Saturday, December 19, 2009

Auschwitz sign stolen

Dec 18, 2009
Auschwitz sign stolen
The sign was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WARSAW - THE infamous iron sign bearing the Nazis' cynical slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen before dawn on Friday, Polish police said.

The sign - with the German words for 'Work Sets You Free' - is believed to have been stolen from the gates of the Auschwitz memorial between 3:30 am and 5 am, when museum guards noticed it was missing and alerted authorities, police spokesman Katarzyna Padlo said.

The wide iron sign - across a gate at the main entrance to the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland where more than 1 million people died during World War II - was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other, Ms Padlo said.

Police have launched an intensive hunt, with criminal investigators and search dogs sent to the grounds of the vast former death camp, whose barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers still stand as testament to the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany on Jews, Gypsies and others.

Between 1940-45, more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed or died of starvation and disease while carrying out forced labour at the camp, which the Nazis built in occupied Poland. Today the site is one of the main draws in the region for visitors from abroad and Polish students, with more than 1 million visitors per year. -- AP.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Experiences in a Concentration Camp II"

The prisoner who had lost faith in the future - his future - was doomed.

With the loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment - not for ourselves, which would have been pointless, but for our friends. Usually it began with the prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him anymore.

Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Experiences in a Concentration Camp"

I once had a dramatic demonstration of the close link between the loss of faith in the future and this dangerous giving up. F___, my senior block warden, a fairly well-known composer and librettist, confided in me one day.

"I would like to tell you something. I have had a strange dream. A voice told me that I could wish for something, that I should only say what I wanted to know, and all my questions would be answered. What do you think I asked? That I would like to know when the war would be over for me. You know what I mean, for me! I wanted to know when we, when our camp, would be liberated and our sufferings come to an end."

"And when did you have this dream?" I asked.

"In February, 1945," he answered. It was then the begining of March.

"What did your dream voice answer?"

Furtively he whispered to me, "March thirtieth."

When F____ told me about his dream, he was still full of hope and convinced that the voice of his dream would be right. But as the promised day drew nearer, the war news which reached our camp made it appear very unlikely that we would be free on the promised date. On March twenty-ninth, F____ suddenly became ill and ran a high temperature. On March thirtieth, the day his prophecy had told him that the war and suffering would be over for him, he became delirious and lost consciousness. On March thirty-first, he was dead. To all outward appearances, he had died of typhus.

Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, p. 83.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

All the best for tomorrow and tomorrow

Daniel, as requested. Here are some important reminders:

  1. Start each question on a fresh page.
  2. Write the question number.
  3. Read the question carefully.
  4. Read the sources perceptively.
  5. Answer to the question you are asked.
  6. Write legibly.
  7. Manage your time. Don't overdo the first question.
  8. Don't forsake the SEQ L5. Don't write excessively either.
  9. Give evidence and examples. Show that you have studied.
  10. Sleep early tonight.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

World History according to Billy Joel (who?)

FYI: what event was featured in the cartoon in the opening sequence? Who is the black woman?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Social Media Revolution

Introducing the new face of globalisation! No longer Transportation, TNCs and Communication. Meet the new social media revolution!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia

"What have I to do with the heroes or the monuments of ancient times? with times which never can return, and heroes, whose form of life was different from all that the present condition of mankind requires or allows."

"To know any thing, returned the poet, we must know its effects; to see men we must see their works, that we may learn what reason has dictated, or passion has incited, and find what are the most powerful motives of action. To judge rightly of the present we must oppose it to the past; for all judgment is comparative, and of the future nothing can be known. The truth is, that no mind is much employed upon the present: recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments. Our passions are joy and grief, love and hatred, hope and fear. Of joy and grief the past is the object, and the future of hope and fear; even love and hatred respect the past, for the cause must have been before the effect.

"The present state of things is the consequence of the former, and it is natural to inquire what were the sources of the good that we enjoy, or of the evil that we suffer. If we act only for ourselves, to neglect the study of history is not prudent: if we are entrusted with the care of others, it is not just. Ignorance, when it is voluntary, is criminal; and he may properly be charged with evil who refused to learn how he might prevent it.

Chapter 35.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sec 4 Consultation

Thank you for your interest! Consultation sessions are over, phew. Thanks for all the work done and discussions raised. It was at the same time engaging and exhausting! Hope you have all benefited. Now remember what you know and do what you remember.

Outstanding questions can still be raised under DISCUSSION. Best!

