To seriously innovate or not, that is the difficult question

Two news related to education in the last 2 days caught my attention.

Recently appointed Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng had in his first major speech outlining his vision for schools yesterday, said that schools must go beyond teaching students to be good at solving problems, but help them develop the instincts and ability to be value-creators. He called for schools to encourage students to “have the courage to try, fail, try again, fail again, and eventually succeed.” He had urged for students to be innovators for Singapore to succeed.

I agree that’s needed. There is nothing new in the statement though. Every Education Minister since RADM Teo Chee Hean had been calling for greater innovation in students. Google search with the name of every Education Minister since 1997 together with keywords “innovation”, and “students” and you will get many hits. Then-Education Minister Teo had said in 1998, “Innovation will be absolutely critical to the creation of wealth in the 21st century … To develop an innovative work force, we will need to start in school by training our students to be enterprising and creative thinkers. The education system in Singapore has thus far emphasized the acquisition of factual knowledge. We will need to shift our focus to creative thinking skills. Instead of just being followers, our young must be prepared to experiment, to make mistakes, to learn and to innovate, in order to be leaders in their own fields.”

Schools have indeed tried different ways to get students to be creative and innovative since this push in the late 1990s. I have seen quite a number of these myself first hand. The difficulty is in how to make it systematic and lasting, in the face of other more important KPIs that schools must achieve and which parents expect schools to achieve. Innovation is usually not one of the key things in the mind of parents for their children to get out of schools. They worry about how to make it through our tough national streaming examinations, getting into what they consider as “good” schools (which tend to differ from MOE’s wish for ‘every school to be a good school’), getting the grades to be good enough for scholarships, and so on.

Innovation (or variations of it) is already one of the several values in most Singapore schools today. Efforts are already there, for nearly two decades now, on and off. The trouble with innovation or creativity, is that it is difficult to quantify. It is messy to encourage. It is not objective. It is hard to put a score to it like how you can put a T-Score to students for their PSLE results. T-Scores are objective. Deciding what is innovation is often very subjective. Teachers, most of them who have come through our education system and our society’s way of thinking, will often find it hard to deal with this as a subject or something to do in the classroom.

There are also the society’s expectations. We want students to try, fail, try agin, many times over. How many parents can accept that? How many students can accept that? Should we expect them to accept that, when our system try to measure things objectively and put scores to different things to make sure we are objective? These measurements usually have important implications, like the secondary schools and academic streams students will go to. It might even affect qualification for scholarships and jobs later in life.

The second piece of news, seemingly unrelated to the first, but which I consider is relevant, is that of schools being told not to take in transfer pupils whose PSLE scores did not meet the schools’ cut-off point during this school transfer period.

Each year, right after the PSLE results are known, students choose their secondary schools. MOE will run the applications through a computerised system to assign schools to students, based on the PSLE T-Scores. After that, there is a couple of weeks where students can appeal to schools they did not get into, subject to vacancies and to the discretion of principals. If successful in the appeal, students get to start within the first few days of the new year in the school of their appeal choice. Usually, only a handful of appeals are successful per school anyway, because not that many would get to move out of a school to create the vacancies for others to come in. This year, the directive appeared to have put an end to this appeal process.

In a reply to the press, MOE said students are posted to schools based on “objective and transparent measures of academic merit” and appeals afterwards “should be aligned to these same principles, to be fair to the other students”.

It is often hard to argue against the principle of being objective and transparent. We do not like mess. Appeals are messy. Some parents will cry foul when they see someone of a lower T-Score getting into a school when their children could not.

Well, innovation is messy too. We want kids to try, fail and keep trying. Innovation sometimes involve trying unconventional ideas, often doing things differently. As a school system, however, we try to make things standard, measurable and objective.  Otherwise there will be many complaints to deal with. Such desire for objectivity does not stop just at the schools. Hence as a society, we end up being obsessed with academic results and awards, because these are measurable and objective. We end up with “extreme meritocracy“, where academic grades achieved early in life can determine a lot of the person’s success later in life.

Should we give back that autonomy to principals to decide on just a few places in this short transfer period, together with all the messiness it will bring? I think the implications may be beyond just the few places per school today.

Two years ago at NDR 2013, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced that the PSLE T-score, long a stress point for parents, will eventually be removed and replaced with bands similar to those used for O’ and A’ levels. We have yet to hear definitively how and when this implementation will take place. Without T-Score, it will become even more subjective on how to post students. If we attempt to once again be objective, T-Scores may still be kept for students but will not be known to them. When they apply for schools, the computer system can check the ‘hidden’ T-Scores and determine how to place students “objectively”.

Or we can leave it more open to principals to decide by looking at the grades achieved together with other holistic considerations. We will end up with students with say three A* (or even two A*) making it into a top school while other with four A* may not. I can already hear some readers crying foul over this.

If we are to expect principals to make such decisions in a few years, assuming we get to eventually carry out PSLE without T-Scores, will they be ready to make such decisions if they cannot have the autonomy to decide on a few post-PSLE results transfer places from now onwards?

