of Kendra. She's a 6-year-old Labrador who also happens to have a pretty cool job. She's a Guide Dog!

Although there were some concerns about bringing a dog into the studio, Kendra was one of the most well-behaved & endearing guests we've had. She made sure her master Kua Cheng Hock - who incidentally is the Honorary Secretary of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Singapore - was always within sight. She gets stressed if he isn't!

Did you know that Guide Dogs have free access to all public areas? Wherever we can go, they can! And they're so well trained, they're allowed to move around freely without muzzles.

The problem though is that the general public is still very much unaware. They see Guide Dogs as "pets", and so Cheng Hock has been turned away from restaurants & other public areas countless times. I can sense his indignation, and I hope our chat today managed to help raise awareness for Guide Dogs and their rights in Singapore.

Clubbing For Cause, in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind Singapore:
[L to R] Kua Cheng Hock, Edvarcl Heng, Samuel Seow.

I'm touched that a group of young Singaporeans are changing the way charities are funded. Through an initiative called Clubbing for Cause (CFC), they're resorting to an innovative concept called "incidental charity" to help raise funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind Singapore

Edvarcl Heng and Samuel Seow from CFC came down today to explain to us how incidental charity works. For example, we know how young people enjoy clubbing. WHAT IF 100% of the ticket price of an event is channelled to charity? What happens is that these clubbers incidentally aid in charity by simply partying! I like what Sam said, "Fun & philanthropy need not be mutually exclusive."

These guys challenged me to think out-of-the-box. I've been involved in NGO work for years and funding has always been a challenge. These guys also shared how their entire marketing campaign is done through social networking sites like Facebook & Twitter. Food for thought indeed, especially in these tough economic times.

And if you were one of those who called in during our Ready-2-Go Travel Kit interview, I'm sorry I couldn't take your calls due to time constraint. But I'm providing the info & links here! *wink*

Trusling Communications has come up with a telco travel kit that includes an overseas SIM card + forwarding card so that you can now save on your overseas phone bills by as much as 85%!

Founders William Soo and Jenny Yiu came by to tell us more. If you missed the chat, you can get the details here. I'll be heading up to Bali for a friend's wedding next weekend and was excited to purchase a kit. But alas, there's none for Indonesia yet.. *pout* "Soon!" William promises. I'm crossing my fingers!