I Not Stupid (小孩不笨)

 Finnish System, As Told By A Senior Finnish Educator

I had a chance meeting in London with a Finnish gentleman who is in charge of Finland’s Mathematics curriculum. I had read about Finland’s education system. I had referred to it in one of my blog posts. A Singaporean living in Finland read my post and then contributed a comprehensive article comparing our education system with Finland’s.

Despite what I already knew, it was useful to be able to clarify my knowledge of the system with someone who is actively implementing it. He shared the following:

(1) There is only one curriculum, for both fast and slow learners. Unlike our system with many branching points into different academic streams and school types, Finland has only one system and one curriculum for all.

(2) Students of mixed abilities are put into the same class. This is deliberate because they do not want students to be labelled. He said, “otherwise, later in their lives, they would remember that they were branded as ‘no-good’.”

Teachers learnt to deal with the situation. He said, sometimes a teacher aide or another teacher will be there to help the slower students. It does call for a more creative way to organise the classroom to deal with this. Teachers have great empowerment to organise their classrooms and to make individual learning plans for each student. (An internet article quoted Finland’s Minister for Education stating that the average class size for all grades is 21 students. Every teacher must have a Masters qualification. The teaching profession is highly respected.)

(3) At age 16, when students finish basic education, there is NO national examinations. The results from schools are used for entering into academic track or a vocational track.

(4) Finland acknowledges that they only have people (5 million of them) and trees, with no oil and other natural resources. So they believe that education is very important for their economy to keep competitive.

(5) For the system to work, it had to get the support of the community and parents. Everyone must ‘buy-into’ the system and make it work, and they have. (A Finnish resident told me the system is a WON -Whole Of Nation approach. Parents do take active involvement in the lives, thoughts and well-being of their children.)

Despite going against the conventional practices of many other countries, we see that Finland is able to produce top scores in international tests, as well as create globally competitive companies (think Nokia, Angry Birds).

Bottom-Friendly Versus Top-Conscious

What struck me the most in that conversation was the concern that those at the bottom will feel that they are no good. The labelling may destroy their self-worth. I thought to myself that this is a very gentle system.

While Singapore also provide good physical and teaching resources to the academically less abled, such as good facilities in the ITEs, the philosophy behind our system and Finland’s are poles apart. We have a competitive system that consciously sieve out students based on examination scores at regular intervals. We pick up the top to set students apart so we can push them with more challenging curriculum. We select the gifted at 9 years old. We classify students by subject ability at 10 years old. Then comes the PSLE at 12 years old, which is essentially a big sorting exercise. We now have Integrated Programme (IP) schools, Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools and regular schools that offer Express stream, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams. Even amongst these regular schools, years of school branding and ranking exercises have moved schools into bands according to their Cut-off Point based on PSLE T-Score.

From an organisational point of view, sorting out students allows curriculum to be more targeted and resources to be channelled more efficiently. However, it creates a highly stressed and competitive society where tuition is the norm. The academic score of the student determines greatly what will happen to the child: the type of schools, the choice of academic streams and even to some extent, the career opportunities. Those at the top can choose from a good range of scholarships, which then determine their career paths. These sort of pressures are applied to children from a young age, often before they can fully appreciate the importance of doing well in examinations.

Does such a system create disparate talent ponds? If so, where will this lead us to?

Handling The Academically Weaker Students

The announcement of the setting up of the two new specialised Normal (Technical)-only schools has set me thinking. Will this lead to further segregation of the top and bottom?

I tried to understand the reasons behind these specialsed schools. I spoke with several Normal (Technical) teachers and former students about the challenges of being in this stream. The teachers explain that there are only 1 or 2 Normal (Technical) classes per level in a school. So there is little pooling of resources unlike in the Express stream where there can be 4 to 6 classes per level. So when it comes to setting examination papers, the Normal (Technical) teacher has to set them, while in the Express stream, teachers can take turn to set the papers. With the specialised schools, this wouldn’t be a problem.

There can also be facilities to focus on the technical nature of the courses in the specialised schools otherwise not available to regular schools. A teacher told me that some schools are not even able to offer the Design & Technology subject for Normal (Technical) students due to insufficient teachers and lack of workshops. Some Normal (Technical) students may be interested or gifted in performing or visual art but the school does not have the facilities nor expertise to cater to the students. While I do not have details of the programmes that will run in the specialised schools, it may now be possible for these schools to offer specialty courses.

