Posts Tagged ‘TNP’

Teaching kids about cheating.

In News Reports, Society on April 12, 2015 at 8:59 am


Ex-journalist/blogger/university lecturer available for homework-completion projects. Fees will start at $200 an hour, and will vary according to degree of difficulty and immediacy of assignment. For “immediate’’ assignments that must “pass up tomorrow’’, tutor will require transport allowance to and from clients’ home with surcharges levied for work done after midnight (tutor’s surcharge not just taxi midnight surcharge).

Only parents with above-average children may apply. And that means anyone because I’m sure every parent thinks his/her child is exceptional.

You know, I think I can make heckuva lot of money offering my services this way. I think I will be especially good for “project work’’ assignments and long-winded essays. Anything to do with General Paper, I also can do. In fact, I don’t even mind completing homework assigned by kindergarten teachers. I like colouring.

What makes this a more attractive job than plain vanilla tutor: You can do the work at your own time, like a freelance writer with a deadline, and you won’t have to deal with pesky kids or have their kiasu parents wondering if boy-boy or girl-girl has really, really improved and can score A or not…

Anyway, The New Paper on Sunday reports that this is a new business that our education system has generated. What a wonderful revenue stream for teachers, ex-teachers and those who think they can be teachers but don’t want to be! One teacher who charges $250 an hour says he makes 75 per cent of his monthly salary this way. If he abides by the Education ministry’s a 6-hour-a-week maximum guideline for private tuition, he can make a maximum of $6,000 a month. Sounds good…

Are many parents availing themselves of people like him? The TNP report has three parents doing so, including one who said she sets aside $800 a month for such special services.

The reasons:

  1. Too much homework, CCAs and the poor kid doesn’t have time to rest.
  2. It’s only for unnecessary or superfluous homework which does help in final grades, that is, not core subjects.

TNPS backed up its story by referring to another in 2012, when it interviewed 80 parents who sent their children to “elite’’ tuition centres. Close to half “had hired or would hire’’ tutors to finish their children’s homework. In fact, one parent hired such a tutor to finish her 14 year old’s tuition centre assignments. She reckoned that since she waited a year to get her daughter into the centre, it would be a waste for her to give up the spot just because of unfinished work. (Makes me wonder if the tuition centre boots out kids who can’t finish homework assigned…got such a thing ah?)

TNPS also said it had come across websites which offer such services including a group that says it would complete projects, essays, reports and homework at a cost – even for undergraduates. The company has a no-questions-asked policy: “Whatever their reasons are, we do the work for them because we get paid to do so. We cater to that demand and we do a fantastic job.’’  So said its spokesman.

To think that we have been grumbling about the $1billion tuition industry, un-tutored tutors preying on parents and kiasu parents loading more classes on their already-gifted kids just so as to ensure they stay ahead or keep up with the pack. That the issue has been raised to a national level with tuition centres requiring registration and even accreditation.

You can’t help but think parents are going nuts…

Nutty parent 1: “Of course I’m going nuts! It’s the education system that is making me nuts! My kid will go nuts too if you see how much homework the teachers give! Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of “homework policy’’ so we don’t stress the kids out, like how many hours of homework a week?’’

Nutty parent 2: “There’s nothing nutty about this. If my kid cannot finish his homework, he will be penalized and it will make him look bad in class. I don’t want to destroy his self-esteem. How his classmates cope? I don’t know. I guess they just don’t get much sleep. I just think that as a responsible parent, I should help him out. Especially since I can afford it.”

Nutty parent 3: “What monkey business? In any case, it’s only “stupid’’ homework which I don’t think is going to affect his exam scores very much…so that’s okay. The teacher won’t know anyway since everything is typed. I would have helped my own kid out if I could, but I am just too busy. The homework also sometimes quite hard…’’

I’m sure everyone has a point of view on this matter. Teachers, for example, will tell of parents who complain if their children get too little homework. Or that the parents/students do not know how to manage their time. Or explain that parents these days just want their kids to do “well’’, even if that means the work has to be done by other people, in other words, they cheat.

That’s right. It’s cheating.

And it’s a shame if parents and homework completors (especially if they are teachers) do not see it this way but choose to dress this up as a transaction or some kind of parental aid for a poor, burdened kid.

Was it so long ago that students were warned about having “other people do their homework’’? Isn’t it better not to complete the homework or to tell teacher “cannot pass up on time’’ than having a beautiful piece of work that is really a con? Or would teachers flip at such responses and prefer to be lied to?

