The passing of Dr. Goh Keng Swee was greeted with much sadness among Singaporeans. I saw a news clip yesterday of people attending the state funeral. Any few of them had actually received help directly from Dr. Goh when he was their MP something like 40 years ago and they did not forget. The newspapers had plenty of coverage of Dr. Goh's achievements when he was in govt. He contributions were quite wide ranging - from defense to education to economic development. He is credited for being Singapore's economic architect and was a visionary when he worked out a development strategy tapping FDI (Foreign Direct Investments). Building Jurong Industial Estate was a big bet he made to attract foreign investments and it was highly successful. Today his vision is a known formula used in developing countries i.e. Vietnam, China and India and they compete with us using cheap labor. We really need a new economic vision going forward.....we need a Dr. Goh of our generation.
Last week a group of Singaporeans protested against the changing of weightage for mother tongue for PSLE. I was not very good with languages but managed to survive the system by putting in the extra effort. Language skills like mathematics is an inborn talent...probably not genetically inherited. My siblings didn't have problems with 2 languages and went on to pick up a 3rd language. I think Dr. Eng was thinking along the lines that a person only needs one language to survive economically so the 2nd one is not really need...just good to have. However, there is an emotive aspect to this whole issue because our 1st language is one we adopted from our colonial masters, the British and our connection to our cultural roots is through learning our 2nd language. Coming from an English speaking school, I have seen many Eurasian kids and people who have less talent in languages struggle with the mother tongue. This affected them throughout their education. Their weakness in Chinese will affect their entry to good secondary schools. The richer kids even have exit plans to go for higher studies in Australia or USA because of 2nd language issues. We have created this unique problem because of our bilingual policies which places great emphasis on a 2nd language. MM Lee recently admitted that he realised the underlying assumption that anyone can just master a 2nd language with reasonable effort is wrong. However, to fix this policy now is difficult because many will view it as a move away from our cultural roots in a society that is seen by many as already too westernised. The approach to solve this is perhaps a more inclusive criteria that will emphasise one's strength and strengthen one's weaknesses. Allow those who are weak in 2nd language to enter based on a separate criteria that excludes the 2nd language but require them to take up additional lessons throughout their secondary school education to improve their 2nd language. This is similar to the NUS Chinese camps conducted for those who entered NUS without passing their Chinese.
This weekend a protest will be organised against the exorbitant fees charged for World Cup 2010 by our telcos. It goes that show that when people are faced with a situation that they feel is unjust, they are will to make the effort to fight against it. If they do nothing, they will face the same situation 4 years from now in the 2014 World Cup. The organisers hope to attract 100,000 people[Link]. This protests says something about Singaporeans - when they are passionate enough about something, say World Cup soccer matches, they will protest if they are affected by it. Why can't anyone get 100,000 people protest for greater democracy? Why can't you get 100,000 to protest against CPF Life? What about mandatory death penalty for drug offenses? When its somebody else's problem and they are not affected by it, life goes on ...its hard for Singaporeans to get angry over somebody else's problem.