Dear voters of Punggol East, dear Singaporeans. Thank you for coming tonight.
Yesterday, Dr Koh of the PAP said he initially rejected the Prime Minister when he was asked to be their candidate for Punggol East. Dr Koh said, and I quote “I don’t want to do populist politics. I want to do real work.” Unquote.
Dr Koh, if you want to do real work, join the Workers’ Party! Lee Li Lian joined WP in 2006 as a volunteer. Through hard work, she worked her way up into the Central Executive Committee and held various posts such as Assistant Treasurer, Youth Wing president and Deputy Webmaster. She worked as legislative assistant in the Eunos Division of Aljunied. She was not parachuted into Punggol East. She campaigned here in 2011. She is doing a lot of real work, Dr Koh!
Yesterday, our chairman, Ms Sylvia Lim shared about what happened when we took over the Aljunied Town Council. There are some contracts that seem to be designed to trip up any opposition party that dares to take over a PAP territory. When the PAP candidate wins, he will have the grassroots organisation paid for by the government to work for him. He will have unrestricted access to community facilities. He can continue with all the contracts of third parties with the Town Council, including for the Town Council Software Management System. No one will threaten to terminate his contract, just because he has won.
Dr Koh will be on a travolator, assisted in his journey by the system. But not for WP. We will be on an inclined threadmill. We have to work a lot harder to do real work. But we will do it because the type of politics that the PAP has put in place in our beloved country cannot be allowed. The Workers’ Party is willing to do real work for you. Lee Li Lian is willing to work for you.
Today, I want to talk about education. Many of you have school-going children. It is an important subject because it affects our future. Children are the future of our country.
We have made many proposals on education in The Workers’ Party manifesto. The WP MPs and I have also raised many issues relating to education in parliament.
Education has been a way to enable people to climb up the social ladder, and many have done so in the past.
Today, a bright and hardworking person can still move up socially by doing well in school and progress onto a good career. However, over the years schools had been ranked and branded to create schools of different class status. Systems are created to sort students through various pressurising high stake examinations. This has created an elitist system that has made it harder for those with lower income to climb up.
It also resulted in a culture where parents resort to extensive tuition for their children. Five years ago, Sunday Times reported that 97 out of 100 children surveyed had tuition. Today, the situation is just as bad. We even have people trying hard to get their children into the Gifted Education Programme, or GEP through tuition. You may recall the scandal last year when a tutor faked his credentials and fooled many parents into paying a lot to him to train their children for the GEP.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew observed two years ago that more than half the students at top schools had fathers who were university graduates. On the other hand, he noted from data he had that less than 13.1 per cent of students in neighbourhood schools had university graduate fathers.
Mr Lee also said that admission into primary school is not meritocratic, as it is based on the social class of the parents. Two months ago, we were told that 60% of students in 6 top primary schools live in private houses.
While MOE may want all schools to be good schools, their policies divide people into social classes. From the Primary 1 enrolment policy to the way schools are structured, MOE has created various categories of schools and sort students very finely into each of these types of schools. The latest is secondary schools just for normal technical students.
I fear this will lead to a greater divide of social classes. A survey by the Straits Times last year found that the majority of students in top schools do not have close friends who live in small HDB flats, nor friends in the Normal Stream, nor friends of other races. If they move on to become leaders in our country, how do they empathise with the people at the lower rungs of society or with people of other races?
The Workers’ Party wants to see policies that will develop our children well and will provide equal opportunities for all. Some of the issues we have raised include:
• bilingual education;
• preschool education;
• better support for special needs in mainstream schools and for special education schools;
• reviewing centralised gifted education and DSA from GEP into top secondary schools;
• reducing class size for more effective teaching;
• and more support in local universities for Singaporeans.
I also made an alternative proposal for pilot schools that provide through-train from primary through secondary. These schools can develop children holistically without the distraction of a high stake PSLE sorting examination at the tender age of 12. I believe this is workable as other countries with such system have done well in international benchmark as well. It will put more emphasis back to nurturing students rather than to prepare them from one sorting examination to another.
I have also probed into how much our government spends on foreign scholarship. This is not because I am anti-foreign scholars, but because I feel we are spending too much with questionable returns. Through a series of parliament questions, I figured the government gives out more than 2,000 new scholarships to international students each year. As each scholarship is valid for 4 years, there would be over 8,000 international scholars in Singapore. I worked out that it cost our government at least $144 million each year. This figure excludes the scholarships given by Government Linked Companies, which MOE is unable to provide data for, and other allowances which may not be included in the answers.
We were also told that a third of the scholars did not achieve at least a 2nd upper honours, the usual standard expected of scholars. When asked in parliament, the Minister said that MOE has strict criteria for scholarship renewal, which include achieving consistent academic performance throughout. Yet from the results achieved by the scholars, MOE does not appear to be strict in enforcing this. The Workers’ Party has spoken out on this.
Dear Voters of Punggol East, the Workers’ Party will use parliament processes to scrutinize the government to make them accountable to the people.
We will also contribute in other ways as long it it is pro-Singapore. Some of the WP MPs have been invited to contribute ideas for policy input or to sit on committees. Last year, I accepted an invitation to be on the ACE committee which looks after entrepreneurship development in Singapore. Every month, we look at proposals from aspiring new entrepreneurs to determine the type of support we can give. On my own, I share freely in talks on this topic in education institutions and with new entrepreneurs. I believe this can be my little contribution towards developing the business startup scene in Singapore.
At the same time, I have also spoken out against policies that have caused industrial rents to become so high and against government linked companies and large cooperatives crowding out SMEs. These are hurting the development of entrepreneurs.
I know Li Lian and her views. I have confidence she will play the role of a constructive, responsible and rational opposition when you elect her as your MP.
Finally, I like to address two groups of people today. The first is the 41% who voted for Li Lian in 2011. Thank you for placing your faith in her. Li Lian has returned, with 2 years of solid experience in Aljunied behind her. She is now more experienced to serve you better. Continue to place your faith in her.
The second are those who did not vote for Li Lian. Perhaps you were uncertain if The Workers’ Party could manage your town council. You can see that we have handled Aljunied and Hougang well. Or perhaps you were afraid that the government may be suddenly changed. This is a By-Election. The PAP is already the government.
You now have the chance to tell the PAP that you are still unhappy. You want a Singapore that’s fairer and kinder to you. Stay firm in your resolve to vote for change. Stay firm in your resolve to tell the PAP that their brand of politics must be taken down. Vote for change. Vote the Workers’ Party. Vote for Lee Li Lian!