There is a dilemma, whether we like to acknowledge it or now. Can we accept a messier and hopefully more creative and innovative society, or are we such strong believers in measurements and objectivity? Acting Minister Ng cited the example of Steve Jobs enrolling in a calligraphy course when he was young and that helped him later in life with Apple’s distinctive typography. Well, Steve Jobs had quit college because he questioned if the degree would not be helpful to his life. He however, continued to stay on in the same college to take random courses, including the course on calligraphy . How many parents will accept that for their children in Singapore?

Acting Minister Ng also threw down the gauntlet for nay-sayers to be proven wrong that our education system and teachers are conservative and risk-averse. As a policy, are we prepared to be more risk taking? The latest announcement to disallow principals the autonomy for appeals does not seem to suggest so.

I think we can even go beyond allowing these sort of autonomy in school places and changing from T-Scores to subject banding, depending on how big our appetite for moving away from conservatism is. I had for many years, called to start pilot schools that allow through-train from primary to secondary, with ‘O’ levels as the first major examinations for these students. I had already put out various ways this can be done in a gradual manner more acceptable to society, so I shall not elaborate in this post. Here’s just a funnier recent report of that proposal from Mothership. I think gradually moving away from early high-stakes examinations can contribute to an environment where innovation can be allowed to flourish.

To seriously innovate or not, that is the difficult question.

 

 

 

 

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Places and buildings, Japan

Some buildings and places we visited in Japan, Nov-Dec 2015

Walking tour of West Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku-Mode Gakuen Cocoon-skyscrapper

The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Shinjuku

Tokyo-ViewFromShinjuuku Sumitomo Building 45th

View from the observation tower on the 45th floor of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Tower. Entrance is free.

Tokyo-ViewInside Sumitomo Building

Inside view of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Tower

Tokyo-WorldLargestPendulumClock - Shinjuku NS Building

World’s largest pendulum clock in Shinjuku NS Tower. We visited the skywalk bridge and found to our pleasant surprise that there were many reasonably priced eateries there for such an expensive looking place.

 

Miyajima, one of top 3 official scenic spots of Japan

MiyajimaShrine-lowtide

The famed Itsukushima shrine in Miyajima at low tide with a multitude of visitors on a public holiday.

JapaneseWithCoatsInMiyajimaShrine

No obstacles can stop these business professionals from visiting the shrine, not even having to carry luggages over the sand and to brave the huge crowd on a public holiday.

 

ColoursOfAutumn-Stream-Miyajima

Flowing stream and autumn leaves

Obama-GreenTeaIceCream

A shop sign in Miyajima. Someone should ask President Obama if he likes green tea ice cream. We did anyway 🙂 President Obama did visit Tokyo, Japan in April 2014 and perhaps green tea ice-cream was served?

Naritansan Shinshoji Temple and Garden, Narita Town

Narita-TempleTower

An old Pagoda

Narita-TempleRoof

A closer look at the pointed roof of a temple building

Yeejj-shadow-selfie2.jpg

Shadow selfie – lots of photos to take in this beautiful temple and garden!

 

More Temples, Shrines and Castles

Kyoto

Himeji

 

Towers, towers everywhere, in cities and in towns

Osaka-Shinsekai.jpg

Cycling past the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka’s Shinseikai area, originally builit in 1912 supposedly inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris and rebuilt after the war . Weather was nasty during our stay in Osaka, with intermittent rains

Hakodate-GoryokakuTower

Goryokaku Tower, Hakodate

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Zoomed-in view of Goryokaku Tower and its neighbourhood from Mount Hakodate in late afternoon

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Kyoto Tower on a gloomy and rainy day

Sendai-towers-morning.jpg

View of Sendai from hotel room on 18th floor, with a building towering over its neighbourhood.

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Sleepless in Sendai. Night scene from hotel room, facing the tower

Beppu-tower.JPG

The 100m tall Beppu Tower in the background on a late afternoon

 

Matsushima, another  of the three most scenic places in Japan

Matsushima-panorama1

“Matsu” means pine or 松. You will find lots of pine trees here, little islands, clear blue waters, beautiful sky and lots of boats. Well worth the slow 40 minutes train ride from Sendai.

Matsushima-bridge2

The 252m-long bridge to Fukuura island

MatsushimaShore

YeeJJ-walking-Matsushima

Perfect weather for a walking tour of the bay of Matsushima

 

Hakodate, viewed from Mount Hakodate from 330pm till 5pm

 

The 8 hotspring “hells’ of Beppu

and some the animals and plants in the “hells”

 

Hiroshima Atomic Peace Memorial Park

 

Toya – Nishiyama and the destruction caused by Mount Usu’s eruptions

and the cold, cold walk after last night’s snow

 

Lake Toya, where G8 leaders met in 2008

Colours of autumn, Japan

Late autumn in Japan, 2015

ColoursOfAutumn-Narita2

Garden in Naritan-san Temple, Narita city

ColoursOfAutumn-Narita

Shades of colours – Garden in Narita-san Temple

RedTree-Kyoto

Red tree in Nijo castle, Kyoto

AutumnLeaves-Miyajima

Matsushima mid morning sun

Multi-colouredLeaves-inHimeji

Multi-coloured tree in the morning, Himeji castle

Himeji-Castle-Autumn

Himeji castle, late afternoon

Glowing-volcano-island

A glowing Nakajima island in Lake Toya in the evening. The orange glow on the island is from the sun breaking through holes in the cloud

Beppu-Hell-Colourfultrees

Colourful hell – at one of the 8 hotspring “Hells” of Beppu

HiroshimaAtomicDome

Evening, Hiroshima Atomic Dome

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Hiroshima waterfront evening

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View from Mount Hakodate in late afternoon

Hakodate-OldPublicHall

Night at Hakodate old public hall

Faith-KyotoTrees2

Lady in blue on multi-coloured fallen leaves, Kyoto

SheddedTree-Narita

I’ll be back. An almost bare tree in Narita town readying itself for winter. See you in spring.