This sounds logical and good. I feel the downside will be the congregation of all the students with weaker abilites. There is the lack of role models for the students to look to. There will not be higher academic scoring students in the school for the lower scoring students to aspire to emulate or compete against. Will there be strong negative influence if some are involved in gangs or are not motivated to study? Will these specialised schools suffer from negative labeling by the public?

Some of the students come from challenging family backgrounds and some are involved in gangs as early as in primary schools. An entire gang may now move from the primary school into the same secondary school, which may create challenges to the management.

Northlight school has been cited as an example of how putting low academic ability students together had helped. I have had the privilege of visiting Northlight several times since its formation. I had also interacted with its students through running a short programme there once, and another time with Assumption Pathway school. I saw two types of students in these schools; one with genuine learning disability and another who may be bright but lacked motivation to study due to family background, gangs or other reasons.

From my viewpoint as an observer, I consider Northlight to be a success. I saw cases of genuine turnaround for some of the challenging students. In my opinion, Northlight succeeded for two main reasons (there may be other reasons).

Firstly, I saw it had a motivated and nurturing team. Teachers opted to be transferred to the school knowing full well the challenges they will face. There were more teachers wanting to teach at Northlight than there were vacancies. They had to be interviewed to be selected to teach there. It was the first school of its kind then for those who have repeatedly failed PSLE. That motivated teachers who genuinely wanted to change lives. The founding principal, Mrs Chua Yen Ching had a proven record of nurturing students from challenging backgrounds.

Secondly, Northlight started on a clean sheet, unencumbered by expectations of academic passes, existing curriculum, etc. These students had repeatedly failed PSLE. They could not enter any secondary school. The only road for them then was out in the streets. The school could plan the curriculum they felt was appropriate for the students. There were no suitable textbooks to use. Teachers had to develop suitable teaching and learning materials from scratch. The curriculum was tailored to fit the students, instead of rigid alignment to the standard curriculum in mainstream schools

It is not easy to repeat Northlight when you start to replicate with several more specialised Normal (Technical) schools. When we start to expand schools at the lower academic ability levels, it is not easy to find enough principals as well as motivated teachers with the required virtues and calibre for the betterment of these type of students. There will be pressure on the specialised schools to show that they can deliver better academc performance than that achieved by Normal (Technical) students in regular schools. Unlike in Northlight, these specialised schools will follow a national curriculum where there will be academic examinations at the end of 4 years of study. I fear competitive benchmarking may turn these schools to become too results oriented.

I spoke with a friend who was a former Normal (Technical) student. He eventually graduated from the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore. I was intrigued by what turned him around. He was expelled from school at secondary three for behavioural issues. A nurturing teacher counselled him and arranged for him to enter another secondary school. Spurred by the teacher, he found his determination and motivation to study hard, and made it through university. I wonder how many gems like my friend we had lost in our eagerness to filter children according to their abilities. By labeling them early in their lives when some were not ready for examinations, we may have lost some of them for good.

Teachers do make big differences in students’ life. In specialised schools, we will need many teachers like that one that transformed my friend’s life. I hope in meeting performance indicators in the specialised schools, teachers will not forget to nurture the students to grow their self-confidence and create in them the motivation to do well. I hope these specialised schools will be given lots of autonomy like in Northlight to design their own curriculum and execution, and even through train directly to ITEs and polytechnics. This will enable these schools to focus on devloping students rather than to meet examination performance indicators.

Are There Alternatives To The Current Normal (Technical) Scheme Of Things?

I wonder if we can find a way for Normal (Technical) students to continue to be in regular schools, allowing integration of these students with those in the Express and Normal (Academic) stream.

If we do not have specialised schools, then what can we do to improve the situation of Normal (Technical) at regular schools? That was my concern when I posted a supplementary question to Minister of State Lawrence Wong in parliament recently on this issue.

I think the issue of resources can be partly solved by working the existing schools cluster system. There are currently 28 clusters, with 10-15 schools in a cluster, each supervised by a cluster superintendent. While schools do currently have some form of collaboration within a cluster, I found that it is rare, if at all, for schools to set common examination papers. It is also uncommon for students to go to another school to use specalised resources or facilities. How much collaboration takes place within a cluster is left to the schools to decide, and I feel collaboration can be deeper. If regular schools continue to run Normal (Technical) classes, there could be more enforced sharing of resources, including having common examination papers. There could even be sharing of programmes so that courses requiring specialised facilities or teachers can be centralised in one school. Under the current setup, is difficult to expect schools or even the cluster superintendent to initiate this on their own. If this is important, a stronger push by MOE has to take place to make more sharing happen.

