Education – Door out of poverty? Hmmm…

Yes, it plausibly true for technical and pre-university education. According to the organisation, Canadian Feed the Children <Breaking the cycle of poverty with education>, (last updated 2016):

  • A single year of primary school increases wages earned later by 5 to 15 per cent for boys and even more for girls.
  • For each additional year of secondary school, an individual’s wages increase by 15 to 25 per cent.
  • No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 per cent of its adults able to read and write. [Research has to be done to corroborate this.]

Education enables farmers to utilise new farming techniques and technologies. World Bank research found that farmers with at least of four years of primary education were able to improve productivity by an average of nearly 9%. This improves family finances and food security as hungry children/workers have poor concentration and lower efficiency respectively. For the latter, this might lead to unemployment. They are also less prone to illnesses originating from undernourishment. This way excess healthcare costs are avoided. Hence, technical education is a major pillar for the escape from poverty.

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Ironically in some cases, education may be the exact reason why many students remain poor. Due to the immense and overwhelming debt of financing their tertiary education, students remain hopelessly stuck in the poverty cycle. An article from Consumer Reports, entitled: Student Debt – Lives on Hold (28 Jun 2016), 42 million Americans have incurred $1.3 trillion in student debt. This came about with decreased government funding, hiked up tuition fees and the encouragement of private sector education loans. Some like Saul Newton had to enlist as a soldier (ending up in Afghanistan) to pay his school bills. Furnished with idea that college would help them live better material lives, a significant number ended up in a debt nightmare. Thus, the argument that education breaks people out of poverty is utterly wrong in this circumstance.

Another interesting article: We’re so well educated – but we’re useless. (25 Feb 2013). The Guardian.


Migration – Yes or No: A few thoughts

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) site <Learning to Live Together>, a migrant can be defined as:

“any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties to this country.”

Six types are listed:

  • Temporary labour migrants (also known as guest workers or overseas contract workers)
  • Highly skilled and business migrants
  • Irregular migrants (or undocumented / illegal migrants)
  • Forced migration
  • Family members
  • Return migrants

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States should actively invite return migrants to come back home. These citizens with their experience, expertise and contacts would be able to aid the development of the origin country or sustain its prosperity.  In the global war for talent, Singapore’s Ministry of Health had plans to encourage more overseas-trained Singaporean medical doctors to return to Singapore. Top Singaporean scientists working overseas have also been encouraged to come back, with the lure of full funding support for research work and help in setting up laboratories at universities here. This was also trumpeted by Indian business leaders like Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries in 2017. He stated: “It is high time that our brightest and best brains work for the benefits of India and Indians… Some of our brightest people are working outside the country and by whatever faith if they are brought back to this country, and they work for our country, they work for (the) 1.3 billion and they work to improve their lives and put together a new developmental model.” Indeed, skilled reverse migration in this instance should be encouraged especially when such persons have a long term stake in their countries as opposed those who would leave in due time.

Sports overrated? Some views…

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The entertainment value of professional sport is overrated as it has been plagued by rigged matches devoid of true action. Due to high monetary stakes, the outcomes of games in different sports have been fixed. This contradicts the purported passion and skills that are found at sporting events. In cricket, a massive match-fixing scandal was uncovered in 2000. Hansie Cronje admitted he had accepted money to throw matches. Soon players from other countries were implicated, among them Mohammad Azharuddin and Saleem Malik. Ten years on, three leading Pakistan players were suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after police investigations. It was recognised that bookmakers and the underworld were manipulating cricket results and specific moments of play. Australian rubgy was arguably disgraced when ex-player John Elias admitted he once tried to fix the match for a Western Suburbs victory while he was playing for the opposing South Sydney team. His biography entitled <Sin Bin> stated he had four other players on board but the fix did not eventuate. Another player, Ryan Tandy, was convicted in 2011 for deliberately conceding a penalty in 2010. The judge found there was contact between Tandy and three others who had placed “substantial bets” on the match. The nefarious impact that gambling and capitalism exerted on professional sport has thus degraded its entertainment value, regardless of how much sport advertising proclaims it to be otherwise.

Evidence against:

Ferrari’s Formula One Handovers and Handovers from Surgery to Intensive Care. (No date). [Enhanced patient safety with 20% reduction in patient errors].

Wales hospital uses F1 pit stop tactics for newborn resuscitation. (10 May 2016). Financial Times. 

A pained dilemma – Story/Essay

I awoke in the stuffy heat. The fan failed to dissipate the all-pervasive tropical humidity. Summoning my strength, I raised my hand to squeeze my cheek – the pain merely confirmed that it was reality, and not a dream. This was the new normal, a life devoid of luxury. My two older siblings had already left since they studied further away. It took some time getting used to life without Father’s car: becoming accustomed to public transport and once even getting stuck due to a train fault. In any case, I got ready quickly. It would soon be time for school. I stepped into the claustrophobic kitchen of our recently purchased three room flat to take breakfast prepared earlier by Mother. She too had to re-enter employment. This was another consequence of Father’s failed business. It was something we all had to adjust to…