 

Christmas Colours, Hakodate on 28 Nov 2015, the night of the light up

 

Christmas lights in Beppu

People of Japan

Here are some photographs with people as the main theme from my recent Nov-Dec 2015 travel to Japan.

Religion

JapaneseWithCoatsInMiyajimaShrine

Three business professionals with luggages in the sand at low tide at Miyajima Itsukushima Shrine on a public holiday. The island was jammed packed with people everywhere. We found out later that it was a long weekend.

Devotees-zoom-burner2

Devotees zooming in on the incense burner at the centre of the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. People were literally fanning the fumes into their nose, presumably to cleanse themselves or to take in the blessings.

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Queuing for blessings in Miyajima

Trades

PreparingLiveEels-Filming

A chef in Narita’s Omote Sando Street  masterfully prepares a live eel while camera crew films him in action. The street has many restaurants serving eel meals and they proudly put their chefs in front for passer-bys to see how they skilfully prepares the food. We tried the meal at a restaurant that had a reasonably priced set lunch. Oishi-desu!

Himeji-NoodlesHouseFamily

A noodle shop in Himeji with very high tripadvisor’s rating. We found out why after trying it ourselves. Inexpensive and prepared right before your eyes from raw flour.

OldManSellingFood-Miyajima

An elderly street vendor at Miyajima preparing our BBQ squid snack. Many stalls were run by elderly folks.

Miyajima-agingSamurai

A rather elderly man hired to dress as a Samurai warrior in Miyajima. This was by a company providing costumes for rent. From Himeji castle to Miyajima, we noticed that a number of those dressed in these traditional costumes were the senior workers.

PerformingMonkey-Miyajima

Not a person, but a performing monkey in Miyajima working for a busker.

JapaneseWorkersRoad

A group of all Japanese workers working on the pavements. Despite an ageing population and expensive labour costs, Japan relies almost entirely on locals for its workforce. We did find a Cambodian adult student working in a supermarket and two China adult students working at a restaurant. They all speak Japanese.

Narita-worker-trims-tree

Narita-worker-trims-tree2

The reason why plants are so nicely manicured in Japan. Workers carefully trimming the trees at mid day.

 

Life

Wedding-Himeji-Couple

Wedding-Himeji-InLaws

Chanced upon this couple whom I think were getting married. They were waiting to enter  a shrine next to Himeji castle while two lines of people waited inside next to the red carpet. I presume they were the immediate families of the couple. They greeted and bowed to one another as the whole process was captured on video.

Aomori-Market-oldlady.jpg

An old lady with walking aid inched her way slowly through the market in Aomori as customers zipped around the centre. Japan has been dealing with issues of an ageing population.

Miyajima-LongQueue

Singaporeans aren’t the only ones who love queuing. A long queue for sweet potato ice-cream in Miyajima. We paid in front thinking that was the queue for the ice-cream. It turned out that we bought only the tokens for the ice-cream and had to wait another 30 minutes to get the ice-cream. The queue snake all the way into the shop and there were several turns inside! We queued many times during our trip, get to trains, for rides in Disney, for food, and many more! Yes, we were told by local that they do queue overnight for launches of highly sought after products too.

WearyTraveller-HakodateGoryokakuTower

Yes, travel can be exhausting. A weary traveller totally knocked out at a bench inside Goryokaku Tower, Hakodate. He seemed to be from a Taiwanese tour group, some of whom were watching a performance at the hall.

 

 

Rolling through the land of the rising sun

It has been a long while since I got to travel for 15 days at a stretch. We decided to get a JR Rail Pass and do a DIY getaway. Our travel took us from Tokyo to Beppu in the south (Kyushu island), north to Hakodate and then back to Narita for the flight back. We had stopovers in Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka, Kyoto, Kokura, Sendai, Matsushima, Aomori and Toya, some of which were just day trips from a nearby town.

Yeejj-cycling-Himeji

Cycling from our AirBnB homestay in Himeji to the station. We had loaned out free bicycles from the Tourism office next to the station and decided to cycle with our luggages from our stay near the castle to the station before returning the bikes. When we first arrived, we had to walk nearly 40 minutes to find this house (Google map said 20 minutes walk only!). I thought that bicycling with our roller luggages for our return may be better. Turned out to be challenging as we had to cycle mostly on pavements and there were curbs and lots of bumps. We managed eventually. Do look for the free bicycles at the Tourism office (office hours only, first come first serve). Without luggages, Himeji is a nice place for cycling.