12 Oct 2009 (Mon)
  • 0800 - 0900 (4F: Noel, Ryan, Joseph, Alwin, Bok)
  • 1100 - 1200 (4D: Julian, Emerz, Linchun, Melvin)
  • 1230 - 1330 (4D: Joon Hau, Weixiang)

13 Oct 2009 (Tue)
  • 1000 - 1130 (4D: Zheyuan, Zack, Caleb) [Weixiang, Linchun, Tim, Melvin, Emerz] 
  • 1130 - 1300 (4F: Yutian, Philip, Sahil, Kian Chong, Shaowei, Ryan, Bok, Ernest, Nich, Daryl, Alwin)

14 Oct 2009 (Wed)
  • 0930 - 1130 (4D: Josiah, Emerz, Linchun, Kyle, Desmond, Daniel, Yunhan, Julian, Dzafir, Ziyad, Joon Hau)

16 Oct 2009 (Fri)
  • 1030 - 1130 (4D: Joon Hau, Hafidzin, Sidney, Kenny, Luqman, Caleb) FULL HOUSE
  • 1130 - 1230 (4F: Alwin, Yaksh, Hidayat, Yutian, Yunsol, Nich) FULL HOUSE

20 Oct (Tue)
  • 0930-1100 (4D: Quin, Joon Hau, Zack, Weixiang, Zheyuan) FULL HOUSE
  • 1100-1230 (4F: Bryan, Alwin, Daniel, Philip, Jeremy) FULL HOUSE

21 Oct (Wed)
  • 0930-1100 (4D: Hong Hui, Hamzah, Hafidzin, Caleb, Zach ) FULL HOUSE
  • 1100-1230 (4F: Hidayat, Aaron, Darryl, Sahil, Kian Chong) FULL HOUSE

22 Oct (Thu)
  • 0930-1100 (4D: Caleb, Joon Hau, Quin, Shuvod) FULL HOUSE
  • 1100-1230 (4F: Ernest, Yutian ) CLOSED
[Season Parking: Linchun, Julian, Weixiang]

Monday, October 19, 2009

Market Equilibirum

How does the concept of market equilibirum help us understand our study efforts? Think in terms of effort demanded and effort supplied. Or Exam demands and candidate effort. Have you found your equilibrium?

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Jennifer Aniston Neuron

What's your "Jennifer Aniston" neuron? Does it fire up when it sees a Globalisation SEQ?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Opportunity Cost

For Sidney. For the so many little lessons u never forgot. Thanks.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

All the best Sec 4s!

Dear 4F and 4D,

You know you have 24/7 support from
If you have exceeded your download quota,
you can always SEED!

Repeat to Remember; Remember to Repeat.

All the best!

Thanks for today!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sec 4 Revision Schedule

Week 3 (5 - 9 Oct): History
  • SEQ In-class Test: Keywords Revision
  • Korean War SBQ Practise
Week 4 (12 - 16 Oct): Supplementary
  • 2008 SS SA1 Practise
  • 2008 WH SA1 Practise

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Levels of Response

Dear Where do we go from here? How do we go on to a new level? Read more here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's No Laughing Matter: Analyzing Political Cartoons

Here's an interesting activity on analyzing political cartoons.

Credit: Library of Congress

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Immediate Action for SBQ

Many have asked the question "how can I improve"?

Improvements comes from knowing what you did right (and not so right) and resolving in the next attempt to do what you know is right (and not do what you know is not right).

The more you are able to coordinate between knowing (competence) and doing (performance), the greater the mastery you will have over your performance and by extension, your results. In a sense, good results come from good practise. Good practise comes from good understanding. To attain this understanding, it is important to know what you know before you can do what you know. Here is an exercise:

Look at the 2008 GCEN SBQ suggested answers. For each SBQ, I have outlined what I know that I have to do in the answers. They are bulleted in the box preceding each answer.

Now take a look at the suggested answers for the recent Social Studies and History Elective SA2. Study the answers (not for the answers per say) to derive a hypothesis of "knows-and-dos" in the soft copy of the suggested answers. As you do this for the other answer schemes, you will discover that they is a blue-print of "knows-and-dos" which you can apply in all and any SBQs.

This is your homework. You can discuss your proposed findings in DISCUSSION if you need a second opinion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sec 3 Revision Schedule

Week 2 (21 - 25 Sep): Social Studies
  • China-Tibet SBQ
  • SEQ sampling
  • Review of CA2.2 (Check your marks under Scores)
Week 3 (28 Sep - 2 Oct): History
  • Road to War SBQ
  • SEQ sampling
Week 3 (5 - 9 Oct): Reminders
  • Format
  • Do List

Monday, September 21, 2009

Reflection before the release

Which quadrant do your answers belong?




A1, A2

C5, C6


B3, B4


Top Left: Know what to do and do what you know
Bottom Left: Know what to do but don't do what you know
Top Right: Don't know what to do but still do
Bottom Right: Don't know what to do and don't do

Friday, September 04, 2009

CA2.2 Pacific War SEQ

Sec 3s,

This is the question for your CA2.2. It accounts for 30% of CA2. Complete your essay for submission by the first lesson in Term 4. There will be a 45 mins test in the same week. Same question.

a. How far was the presence of patriotic societies the reason for the rise of militarism in Japan in the 1920s? Explain your answer. (12)

b. 'Japan's aggressive foreign policy was the result of the weakness of the League of Nations.' How far do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer.(13)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Memories of WWII: Oh, how they differ

Selective amnesia rules as Europe marks the 70th year of start of war

EUROPEANS mark this week the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, which took more than 60million lives and ushered in the worst barbarities in human history.

The main commemoration was held in Poland, the first nation to be attacked by Nazi Germany. It was a moving affair which ended on a high note when German Chancellor Angela Merkel, representing the country which started it all, spoke of a 'Europe which transformed itself from a continent of horror and violence into a continent of freedom and peace'.