I had the usual day in class. The sole highlight was that I topped the class in Physics and Malay. I had put in extra effort as grandmother reminded us the best way to help our parents was to excel in school. I hoped that the news would lift the gloom ever so slightly for them. Perhaps I would seek entry into a polytechnic next year and join the workforce in order to reduce the family’s burden. But first the stomach had to be filled, so I made a stop at the nearby food court for lunch. Satiated by the meal, I went to the toilet. As I was about to leave the toilet cubicle, I noticed a thick brown envelope on the ledge (for the placement of personal belongs) above me. Curiosity hit me and I took the envelope to peer inside. I saw the words ‘Negara Brunei’ with the numerals and symbols ‘$100’ – the envelope was filled with them! This must be Bruneian currency, and I remembered Father telling me that it enjoyed parity with the Singapore dollar: the contents of the envelope were worth around five thousand dollars at least. The first thought that came to mind was to keep it. Was it not said that ‘finders were keepers’? The money could pay for an entire year of spending with extra left over. The allowance I received from my parents could be saved and then given back to my parents later on. On the other hand something pricked me. I recall Mother’s constant refrain to be honest; and she indeed walked the talk. She always returned the incorrect change when buying things and she never took more than the amount she paid for. And there I stood stumped by the dilemma. In the end, I reasoned with myself that I could decide later. So I stuffed the envelope into my bag and exited the food court.

On my way home, my thoughts were filled with ideas of how the money could be well spent. Putting that aside though, I stopped to buy a newspaper to run through the sports news; a small pleasure that I could still afford. But as I flipped through the pages, I saw a story on about a taxi driver found and returned a bag filled with a sum of $20,000 US dollars left behind by a passenger. The driver when interviewed said: ‘I did not hesitate to bring it to the police station…the money was not mine after all.’ It turns out that that money was urgently needed to pay the medical bills for a visiting medical tourist. The accidental loss had brought so much anxiety while the return provided immense relief. I knew not whether the article was a coincidence, but I realised someone out there was the owner of the money, and right now he or she may be going ballistic upon the discovery of the loss. Perhaps their situation was even worse than mine, just like the one described by the journalist. I halted in my tracks and took the turn to the police station. At the front door I hesitated for a fraction of a moment but something in me got me through, and I reported the misplaced cash. That was one week ago and I have thought little of the incident since. But today I received an envelope with a cheque for $300 and a little note: ‘Thank you honest youngster! I wished my country had more people like you!’ So I reckon that honesty does pay, it definitely did for me and I was glad to openly share the news with my family.

Note: a hybrid of recount and reflection

Sample – Hybrid Essay

Following up on the previous post on essay trends, the below presents an attempt on a (partial) hybrid essay containing elements of ‘personal recount’ and a reflection conclusion.

They say experience is a hard and painful teacher. I went through that first hand last year…

It was a night out with my classmates in the second week of the year-end holidays. We had grown and gelled in the eleven months, from strangers to friends; and some even became close buddies. My own initial discomfort was overcome by their comical jokes and the common bond in face of the recurrent tests and examinations. They had accepted me into their fold in spite of my taciturn shyness. Sadly, most of us would spend the next year in different classes having selected our preferred humanities and science combinations. Not wanting to think about that, we tried to spend as much time together before the actual split.

So that night we picked a movie to watch… (Description of the movie and the experience) Though the film fell flat and disappointed, our spirits were hardly dampened. As the night was still young, Ahmad proposed that we headed to the arcade. We dived headlong into action. The group of us streamed into the arcade and topped up the game cards. Eagerly, we headed out to the First Person Shooter game, or the tennis player, while I made a beeline for the fighting games. Recalling it now, it seems things went in slow motion as I put my wallet right on the controller panel. I was full on into battling my ‘live’ opponent sitting opposite me. Unfortunately, after three rounds I made no headway. After one lost match, I felt something pushing against my shoulder, I turned to look but it just happened to be someone who nearly fell. Without much thought I went back to my game with more than a hint of desperation to beat my opponent. I gave up after ten minutes. As I stood up, I felt something was missing… Then it hit me – my wallet was gone.

My heart sank.

I remembered that my Identification Card and the whole week of allowance was in it. At that moment emotions raced through my head until Rajoo caught up with me. The others then offered to look around, unfortunately, to no avail. It was gone without a trace. Resigned, I trudged ever so reluctantly to the nearby Police Centre… (Description of loss reporting)

Although my parents did not give me a good telling off, I truly felt bad about the incident. Upon reflection, I thought it best to have constant sight of my wallet and mobile phone. Most of time, I put them in my front pockets. Maybe that explains why my trousers have such deep ones. On a more serious note, I remind others to keep their personal belongings on them. In doing so I hope to protect them from the hard, and rather painful teaching which experience gave me.

By: CWL, Jan 2017

Essay questions from Cambridge in Singapore: Trends

In the recent few years, the number of questions to choose from for the English Cambridge Secondary GCE ‘O’ [Syllabus 1128] and ‘N(A)’ [Syllabus 1190] Continuous Writing sections (Paper 1) have seen a reduction from 5 to 4. Concurrently, narrative type essays seem less likely to appear. Consequently, argumentative type essays or exposition type essays increased in frequency. Both these require a fair deal of general knowledge or being up to date with current events/issues. But that may be where the similarities end. There is disagreement over interpretation of both categories. Expositions, according to some schools do not require a stand. It serves only to list and explain the benefits and costs of say electronic books (e-books) for instance. But in other situations, an expository essay may similarly be written as an argumentative essay. Taking the example of the e-books, the answer should include a stand in the introduction and conclusion of the essay. The stand/thesis would inform the reader whether or not e-books be accepted or rejected (be it in the majority or minority). [For the argumentative essay, there are also different schools of thought pertaining to the structure of the essay.]

Perhaps in response, certain schools have begun preparing their students through the ‘hybrid’ essay.

By: CWL, Jan 2017