It was quite an experience travelling some 4,500 km without any private transport or taxi. The trip was done entirely by trains, trams, buses, boats, occasional cycling and lots of walking with our roller luggages. We experienced both peak and off peak travels, including the famed Tokyo peak hour trains. For some cities, we bought the day passes for either trams or buses or subways, depending on our travel plans if it works out to be cheaper than the rather expensive individual rides.

Pork buns at Kokura

Looking for food near Kokura station on the northern tip of Kyushu island while waiting for the connecting train to Beppu. We found this eatery from Tripadvisor but discovered that it was actually a takeaway kiosk and not a sit down dining. We tried it anyway. Juicy buns but not the food we were yearning for after a long ride from Osaka.

When in Japan, do as the Japanese do. We often bought along our pre-packed food and start our picnic on the long Shinkansen (bullet train) rides the moment we got to our seats. The system is so efficient that we can stopover at an intermediary city just to catch a meal at a restaurant near the station that has great online reviews and then catch another train after our meal, carefully timing our stops and monitoring the schedules.

HokkaidoTrainSchedule

A train schedule for Hokkaido. Trains are relatively infrequent here and you will need to plan carefully to minimise waiting times or to avoid missing the last train back!

A bus schedule in Beppu, a quiet town in the southern island of Kyushu

A bus schedule in Beppu, a quiet town in the southern island of Kyushu. We usually snap pictures of schedules at the stations so that we can plan our return after visiting an attraction.

The transport system was amazingly efficient, even on networks that are decades old. We relied on the published timetables. Train were reliable to the exact minute arriving and departing at the various stations we were at. The punctuality was critical for planning especially in the more remote parts of Japan where transport services were often infrequent. We wanted to minimise waiting time and had to match the timetables of trains and bus / tram services.

My most frequently used words for the trip? “Sumimasen, xxxx wa doko desu ka?” (or “Excuse me, where is xxxx?” as we stop strangers and transport officials and ask for directions getting around to new hotels, to restaurants that were highly rated on travel sites and to the many places of attractions. Almost all whom we had asked tried their best to be helpful, giving us instructions which we often cannot quite fully comprehend due to our very limited range of Japanese vocabulary. However with sign language, we can roughly figure out and get near enough to our destination to ask another random stranger if we need to again. Some were even so helpful that they walked part of the way with us. A young lady even used her mobile app to translate her instructions into English for us!

Beppu-bus depot

Stopping at the office of a bus company in Beppu to explore transport options. We eventually took the day pass from another bus operator which had better connections to the places of attractions we wanted to visit. Enquiring at bus stations, train stations and Tourism offices was something we did a lot at every new town to make sure that we get the transport options right to start off the visit to the town.

I must say Japan is a relatively safe place as we navigated sometimes early in the morning to sometimes late at night, in both busy and quieter areas feeling completely safe all the time. Bicycles are commonly used by Japanese but not always safe as roads can be busy and there are no bicycle lanes. Bicycles often share the pedestrian walkways but I notice that cyclists are careful to coexist safely with pedestrians.

Have travel passes, will travel!

Sharon-PointingDirection

Sumimasen, xxx wa doko desu ka?

A response to Straits Times: My wonderful Team Marine Blue

Team Marine Blue, 2015

Team Marine Blue, 2015

I read to my great surprise this feature by The Straits Times today, “Workers’ Party trying to move forward” (http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/workers-party-trying-to-move-forward).

The report stated,

“It is also, perhaps, trying to send a signal about the importance of party discipline, insiders say.

 They point to how its Marine Parade team was also made up of highly-qualified candidates – including crowd favourite, legal counsel He Ting Ru, 32 – none of whom were brought into the CEC. The team was apparently plagued by simmering discord among members, which displeased party leaders, who have always prized tight discipline and frowned upon power play.”

As leader of the WP team for Marine Parade GRC for GE2015 (or Team Marine Blue as we call ourselves), I am shocked by what was reported of “simmering discord” and “displeased party leaders”.

During my first rally speech on 2 Sep 2015, I had introduced Team Marine Blue proudly. The relevant parts are extracted at the end of this article:

Allow me to put on record that I have become even prouder of the team since delivering that speech. Marine Parade GRC was never going to be an easy contest. We were thrust into that battle because a small but powerful Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.

We had just 6 weeks to campaign in one of the biggest GRCs that is a stronghold of the PAP. The team had signed up for the contest knowing very well of the challenges and of our chances. Yet, they pressed on diligently to visit almost all of the public housing units and a good number of homes in the private estates. We had many volunteers to manage, many of whom were signed up only during the campaigning period. Keeping volunteers trained, organised and motivated in such a short time was challenging. Yes, it was stressful for all of us and things could always have been done better in hindsight.  I am proud of how each of them managed their group of volunteers as we divided up our roles and areas to cover as much ground as we could. Except for me, all were first time candidates. They also had to prepare for and deliver their own rally speeches, often a formidable task for new candidates.

None of us are aware of any “power play” or “discord” amongst ourselves. The team had cheered and encouraged each other along the way as we kept ourselves posted of each other’s campaign activities. In her interview with Yahoo Singapore last week, He Ting Ru shared about a group hug with the fellow candidates at one of the counting centre when it was evident that we had lost. She had recalled that “at that moment, I really felt that we were part of a team. That, to me, was something that was quite striking for the night itself, that we were in this together.”