I wonder what such “protected’’ students will say to their classmates: “Heng ah…last night, my dad got so-and-so to come to my house at midnight to finish this homework…Yours how? Finish already? Not yet? You poor thing…Your daddy no money to hire someone ah…”

I don’t want to tell parents about how to bring up their children. It’s not my place to do so. I’m quite sure a lot of the responses will have to do with this onerous education system we have and terrible teachers. All I can say is: I wonder why people don’t deal with the issue by simply bringing it up to the people in a position to change things. What has happened to parent-teacher meetings? Where is the school board/advisory committee/alumni? Can’t the parents – if they are REALLY concerned – make an effort to reach the school principal?

Why throw money at a problem when it is possible to make the problem go away? If fact, why compound the problem by throwing money at it?

Death amid dirt – and where were we?

In News Reports, Society on December 18, 2014 at 12:51 am

There’s a heart-breaking story in TNP of a man who died alone in his squalid three-room flat in Toa Payoh. His body was found last month after neighbours thought that the stench from his flat was extra terrible. He’d been living in squalor for more than 10 years it seems. Even a month after his death, his flat still stinks because his NOK can’t be contacted to clean up the place. The Cat Welfare Society entered the unlocked flat to rescue seven cats. Would that someone had stepped in to rescue the man earlier…Nobody seems to know the man’s name. He’s not old, in his 50s, it seems. Neighbours know him as Din and says the ex-postman sometimes sleeps at the void deck. Looks like something happened to Din after his mother died 10 years ago.

It always amazes me that in a densely-packed place like Singapore, people can still die un-noticed – amid a 10 year stench. Neighbours spray insecticide around their homes and say that they have complained to their MP (not named). One regretted that nothing was done for the man earlier. I guess we’ll all be pointing fingers at the grassroots organisations who should have known what was happening in their environs. We’ll ask “Where’s ComCare?’’, “Where is the MP?’’, “Did the town council know?’’ We’ll wonder why nothing was done in that 10 years when the man was alive, and in the one month after he died. What happened to the official and social/community support structures in his case? I wonder who buried the man and whether he had his last rites.

I suppose it will be too much to suggest that the neighbours themselves might have done something beyond complain to the authorities. We are all so good at minding our own business. Maybe the man had declined help from official or community channels over the years. How he lives in his flat is his own lookout; his house is his castle after all.

I don’t know why I feel extra terrible reading this. We’ve read such news reports before. I guess it’s because Christmas is nearing. Malls are crowded and people are spending a whole lot of money buying presents and decorating their homes. People are thronging department store sections which tout gift ideas. Young people are holding hands and taking selfies in front of mall decorations. All hustle and bustle.

Then there is this man who dies alone, in a flat which probably hadn’t been cleaned in 10 years. I think about those news reports of people who volunteer to make over a person’s home, and the happy faces of the owners when it’s done. I wonder what Din would have said if these wonderful people approached him to do the same. Thing is, he fell through the cracks. And I somehow feel that all of us are responsible for this.

What other sexual subcultures should we know about then?

In News Reports, Society on December 15, 2014 at 12:30 am

I’ve always like The New Paper. It’s a feisty thing. With gutsy reporters who dig deep. For dirt, sure, but also facts. It tells people what they want to know, whether they know it or not…That’s why I don’t criticize much when it resorts to voyeurism and sensationalism. Newspapers, after all, have to sell. Compared to other tabloids elsewhere, TNP is actually pretty tame. Sometimes tamer than the afternoon Chinese-language dailies

I was surprised that it put a dominatrix on yesterday’s Page 1, someone who charges $200 an hour to whip clients. Of course, people will read it. It is part of a lifestyle that most people do not indulge in but may find fascinating. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this if I did not read the editorial justification for the story, which the reporter acknowledged will raise questions.

“Of course, people will say this story is being run for its shock value, but I beg to differ. We, as journalists, peel away the layers and look beneath the public image of sterile Singapore,’’ she wrote.

Then she asked a “quick question’’: Whether readers know that there was no sex involved when you hire a “professional’’ dominatrix. She said that she was no prude and that if being conservative means burying her head – and those of her children – in the sand about sexual sub-cultures, then she’d rather be liberal and discuss the matter openly with her children.

“Our culture may be conservative, but that should not stop us from being aware of what is permissive and what can happen between consenting adults behind closed doors.’’

I was uncomfortable reading this. If I want to picky and tear the feature apart journalistically, I can. It is just an interview with ONE dominatrix accompanied by an article on why bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism might be some people’s cup of tea. There is really no editorial imperative for such a story, except “pro-dommes’’ saying that there is a “gradual increase in the number of new bookings’’ – which is no different from someone trying to flog a product. It is not a trend story. The practice is not illegal. Nobody got hurt (except in the way they want..) And I keep wondering why the article keeps making the point that no sex is involved for pro-dommes. It’s probably what professional social escorts would say too. Enlightening the public on this “fact’’ is surely not the point of the publication.