Assuming we can plan on a clean sheet, we may then ask if there are alternatives for weaker students other than separating them into the Normal (Technical) stream? Students who are less academically inclined may do better with a modular system, including having examinations done at modular level rather than having high stake examinations. Perhaps we can re-look at the entire approach to see if we still need Normal (Technical), or if we can integrate these students into the Normal (Academic) stream. We would then need to find a way to deal with slower learners, just like what Finnish teachers have to do with weaker students. Besides core subjects, perhaps students can choose electives within the stream and have examinations on a modular basis, like how polytechnics and ITE conduct assessments on students. There can also be some elective modules that are more hands-on in nature or can include performing and visual arts.

Through-Train From Primary to Secondary, Anyone?

Another radical thought is that we may wish to explore an experimental school in which students progress from primary school till secondary 4, skipping the PSLE. Some students mature later, and may not be able to cope with high-stake examination stress at a young age. Not all parents are competitive and wish to have their children go through PSLE for streaming into top schools. Having 10 years of education before the first major examination will also allow the school to try out innovation curriculum without the stresses of preparing students for PSLE.

There are currently government aided schools which already have priority for graduating students to enter into the affiliated secondary school. Some of these aided schools have strong character and values education programmes, being linked with religious organisations or ethnic groups. Some have long operating history with strong school boards and staff. They can have a stronger hand in designing their curriculum at the primary and lower secondary level before focusing students for the O levels.

While this may seem unconventional, many private schools locally and overseas already through-train students from primary to secondary. At the secondary level, students are then prepared for the iGCSE or the IB examinations. Some of these schools do well at international examinations. I had the opportunity to observe the operations of some of these schools.

Finland has a system that progresses a student through from primary to secondary in the same school, and at a much larger national level. It does not have any national examinations. All schools in Finland are equally resourced. Importantly, students are not segregated into different types of schools by academic scores. Even within a school, higher and lower ability students are in the same class. It does take a greater level of skill and planning for teachers to handle such classes, but the task is possible.

I feel such a system deserves deeper thoughts. It will not be easy to immediately implement such a system in Singapore. Perhaps we can start with just one school that is willing to go into such a system. I feel that aided schools are strong candidate for this, if they so wish to. It will also take parents acceptance. I believe there will be sufficient number of parents who will want such a system. I would, if I could.

Towards A More Egalitarian System

If I seemed obsessed with the Finnish system, it is because I am intrigued by how an egalitarian system has worked. The specialised Normal (Technical) schools and the increased number of Integrated Programme schools may just be another gradual step that we have unconsciously taken towards a path of greater elitism in our system.

What is the purpose of education? I believe we want the best out of all our children. Our system has become increasing complicated and focuses a lot on the dichotomy of students. Why has it become so?

Each child has his / her unique talents and abilities. How can a system bring strengths out rather than highlight the child’s weaknesses?

Hence, I believe there must be lessons we can pick up from the Finnish system to see how we can better cater to those who are weaker. I like the Finnish philosophy of not labelling those who are weaker so that they will not feel they are ‘no-good’. It gets the student to say confidently, “I, not stupid” (小孩不笨). Yet, Finland’s system did not seem to disadvantage the stronger ability students as well.

A Normal (Technical) teacher shared with pride how one of his student displayed good leadership skills and made it to become vice president of the school’s students council. It gave the student and his peers tremendous pride to demonstrate that those weaker in academic abilities can exhibit strengths in other areas to compete with those perceived as stronger. If we separate these students from the high academic ability ones, this Normal (Technical) student leader will not have the chance to prove himself against the best.

In fact, I believe that stronger ability students can even learn better by mixing with the lower ability ones, as diversity can make the system stronger. The stronger ability students can learn by helping those who are weaker. They may be strong academically, but I am sure there can be other things the weaker academic ability students can teach them. Those who are weaker academically may exhibit abilities in other areas. It makes for better integration, and I believe it can lead to a more caring and cohesive society in future.

It will require deep thinking and research to see how this can work in Singapore’s context. I believe it will be an important exercise to consciously explore a more egalitarian system which yet will not disadvantage the able.