We were also given encouraging words by the party leaders during the campaign and even after the results were known.

Today, a month after polling day, I am pleased to say that all candidates of Team Marine Blue remain committed to the party, with some taking on additional responsibilities within the party. My respect for each of them has increased throughout the campaigning and thereafter. They are all good team players, completely dedicated to the tasks they had been entrusted with, no matter how difficult the tasks were. Never mind the difficult circumstances and short time that were given to us to put the team and campaign together. I could not have asked for better fellow candidates.

I am deeply disappointed that the Straits Times had run the report on the Marine Parade Team without checking the facts with me or any of the candidates. How many ‘insiders’ did they speak to and what evidences do these ‘insiders’ have of ‘discord’ and ‘power play”. The article did, however, allow me this chance to publicly say “Thank You” once more to my wonderful Marine Blue team members and our many volunteers.

———- Extract from YJJ’s speech on 2 Sep 2015 ————-

(https://yeejj.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/yjj-rally-speech-2-sep-2015/).

“Let me first introduce you to Terence Tan, lawyer. Many would know that he fought the cases for AHPETC with NEA and with MND, pro-bono, without charging us any fees. He also does pro-bono work for capital offences cases and others requiring legal aid. He is not just a lawyer, but was an entrepreneur who started a popular bar and restaurant establishment early in his career. He had stints overseas that included being the Managing Director of a multinational hotel group with operations from Spain to South-East Asia.

Terence joined WP after GE2011 and has been walking the ground with me for over 2 years. He’s also a local boy of Marine Parade GRC, a Peranakan who lives in the traditional part of Joo Chiat.

Terence has served faithfully in our grassroots and meet-people-sessions. Today, he’s your candidate for the Marine Parade GRC.

Next, we have He Ting Ru, just 32 years old and already a successful corporate lawyer heading up the legal department in a public listed company. She volunteered as a helper in our Meet-People-Session right after GE2011. She came on her own, seeking to find ways to contribute to Singapore. From there, she expanded her work into our community events and diligently assisting in the policy work of our parliamentarians. You may find it hard to believe that a bright, successful and busy lawyer would spend so much of her free time to volunteer week in, week out with us, but here we have the living proof. Ms He Ting Ru, your candidate for Marine Parade GRC.

And right in the Malay heartland of Singapore, is your local boy, Mr Firuz Khan from Haig Road. He has been in the Party longer than I had, since 2006. His service was disrupted when he went with his family to UK for several years, where he started a successful chocolate factory. Then he came back to Singapore in 2010 and continued his service with the Workers’ Party serving Singaporeans.

Firuz’s heart is in the right place. He took a pay cut from his banking career in 1999 to be the principal for the Pertapis Children’s Home, where he had learnt first-hand the issues of those that have fallen through the cracks in the Malay-Muslim community. He is also a hands-on guy, who started and grew the Royce’ Chocolate business for the Japanese company in Singapore and in the region, before starting his own chocolate factory in Wales, UK. Mr Firuz Khan, a hands-on person with commitment to help the vulnerable and needy in the community, your candidate for Marine Parade GRC.

Last but not least, Mr Ng Foo Eng, Dylan. Foo Eng came from a humble family background, studied in neighbourhood schools, worked his way through university. He found success in his banking career, working in both local and foreign banks. He has built up the wealth management business for the bank from scratch.

Foo Eng is passionate about serving the community, and has served as a volunteer in WP’s grassroots and in the meet-people-sessions. Mr Ng Foo Eng, your candidate for Marine Parade GRC.

This is a team that’s part of the renewal story in the Workers’ Party. This is a team that’s willing to take on the difficult task in what the PAP considers as one of its strongholds, to give you a credible alternative to choose from. We know the challenges are not just in fighting this election. We know there will be lots of start-up issues. This is a team with a good range of complementary strengths and operational expertise that can see this through. “

Candidates and volunteers of Team Marine Blue, 2015 at a Thank You BBQ a week after polling day

Looking back at the past 4 years

Parliament-Locker-YJJCleared my locker in parliament and gave chocolates to the nice staff in parliament who have been most helpful, whether in finding information in the library or helping with my filing of parliamentary questions and in other administrative things, as well as those looking after our welfare.

I have enjoyed my 4 years in parliament. It has been an enriching experience for me. Looking back, I am happy to see changes in the early childhood sector which I believe will lead to child care becoming a higher quality public good affordable to the masses. I am also glad that there is better recognition of the need to have more pathways for late bloomers in education and in their careers (although a lot more still can be done).

There are also changes which I had pushed for frequently which I hope can come soon. These include:

  1. Pilot 10-year through-train schools from primary to secondary. I had spoken on this every year in parliament, as well as outside of parliament. I do hope that more will feel convicted to push for this as an option for those who do not wish to have their children being caught in an academic rat race of constant sorting by academic abilities.
  2. School-based student care centres in all primary schools and greater government support to grow the student care industry. While MOE has pushed for more school-based centres in the last couple of years, we should not stop till every school has such facilities. In addition, I believe that better support by both MOE and MSF can be given to the industry so that student care can become a quality public good with private/VWO partnership, and fees will stay affordable.
  3. Grow our local industries and make winners out of them internationally. This can be in the form of better supporting infrastructure and schemes, and importantly to cultivate a mindset to support our local enterprises so that they can have a strong local base to move forward in the international scene. We will need to have the spirit of innovation, quality and risk-taking in our next generation of local enterprises.