If TNP is not a newspaper (and a daily as well), I wouldn’t have a problem with the article. It could appear anywhere in a lifestyle magazine, and even in its inside pages. But as the page 1 story of a newspaper, with the justification that it is peeling away the layers of the public image of a sterile Singapore, then I wonder where the line is going to be drawn. In fact, I am not even sure I agree with the image of Singapore as “sterile’’ anymore.

Does TNP then intend to venture into other “sexual subcultures’’? If so, I have many ideas and can even come with possible reasons for publication:

  1. What goes on in gay clubs – TNP did do a spread on what goes on inside such clubs in the past, with the editorial justification or what is in journalistic parlance known as the news peg being the accidental death of a man in such a place.
  2. The life of foreign gigolos here – So much about female foreign sex workers, how come not much about the men?
  3. Sex orgies in HDB flats – Who says heartlanders are dull?
  4. Public places where lesbians hang out – an informative piece for both straight and gay women
  5. The top-selling sex toy in Singapore – a consumer story for adults.

I can also accompany each with an expert-laden article on the whys and wherefores of such people’s lives and their activities. There are plenty of experts online to quote, like how TNP reported a Mail Online report last year on some overseas experts who believe that BDSM can make you more psychologically healthy because people who enjoy kinky sex are more extrovert and less neurotic. There’s even a Dr Andreas Wismeijer, a psychologist from Tilburg University in Holland, who said BDSM practitioners are no different from the rest of the population, and if they are, “they differed in a favourable direction’’.

Now, I am not making a judgment on what adults do privately. It is their business. If it is not illegal and doesn’t harm others, consenting adults should be left to their own devices. What I object to is a newspaper struggling for an editorial justification for a story which has no journalistic merit.

Its conclusion that our conservative culture “should not stop us from being aware of what is permissive (is this supposed to be a derogatory word or what?) and what can happen between consenting adults behind closed doors’’ is too sweeping for comfort.

I want my newspaper to remain a NEWS paper.

Go ahead, make a scene

In News Reports on May 9, 2014 at 1:06 am

I read TNPS’ articles on molest cases on public transport that go un-reported and thought to myself: 30 years on, and nothing has changed. I refer especially to the interview with the 18 year old who said she had been molested at age 15 – and had kept mum. I too was molested on a public bus at age 15, a teenager in her school uniform on her way to school in the morning. I had kept mum then too, and for a long time after that as well, save for a fleeting reference in a published column some years ago.

Like her, I was petrified. And like her, I can recollect the scene like it happened yesterday. I was on bus No. 14 and had the aisle seat. As usual, the bus was packed with uniformed students and those on their work to work. As usual, I was daydreaming until I felt something rubbing against my upper arm. An elderly man was leaning in towards me. I thought nothing of it and shifted myself, until he persisted. And persisted. He hid his evil deed by clutching onto a green bag. Soon I felt his hand moving too.

I froze in place,  and tried to make eye contact with the passenger next to me, a man who was unfortunately nodding off against the window pane. In the end I endured the journey until I reached my stop. I got up and realised that most of the passengers behind me had realised what was happening. Their eyes bore into me. I was suffused in shame.

On jelly legs and with frozen face, I made it into my classroom and told a classmate about what happened. She was mortified. She too had no idea what I should do.  Over the next few weeks, I watched out for the man. But I am not sure I would have known what to do if I saw him. I would probably avoid him, get off the bus – and take the next bus. But I never saw him again.

Here’s a description of the man: An elderly man, in his 60s, in a grey, striped collared tee-shirt. I think he should be dead by now.

Now more than 30 years later, I am trying to analyse why I did nothing then. Tell the bus driver to drive to the next police station? Scream for help and hope my fellow passengers will respond? Elbow him in the groin? I could have told my father who would have probably throttled the man with his bare hands if he caught sight of him. I didn’t.

I guess it was because I led a sheltered life where warnings about strange men were limited to “don’t go out with them’’.  I’m not sure it was because I did not want to “make a scene’’ – I just did not know what to do. Mind went blank. Brain shut down. Perhaps, for those who noticed what was happening, it was a case of “since she’s not making a scene, we shouldn’t either.’’ So everybody kept mum, and the molester had his way.

I know there are women who “cry wolf’’ and men who are upset that they have to defend themselves against the words of a woman who might have misconstrued their actions or are just plain out to “get’’ them. It seems terribly unfair to them to have the Women’s Charter weighted so heavily on the woman’s side. But I ask that they recognise the impact such actions have on women, especially young girls.  If such an “outrage of modesty’’ had left such an indelible imprint on me, what more a case of rape?  To have to re-play the scene in the mind is simply not funny.

I wonder what young girls are being told today about defending themselves against predators. Crowded public transport is such a good cover for perverts. And it looks like it still is.