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Political sacrifice – Fishing for the unwilling

Personal sacrifice for politics is something we hear a lot of these days since the committee report on ministerial pay came up. The word was used many times in the parliament debate.

Dictionary.com gave several definitions of the word. Most relevant is “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”

I touched on it in my speech yesterday because I felt strongly about it. Prime Minister spoke about it, as did various PAP MPs, sharing of sacrifices political office holders must make. I do not doubt the office holders have had to make adjustments. In Singapore, career elites have choices. From their perspective, they surrendered something (a better career, privacy, etc) for the sake of something that has a higher claim, something more noble in the sense that it is serving the nation to keep things going.

But really, that’s what politics is about.  It is the nature of politics all over the world that there will be public scrutiny; there will be challenges balancing family and work; and there will be set-backs such as electoral loss. That’s what I shared in my speech. It is not unique to office holders. In fact, under the current GRC system, political set-backs have been rare (so far).

It was good to hear Mrs Lina Chiam shared about what Mr Chiam See Tong had to go through in his political career in her speech. Ridicule, drastic loss of income and more. There are many other local examples we can name for those on the opposing side. Life is definitely tougher on the other side. No one will say it is greener.

Our early political leaders from the ruling party have had to make lots of sacrifices, something I admire them for. Men like Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam, Lim Kim San, Hon Sui Sen and more perserved through tough times and difficult challenges. They left a legacy and we honour them for what they did. I wrote unashamedly to the newspaper forums when Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam died. Then, I had also shared with my staff by email circular about how we should emulate the spirit embodied by these men.

Times have changed and the ruling party cannot get ‘good’ people to come forth like what these early leaders did. But why is it so difficult now? Is there a lot of sacrifice now? What about the early days when pay was low and challenges were so much more?

Even with the reduced salaries proposed by the review committee or what the Workers’ Party has proposed, the sums are more than decent enough for any one to get by. For some, there may be a loss in income. For others, there will even be an increment.

Really, how much does a person need in life to provide for the family? We are not expecting politicians to scrimp and save and live a Spartan life. Ministers will still be easily within the top 2,000th income earners whichever method you use to compute. That’s 0.1% of the working population, not bad at all. The system has been very fair thus far with political office holders, even after retirement, at least in the past 2 decades. We can see there is market demand for them from government linked companies and in multinationals, and some make it back into government appointments. They get by comfortably.

I had said in my speech that the reluctant will deem issues faced by politicians as sacrifice. We will look back at things lost and view them as sacrifice. But those who aspire to lead will welcome these as challenges to be overcome. I shared about President Barrack Obama in my speech. I read his autobiography when he was still contesting for the Democrat nomination. When he was in Indonesia as a student (9 year-old, I think), he wrote in his essay that his ambition was to be the president of the United States of America. That was a real tough ambition to reach for given his family background and living half the globe away. He took a tough and long road into politics too. He could have been a well-paid lawyer, having graduated from an Ivy League university. He chose instead to work on the ground as a community organiser on a lowly paid salary. I admire his steadfast determination to reach his goal and applauded when he finally reached it. He had an aspiration, he perserved until he reached it.

The trouble is, there are too few in Singapore who aspire to lead. At least there’s too few amongst the type of career elites that the ruling party wish to attract. Why is this so?

I think there are two main reasons:

1. We do not create enough awareness in school about our nation, about our political system, about our leaders and about issues important to our country. We prefer to focus on academic subjects with definitive answers, those at the back of the book. We rather focus on areas that students can score better in. Subjects that require ability to handle ambiguity and debate are shunned.

Youths become disinterested in politics. They see it as something for the elite class. The elite class may feel they need to create more wealth for themselves since they are in a system that enables them to do so easily.

It is important to start them young. Start people thinking about what it takes to keep Singapore going. Whichever political party they may wish to eventually join is fine. The parties are here as part of a properly functioning democracy to keep each other in check. Whoever has the best package for the country will ultimately win.

2. We have created a political system that people feel they can do well in their career and then wait to be headhunted into politics, if at all they are interested. However when they have done well, they may no longer wish to move into the difficult world of politics.

I feel Singapore is being run like a very large company. In a company, we can hire top managers in (though in top private companies, top managers are easily fired too).  In politics, it is not appropriate to do so. Politicians need to be connected to the ground. It is best they work themselves through the system from ground up, win elections, prove they can connect with people and then move up the chain. Selling policies is very important. Hence, if one is connected well with the ground, he/she can sell even the hardest of policies. He/she will be savvy enough to figure how to work the policies subtly through.

