My thoughts on education and defence

The past few days had been an exciting time for me. Watching videos of rallies and reading TOC’s live news feed on Facebook had been an interesting experience. Many issues had been raised about the failure of the incumbent, but few suggestions had been made; where suggestions were given, I think we should applaud them and then think it through to see if we can improve on them.

One of the suggestions more close to my heart is about the education sector. The members from the SDP suggested to halve the class size so we can engage students better. I agree, but somehow I seemed to have heard that from the PAP some years before. I vaguely remember it being one of PAP’s points, together with the push to have a full graduates only teaching force. So this idea isn’t original is it? I might be wrong as memory fails me sometimes; maybe I thought of the idea myself?

The idea is great but what I want to know is how to do it. I would be reading their manifesto when I have the time to, but I think rallies are a good chance to explain ideas. Rallies are like marketing. It’s time to market your ideas. At this moment, I see a very nice looking Ayase Haruka holding the SK II bottle. Time to explain why SK II is the best.

In my opinion the situation is tricky and it is simplistic to suggest the halving of class sizes without going deep to find the problems plaguing the industry. On the top of my mind, I can already identify a few problems. Inability to attract teachers to join the education sector would render the proposal moot. This arises from the inability to provide excellent working conditions with factors like long hours, high workload, ccas and external events to manage like school’s anniversary dinner etc.

The pay of a teacher is quite desirable actually in terms of it’s numbers. A 2nd lower class honors graduate can command about $3,400 per month. That’s respectable as opposed to the average of $3000 for a typical engineering graduate. But after considering the workload and time spent on the job, the money doesn’t seem so attractive after all.

It is easy to talk ideas without going in depth. Nobody in Singapore has managed to solve this problem properly, including the incumbent.

What we need is passionate people to serve in the civil service. For this blog entry I would just talk generally for the education and defense sector. Passionate people who want to make a difference. People willing to work from ground up, identifying problems and solving them.

The sad thing is that such people are few and far between. The culture of Singapore is such that the civil service is viewed as inefficient and ineffective, never mind that we are ranked highly. People see no future in the civil service, that the private sector is efficient and has better prospects. How often have we heard people saying that civil servants are people who cannot survive in the private sector. This stereotype has propagated from parents to children and it became a reality for them, even though in actual fact it is not. As such talents end up joining the private sector, and people who are left behind take up civil service jobs as the last resort. If this is allowed to continue, our education and defense industry will not improve.

In reality are those bias raised above valid. Is it true that civil servants cannot survive in the private sector? Perhaps but it is something made true after many years of bias. If you have the bottom of each cohort joining the civil service, how can you expect them to win you if they joined the private sector? The reality is this: ineffective and inefficient people are everywhere in each company whether private or public. Whether it is from the civil service or not. Prospect also depends on whether your boss values you. Does it mean that private sector bosses are more well trained in the art of managing employees? No.

So to the many passionate people out there trying to make a difference in politics: if you are young, why not take the civil service route and change things from within. Gain some experience working in the civil service and you may gain an additional perspective in how you view and perceive policies. We do need passionate and talented people to change everything, before we can successfully hire more quality teachers and halve the class size. Or trim the fat cats in SAF, which is what I read in a comment on Facebook.

Solve these problems first, before talking about crazy ideas like free education. You already need double the budget to hire double the teachers and build double the schools existing infrastructure. Where would you get money for free education? Food for thought.

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