On a separate note, I wish the Association of Women for Action and Research would delve deeper into our molest and rape laws. It is doing good work in speaking for victims of sexual harassment and abuse, but it might want to study  the State’s record of conviction of molesters and rapists. Anecdotal evidence suggests that too many are repeat offenders.

As for young girls today, I say “go ahead and make a scene’’. The shame is not on you, but on him.


Really? A retirement resort?

In News Reports on January 6, 2014 at 2:25 am

You know you’re getting old when news reports about retirement homes excite you. Particularly when you’re hitting the big 50 and have no children to support you in your old age. So there was a semi-helpful article in the Sunday Times about the “first retirement resort’’ to be built here. Waaah. Resort! So where’s the sauna and spa? The swimming pool? Didn’t say.

Where is it? Jalan Jurong Kechil, said SunTimes. Hah? Jurong? Actually no, it’s in Bukit Timah, according to TNP today. Wah. Good address. It’s really funny for TNP to talk about the crowds on Sunday… Hmm…probably led there by the SunTimes report. (I am assuming here that people still read the newspapers)

Okay, enough pot shots. Now to get down to the nitty-gritty.

You know, we’ve had enough news about housing old people over the years and how the infrastructure should be made “elder-friendly’’. It’s one big reason for the HDB’s upgrading programmes – old people can no longer climb the stairs to reach their flats because the lifts don’t stop at every floor. And it’s the main reason for the building of studio apartments which appears to have lost some of its shine in recent years, with the final take up rate for the first six months of last year at less than 70 per cent although there were two applicants for every flat. Note that there is an income ceiling: average gross monthly income of all applicants should not exceed $10,000.

Of course there are old folks homes with medical staff on standby. But it simply isn’t Asian to be children who dump their aged parents into other people’s care even if there are pressing reasons to do so. I mean, who would look after the grandkids? But what about the middle-class retirees who don’t have to draw on their Eldershield because they are able-bodied and are still sentient beings who don’t want to depend on their children? And who want to splash around in a Blue Lagoon?

A nice retirement village would fit the bill.

So it seems World Class Land, the developer of the Hillford (is it on a hill and are there good views? Doesn’t say in news reports), can claim that this is “the first development of its kind’’ in Singapore. (Move over, HDB and your studio apartments! The private sector is here!)

I wish the papers had done the job of comparing the apartments with what is on offer in public housing. But they are probably wary of doing a “puff’’ piece that would amount to free advertising.

So here it is, according to the developer’s website.

–         The Hillford is a 10-minute walk to the upcoming Beauty World MRT station (Faster if I roll my wheelchair at top speed).

–         It has various “famous’’ schools nearby, such as Bukit Timah Primary School (parents please note and buy for investment purposes.)

–         It has a 24-hour concierge (it bills itself as the Ritz-Carlton Residences of Bukit Timah by the way) and its “payable upon usage ‘’. You wonder about the service and conservancy charges…

–         It will have five restaurants, seven medical-related facilities, one beauty salon, one laundry/flower store, one convenience store, one mini-mart bakery, one childcare centre (!), one eldercare centre and one “retail shop’’. In other words, it’s an integrated development, like every place else is now in Singapore.

–         It has a petanque lawn! (must learn to play this!)

–         And there are four swimming pools (splash, aqua aerobic, dip and spa) and even a Blue Lagoon…

So what did those who throng the showflats say about this? It’s interesting that they were more interested in the inside than the outside.  No non-slip flooring outside the bathroom. Marble tiles are “cold’’. Not enough space to manoeuvre a wheelchair. Toilets do not come with grab-bars. (And the URA had said that the site was released with special conditions to facilitate the “development of a private retirement housing project’’. )

In this instance, the HDB studio apartments beat the Hillford over the indoor amenities. It even has an “enlarged door eye viewer fitted on the main door’’.  

Then there were people there who looked to be buying these apartments for investment, rather than to live in. Perhaps, they were thinking of their own future. Rent them out in the meantime, and then move in later. They are probably not going to be fussy about who their tenants are. Who cares right? So long as the rent is paid.

 This “retirement resort’’ might well be a draw for singles as well and newly marrieds.  There is, after all, no bar on what sort of people are eligible to buy. (And they wouldn’t mind not having non-slip floors and such)

What’s the price? It is $388,000 for 398sqf one-bedder, $498,000 for 506 sqf and $648,000 for 657sqf.  Remember that this is private property with condo facilities and a concierge on call.

Come to think of it, this “retirement resort’’ might well not have very many old folks living in its 281 units when it’s ready…Who cares right? So long as the developer collected the money.

PS. TNP had an accompanying story today next to the Hillford article about a couple who downsized to a HDB studio apartment. I wonder about the reason for this. To stop old people from buying private apartments that are beyond their reach when there are cheaper options  available?