In the commercial world, we can sometimes bulldoze things through. It is a free market where people can come and go. A country is different. Non-performing employees can be fired but not citizens. Citizens decide the fate of politicians in a properly functioning democracy. Hence, there can be a disconnect when inexperienced politicians parachuted into the system try to implement policies like they are running a company. They feel uncomfortable dealing with demanding citizens.

We see potential office holders being paraded before each General Elections like prized catches. It creates the perception that politics is for the headhunted elite. They then enter the system and perpetuate the same concept. Over time, people as a whole become disinterested in a political career. They do not think about politics as a career. Then they do well in their career and they are suddenly called into politics. They surely would have to think hard about the sacrifices they now have to make. If they were preparing themselves for or even thinking about a political career, they would have less to think about when the time comes.

We are fishing from a very small pond. We catch few fishes, because there are few in the first place in the pond we are fishing at. So we use more attractive baits to attract these few fishes out of their comfort zone. But these fishes are well fed in the pond they are in. There are lots of food there for them.

It is good to have some successful career people in cabinet. We need not restrict overselves to think that only those who are successful in their careers will make good ministers. We have seen enough examples of successful politicians all over the world who came from humble backgrounds and careers. We can start fishing in a bigger pond. We can cultivate the fishes from young so that there will be more interested fishes who want to come out of their comfort zone when they are ready. We like them to be ready as early as possible.

The debate is still ongoing. These are thoughts that come to me as I soak in the debates, both in and outside of the House. I hope for the good of Singapore, we will not have lack of good and willing fishes to catch in the future. Then we need not have to think so hard of the baits to use.

My parliamentary speech on Ministerial Pay Review (17 Jan 2012)

Mr Speaker Sir, my party colleagues have touched on many aspects of the proposal. I wish to highlight the part that I have the biggest concern with. It is the way a minister’s pay is pegged to the top 1,000 Singaporean earners.

The salary review committee was given the terms of reference by the Prime Minister to (quote) “take into account salaries of comparable jobs in the private sector and also other reference points such as the general wage levels in Singapore” (unquote).

The assumption this government began with is that political talent is synonomous with career success; that office holders must have comparable pay with top private sector earners. So the committee arrived at the median income of the top 1,000 earners, less a 40% discount to (quote) “signify the ethos and sacrifice that comes with political service” (unquote). It implies that our political office holders must come from this pool, or that their ability and job scope is equivalent to the top 0.06% of the working Singaporean population.

This sentiment has indeed been expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister and by various members over the past two days.

We have constantly used this mindset since 1994, when ministers’ pay was first revamped to tie it to the that of the top earners in the private sector. While the committee’s new formula is better than that of the previous one which had been narrowly tied with only the top eight earners in six professions, it is nevertheless still an elist thinking that only those who are top in their professional careers can make it to hold political office.

Running a company well is different from being able to run a country. Perhaps the government has treated running this country too much like running a business that we have often been referred to as Singapore Inc. So we also tie political work to that of running a very big company. I believe this is a flawed model.

In constantly drumming this message since 1994, we have created an expectation amongst potential political office holders that political office is a career progression for them, and that reaching a minister’s position is like reaching the pinnacle of one’s career.

It also creates an expectation amongst identified potential office holders that they need a safe route to parachute into parliament or they would not risk their career. This has made Singapore politics uniquely Singapore. It is a model of politics that despite years of attempts to justify and fine-tune, many have yet to accept. I for one, do not accept this model of politics.

I feel we have over commercialised the nature of running this country. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we have been elected by the people into this House. It is totally different from being headhunted to become a hired top management of a company. We should never forget it is a noble calling to serve the public.

I like to ask, what aspires a person to take the difficult route of politics?

Four years ago I read with interest about how President Obama as a young student in an Indonesian school, stated that his ambition was to be the President of the United States of America. It was a noble aspiration for a child; an almost impossible ambition given his family background and then living half the globe away from America. Why would he have such an aspiration?

As a child growing up in post independent Singapore, I have been influenced by several of our first generation leaders whom I had clearly seen have made lots of personal sacrifices and have made great improvements to the country by what they did.

I wonder what would aspire our next generation to become future ministers and the future Prime Minister. I certainly hope it will not be for career progression.