I congratulate all who have made it back into parliament. I also wish a fruitful journey to those who are coming in for the first time. Let’s empower our future!

Thank you for journeying with us

Below is the gist of the impromptu speech I delivered when the result for Marine Parade GRC was announced on polling night:

Dear voters of Marine Parade GRC, dear supporters of the Workers’ Party, dear Singaporeans.

It has been 7 weeks since we were thrust into the battle for Marine Parade GRC when the EBRC report was announced. It has been a very tiring 7 weeks as we pounded the streets day and night to make up ground.

We are very grateful to supporters and residents whom we have met that have shown us your care and love. We are very touched by the volunteers who have put in hundreds of hours each of toil and sweat to help us see to every aspects of our campaign, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. You have been most wonderful. Thank you!

I am very proud of my team who have run a good campaign. Although Marine could not be blue this time, we believe one day it will!

I pray that the young and passionate candidates whom we have offered to you for this GE will find it in them to overcome the setback in this GE and continue on the journey with you, so that we can move together on the long and difficult road of building a rational, responsible and respectable alternative for Singapore.

Thank you.

————————

Separately, our team were out and about this morning in our preambulatory truck across the GRC to thank residents. It was a day of bad haze that clouded the place. Despite, the haze, our team kept our spirits up as we greeted residents and waved to them from afar. Thank you for your support. The Workers’ Party thanks all friends and supporters for being with us through this challenging campaign. We will take lessons from this as we move forward to the next battle.

Setting off from Siglap / Frankel Street

Setting off from Siglap / Frankel Street

Winding through Ubi / Paya Lebar

Winding through Ubi / Paya Lebar

Residents waving from high up their flats and shouting "Workers' Party!" to you

Residents waving from high up their flats and shouting “Workers’ Party!” to us

Greeting cars at every traffic stops

Greeting cars at every traffic stops

Chatting with supporters at traffic junctions

Chatting with supporters at traffic junctions

 

YJJ 4th Rally Speech – 9 Sep 2015

Bedok Rally - 9 Sep 2015

Bedok Rally – 9 Sep 2015

(chinese)
Dear East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC residents, dear Singaporeans. Good evening to you.
This place is special to me because I have many relatives and friends living here. My alma mater, Temasek Junior College, St. Patrick’s School and St. Stephen’s School are near here.

(English)
Good evening dear residents of East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC. Dear Singaporeans. I am sure many residents of Marine Parade GRC are here too! I am Yee Jenn Jong, a candidate for the Workers’ Party for the Marine Parade GRC.

During GE2011, I also spoke at this stadium. Today, I am happy that we have very good candidates for East Coast GRC and Fengshan SMC. I have worked with fellow NCMP Gerald Giam on many parliament and party work. He is hardworking and passionate. Daniel Goh has been a key pillar for our policy research. I often worked with Leon Pereira in policy research on economics. Fairoz is a committed and very principled person. Dennis Tan first joined me doing house visits in 2011. He has since been involved diligently in many aspects of the Party’s work. I am very happy that he is our candidate for Fengshan SMC, because many of my relatives live here, and they will be well taken care of by Dennis when you elect him into parliament.

As you have heard, the Blue sky will come up first in the east. And with the blue sky, will also be the blue Marine. Remember: Marine is blue, not white! Please vote for our candidates in East Coast, Fengshan, Marine Parade and in the other constituencies that we are contesting in!

Today, I want to talk about a topic close to my heart – Fear.

Fear is real and personal to me. The first fear I wish to talk about is fear of being an active participant in the political process.

Fear had kept me from being involved in the Workers Party until 2011. I had long wished to be part of the fight for a better Singapore by building a stronger alternative to the PAP. I had been a critic of policies in the forum pages of newspapers and in government’s policy workgroups which I had been a member of.

Taking the stand against the PAP in the political arena was something else. I remembered that in 1994, prominent government critic Catherine Lim was taken to task by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for stepping over the Out-of-Bound or OB Markers. Mr Goh had told Ms Lim that if a person wishes to comment regularly on politics, the person should do it in the political arena. I was also a critic, and one who did not yet dare to do it in the political arena.

Many of the contracts in my businesses were with the government. Even after I had sold away my main business, I had to deal with the fear in my close family members. I had to deal with their strong objections for me to be in the opposition. I am thankful that eventually, I received their blessings in time to take part in the last GE. They have since become some of my strongest supporters.

Having taken that leap of faith, I have learnt that I can overcome fear. As long as one is responsible and rational, people will accord you respect. My businesses are still mostly with the government. It has not suffered. I am especially grateful that my alma mater, Temasek Junior College gave me the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013, two years after I had enter opposition politics. My friends have not deserted me.
For Singapore to have a credible alternative, we need people unafraid to step into the political arena. Today, we present to you 28 candidates. I know there can be more. People need to overcome their inner fear.

The second fear I want to talk about is the fear in some voters that your vote is not secret. I know it is secret because I had taken part in the last GE and we had witnessed the ballot papers being sealed in boxes after counting, with our signatures on the seal of the boxes. The boxes are taken to be burnt 6 months later. We have the responsibility to check that our seals are still intact on the boxes before they are burnt.