I share the Prime Minister’s concern that Singapore needs good and high ability people to protect what we have. We have often heard that Singapore does not have enough talent for two teams. I do not agree with this thinking. I have more confidence in our people.

During the debate on the Presidential Address, I had called for political education in schools. It is to strengthen the knowledge of our youths in the functioning of parliament and of the government. I believe it is important that we instill this sense of public service and politcal awareness in our youths to give them a better understanding of issues important to our country. We should aim to create aspiring future politicians who will strongly believe in the importance of leading the nation, and that they wish to play a part in it.

Perhaps it is also how we constantly look for political talent from amongst a narrow pool of top career performers that has perpetuated lack of interest in political careers amongst the general population. I believe we have been talent ponding for too long, searching from a small pond for people that fit as career elites. We should instead talent flood with people from all walks of life.

The salary review committee describes the 40% discount as a sacrifice for political service. Personally, I do not like the word “sacrifice”, a term that has been used by various members throughout the past 2 days. Being a politician should be an aspiration and an honour. It is the nature of politics all over the world that there will be public scrutiny; there will be challenges balancing family and work; and there will be set-backs such as electoral loss. The reluctant will deem these as sacrifice. Those who aspire to lead will welcome these as challenges to be overcome.

Singaporeans do not expect politicians to lead a spartan life with a religious calling. I believe Singapore politics has been more than fair to our political office holders in the past two decades. Even with the levels proposed by the Workers’ Party, they can lead very dignified lives.

We sometimes hear examples of former US and UK political leaders earning a lot after retirement. I think life has also been fair to our political office holders after retirement. We can see that retiring ministers are sought after by our government linked companies and some by multinationals. I believe the experience they have gained while in office have increased their market value.

Several members have said that the Workers’ Party’s proposal supports the level of salaries proposed by the committee, just because we happen to arrive at roughly the same basic monthly salary level for an entry level minister. The differences are several, and important:

(1) We start with the allowance for a member of parliament, because the minister is firstly a member of parliament. It is a reminder that we are elected by the people, not selected by a powerful committee to become ministers.

(2) The base salary for entry-grade senior civil servants at MX9 grade in less subjected to fluctuation compared with incomes at the 500th and 501st top income earners, which is the median of the top 100 earners. Over time, by comparing with the top, we could again see the salaries of ministers rising faster than are acceptable to Singaporeans.

(3) We oppose the huge bonus payout. Again, I like to stress that while we like Singapore to be well run, Singapore is not just another very large company. As an entrepreneur, Mr Inderjit Singh is acceptable with huge bonuses of 13.5 months. That may be the practice of some very generous private companies. Politically, it is unheard of and unacceptable to the electorate. The bonus for any political party, comes at the ballot boxes.

I like to thank the Prime Minister for agreeing that the Workers’ Party pay formula works out to less than that of the review committee’s. I recommend that Mr Vikram Nair and Madam Halimah check with the Prime Minister how he arrived at the calculations.

In our computation, the benchmark point annual salary for an entry level minister with 13th month and 2.5 months bonus is $852,500, compared with $1.1 million as recommended by the committee. This is a 46% cut from 2010 annual pay. Furthermore, a portion of the bonus is deferred into a bonus bank. Under our proposal, the Prime Minister with 13th month and 2.5 months bonus will receive $1,534,500, compared with the recommended $2.2 million. This is a 50% cut from 2010 annual pay.

Before I conclude, I like to address a point that Mr Vikram Nair raised. Over the past 2 days, he had harped on what we have contributed to Gerald Ee’s committee. With the permission of my colleague Gerald Giam, I like to share that Gerald Giam had spent more than 2 hours with the review committee. During the meeting, he had shared the deferred bonus, measuring by KPIs and our benchmarking method, which are now contained in our proposal. We have no need to share everything with the committee. I wonder how many hours Mr Vikram spent with the committee.

Mr Vikram has said that by opposing the motion, we are supporting the 2010 pay levels. The parliament is the platform to debate the salary review and to come up with alternatives, which is what we are doing. I wonder if Mr Vikram Nair expects us to simply rubber stamp the review committee’s proposal.

In conclusion, the annual levels we have proposed are not the same as that of the reveiw committee’s. More fundamentally, we object to the principles used to set the benchmark for ministerial salaries. Therefore, I oppose the motion.