Two days ago, I was in a condominium doing a town hall-styled presentation with residents. This question was asked. One of my volunteers, a medical doctor in a restructured hospital, shared with the group that he has openly made known that he has been and will be voting the opposition, and he continues to receive his promotions.

Your vote is your sacred choice. You can choose freely who you wish to support. You need not fear how you vote. I have been voting for the opposition for many elections already and I have not been deprived of opportunities, nor have my businesses been affected.

The third fear is the fear of a freak result. At every GE, the PAP will tell you about freak results in one way or another. Now with all 89 seats being contested, they are saying it again.

Firstly, it is extremely difficult for an opposition to win in an election, especially in seats that the PAP is the incumbent. I know this, because I had worked very hard in GE2011 and came 1% short. The closer you are to the 50% mark, the harder it is to win the extra swing voter. But we will continue to work hard.

The PAP knows the election results by precincts, which they can study to decide electoral boundaries. The GRC system works to their benefits as they can decide the best configuration to strengthen their chances.

In any case, election results reflect the will of you, the people of Singapore. Election results should be respected.

Fourth, is the fear that investors will go away if the results are not favourable to the PAP. We should not be having this fear. Many developed countries, including those with population sizes comparable to Singapore, are able to have change of government without issues.

It is more risky to put all our eggs with one party. What if the current ruling party fails? All the more, we need to ensure the future of Singapore by ensuring that there will be continued good leadership in the alternative camp. This GE, you see many young and professionally competent candidates that the Workers’ Party has offered to you. I strongly believe that as we can build up alternatives that are respectable, rational and responsible, investors will not be afraid. The only people who will be afraid will be the PAP!

Finally, there’s the fear that the PAP has been trying very hard to put into you that if you vote the alternative in, your estate will be in a mess. Your town will be messed up. People of Hougang, Aljunied and Punggol East have shown the way. Their lives have gone on as per normal. A couple of days ago, the newspaper reported that residents in Aljunied have seen more of the human touch in their town. After years of the brave voters of opposition wards resisting PAP’s upgrading carrot, the PAP has relented on their bad policy of ‘upgrading for votes’. Today, you see lifts and estates being improved in Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East.

Our commitment, our firm commitment will be to ensure your estate will continue to be run well.

American president Franklin D. Roosevelt had said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Dear Singaporeans. Fear will only set us back. Fear will stop us from realizing what we are capable of. We need to empower ourselves to have a better future.

Come September 11, vote with your heart. Vote without fear. Vote The Workers’ Party. Empower your future!

YJJ’s third rally speech – 7 Sep 2015

亲爱的马林百列集选区选民,来自新加坡各个角落的工人党支持者,每个爱国的新加坡人,大家晚上好!

 3 天前,在义顺的群众大会结束后,我去了在如切的德明路小贩中心吃orh luak. Wah, 马林百列的orh luak真好吃,和凤山的有的比

 在小贩中心里,我碰到了一个人。这个人说他学过中医。他看到我穿着工人党的制服,就跟我说,在中医学里面,单单有素质 (“quality”) 是不够的:除了有,还要有‘ (“quantity”)。一个人不可以只吃了一两次药,就问为什么药没有见效。药,一定要吃得够,才会有效。

 这是什么意思呢?新加坡的国会里很久以来只有2位反对党议员。在2011年,我们有了6位反对党议员。在榜鹅东的补选之后,我们有了7位。2011年之后,我们就看到政府的政策有了改善。我们一定要继续给行动党服药。7个反对党议员够吗?不够! 我们一定要把更多的工人党候选人派进国会,才可以继续看到政策改善!

 911号,请投工人党一票。掌握民权,把握未来!

 

Good evening dear voters of Marine Parade GRC, dear Singaporeans.

Two days ago, ESM Goh Chok Tong had said that voters can have their cake and eat it. He said that the NCMP scheme is good enough for opposition to be in parliament. You can vote the PAP in and there will still be NCMPs to be voices in parliament. Do you know what the PAP wants? They want to bring Singapore back to the dark days of politics where they have absolute control over everything. The PAP just wants a blank cheque to do what they want so that they do not need to listen to you. Voters of Singapore, you, you have the power to stop them. You must stop them!

ESM Goh seems to like cruise ships. He likened the PAP and opposition to cruise ships. He said that the PAP’s ship has a clear destination. Yes, it is destination to a population of 6.9 million. The PAP ship is sailing there even though Singaporeans have clearly rejected this destination. It is sailing away with a Swiss standard of living for selected elites, but a Swiss cost of living for all of us! This year, the Economist Intelligence Unit has listed Singapore as the world’s most expensive city to live in, for the 2nd year running. And I am not sure what type of cruise ship we are in when our elderly needs to collect cardboards, not for exercise, but to make a living.

ESM said that the opposition is like a ship on a journey to nowhere. They are like casino ships.

Hey, wait! Who put casinos into Singapore? No the Workers’ Party! We had rejected casinos when it was debated in parliament.  ESM is mistaken. The casinos are on the PAP’s ship on the destination to 6.9 million. The Workers’ Party’s ship is on a journey towards a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore!

Yes, a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore is what we like to see for our children. When one looks at the government’s argument in its population white paper, you get the sense that Singapore is a big factory. We need 2-5% economic growth yearly. Our local workforce will shrink. To achieve the economic targets, the population white paper worked out a 1-2% increase to our workforce yearly. Based on that, Singapore will receive large number of immigrants. It will bring our population to 6.9 million by 2030. It will bring the percentage of citizens in our population to just 55%. In just 15 years from now, almost half of anyone in Singapore will not be a Singaporean. It is hardly a sustainable Singapore. And after 2030, what’s next? What will this government continue to do in order to have that desired economic target?

If we are just Singapore Inc.; if we are a business that looks coldly at hard economic data and at the bottom line, then what the PAP is doing will sound logical. However, we are not a business. We are a country, a nation. We can coldly grow the economy, but it will lead to cracks in society. It will lead to a crowded and divided Singapore. It will lead to a Singapore with high income inequality and where people do not feel they belong to.

As difficult as it may be, we need to invest in Singaporean workers and in our local enterprises. We need to empower ourselves to be sustainable in the long-run. In our businesses, we need to develop confident Singaporeans and dynamic Singapore companies, able to compete on innovation with the world. I have spoken on this topic in parliament on several occasions and we have outlined proposals in our manifesto as well. We need to empower our future. Vote our WP candidates and I into parliament, and we will continue to push for a dynamic population for a sustainable Singapore!

As you all know by now, I contested in Joo Chiat SMC in 2011 and lost by 300 over votes. I did my best to reconnect with residents of the SMC for the past few years, mostly in publicly accessible areas. On 24 July, just 6 weeks ago, I found that the field that I was playing in had suddenly grown 5 times in size. I had to take the ball from a far end and start running towards the goal post again.

I am thankful that we have received lots of support. Over the past few weeks, several condominiums have allowed us to meet with residents. I am sorry that we are not been able to enter some condominiums because permission has been refused.

I recently visited several condominiums in the now defunct-Joo Chiat SMC. I met again with people that I had met during GE2011. Some had told me that they are happy that I did not go away, but expressed their concern if the battle is now too difficult because this is a big GRC and it is a PAP’s stronghold. My response is, “Yes, my opponents may wish me to go away, but I am still back. (In hokkien, they say, ‘par si beh ciao’!) I am back with a dedicated team of 4 others, with people that I know are professionally competent and most importantly, passionate about serving the people. We are here because we want to offer a committed alternative to you, the voters of Marine Parade GRC.”

In the course of our visits to many parts of the GRC, I had found that the Workers’ Party had contested actively in many of these areas in the past, and some very recently. The Workers’ Party had contested in areas such as Joo Chiat, Kembangan, Chai Chee, Ubi and Eunos. Boundaries were shifted at every General Elections, with very short notice between the EBRC report and nomination day. Marine Parade GRC has had constant change of boundaries. Residents in Serangoon Central can claim to have sea view property because they are in Marine Parade! I think it is time. It is time for the Workers’ Party to offer ourselves as a choice to serve residents of Marine Parade.

People have asked how we will manage this GRC if we are elected.

First, the TC will be directly managed. We already have 7 WP MPs and staff who have town council experience. This will provide us considerable expertise to tap on for advice in how to handle a changeover of management and to establish operations quickly. A key priority will be to ensure that there will continue to be proper maintenance and cleanliness.

We will also want to focus on the Heartware, as in H.E.A.R.T. As in how WP had managed Aljunied, we will move in quickly to establish our own grassroots. There will be regular activities amongst residents to create bonding and to build a community spirit. We will also work with Voluntary Welfare Organisations and government institutions to ensure that essential help will continue to be given to vulnerable sections of the community that need them.

I have now been in WP for nearly 5 years. I can say with conviction about something that I have observed first hand. Given access to fewer resources, our MPs and volunteers work a lot harder. There is a greater human touch, something that is coincidentally reported in today’s newspaper about how Aljunied has changed. There is a bigger human touch in Aljunied now than before.

I dare say this for my team members too, because I have worked with them and I know know that they are hands-on people. They have all joined the Workers’ Party first as a volunteer, working hard on the ground in all sorts of activities such as helping with meet-the-people sessions, grassroots events and with policy work. They stepped up to our call to be candidates in this GE. They are qualified professionally, but we did not pick them only because they are qualified. We saw how they had worked quietly and diligently for a long time and hence we want them to be your representative in parliament, your representative to see to your needs.

At this juncture, I like to give a big thank you to the many volunteers who had helped diligently, into the wee hours of the morning every day just to get our campaign here going. It is difficult because we had just a few weeks to put everything together after the EBRC was out. I am so proud of my team of volunteers. Thank you!

Let me introduce the team of candidates again. Terence Tan, lawyer and entrepreneur. He Ting Ru, head of legal department in a public listed company. Firuz Khan, entrepreneur, the chocolate man and a social activist. Dylan Ng Foo Eng, head of wealth management in a foreign bank. People with different and complementary backgrounds but with something common. They are people with passion and heart for the people. This is Team Marine Blue.

Come Sep 11, vote Team Marine Blue, vote Workers’ Party. Empower your future!