Yet almost everyone who attended the commemoration still holds a different impression of that war and its implications. The battle for historic memory continues, and is unlikely to be settled for decades to come.

Russia represents the most extreme example of how the same set of historic events can be interpreted in diametrically opposed ways.

As heirs to the Soviet Union, the Russians feel proud of their World WarII achievement. Bedraggled and often barefoot, Red Army soldiers pushed all the way to Berlin, an epic march soaked at every step in Russian blood.

Unfortunately, that's only part of the story. For on the eve of the war, Josef Stalin, the Soviet leader, signed a deal with Adolf Hitler. The Soviets claimed at that time that this was merely a 'non-aggression pact' designed to prevent a European war.

In fact, under secret clauses to the deal, Stalin carved up the continent with Germany. So, as German troops marched into Poland in 1939, the Soviets took their share of Poland, and swallowed up the Baltic states and a chunk of Romania as well. The Soviets entered the war only in 1941, when they were themselves attacked by Nazi Germany.

For a brief period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Russians were prepared to accept that their country's conduct during the war had been less than honourable. But those days are gone.

For, just as the commemorations got under way in Poland this week, the Russian security services released a batch of documents which, they claim, justify the Soviet Union's behaviour.

Under the new Russian interpretation, the USSR signed the pact with Nazi Germany in 1939 because it knew that the Poles were, supposedly, plotting with the Nazis to invade the Soviet Union.

The Poles - who could be accused of many things, but never of being Germany's allies - are outraged.

'Absolute rubbish,' says historian Mariusz Wolos of Poland's Academy of Sciences, who points out that the Russian evidence does not stack up.

However, facts are unimportant in this game, for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wants to instil a new sense of pride among his people, and this means a refusal to admit that Russia was ever wrong. Under a new Russian law, anyone who challenges official history is committing a criminal offence.

Although Russia's behaviour stands out in this regard, almost every other European nation suffers from its own selective amnesia about some inconvenient historic episodes.

The Poles, for example, still find it difficult to admit that though they were the war's biggest victims, they were also sometimes complicit in the destruction of Europe's Jews. Few Polish children know that the last anti-Jewish pogrom in their country took place a year after Poland was liberated from Nazi Germany.

For decades, the French lapped up every story about their heroic resistance to Nazi occupation. It was only much later that stories about collaboration with the German occupiers began to emerge. Even Mr Francois Mitterrand, France's president during the 1980s, turned out to have been a former collaborator.

And the British have their own myths. Their failure to defend France during the war is often portrayed as a victory. And the carpet-bombing of German towns, which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of ordinary German civilians, is frequently brushed aside as mere detail.

More interestingly, however, the Germans are moving in the opposite direction, by challenging taboos that they themselves created. For over half a century, Germans did not speak about themselves, but about the crimes they committed against others. As Chancellor Merkel put it this week, her nation 'bears eternal responsibility' for what happened.

Nevertheless, the Germans now want their own suffering to be remembered. In particular, they ask Europe to acknowledge another crime committed at the end of the war: the wholesale expulsion of millions of Germans from Eastern Europe, for no other reason than pure revenge.

One historic 'mental block', however, is shared by all Europeans: a refusal to accept any responsibility for spreading their conflict to other continents. The horrors of the war in Asia are remembered only in so far as they affected European citizens and soldiers. What happened to the Chinese or Koreans - to name but two afflicted Asian nations - is no longer Europe's affair.

The fact that Europeans have a guilty conscience about their past does not suggest that responsibility for the war should be shared in equal measures among the combatants. The ultimate culprit of the war remains Nazi Germany and its manic leadership.

But the arguments are a reminder that, regardless of globalisation and decades of collaboration, historic memories still remain a strictly national affair.

One day, a common narrative of Europe's biggest tragedy may emerge. Until that happens, the continent will not be truly united. For no country that hides its past will be able to tell the truth about its future.

70 Years of WWII


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Include arts and social science teachings

ARE arts and social science degrees finally getting their day in the sun?

In April, this newspaper reported a 5 per cent increase in applications to the arts and social science degree programmes at the three publicly funded universities in Singapore. It drew attention because of the accompanying dip of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in applications to the traditionally popular business degree programmes at the three universities.

At SIM University (UniSIM), Singapore's only university for working adults, the applications to the School of Arts and Social Sciences jumped 46.6 per cent from the figure a year ago, with a significant rise in demand for psychology and communication as well as Chinese, English and Malay language and literature programmes. UniSIM's School of Business continues to draw its share of students, with applications up 30 per cent in the same period.

Our purpose here is not to revive the tired debate of which field of study should reign. Rather, we take the position that it is perhaps time for all of us - management, instructors and students - to rethink the purpose of higher education.

In particular, students should endeavour to ascertain their strengths and interests, rather than just react blindly to market conditions. At the same time, institutions should also provide education that prepares students to meet not only the challenges at their workplace, but also shapes them into analytical thinkers, informed citizens and active members of their community.

In the rapidly changing environment of today's workplace, new capabilities have to be acquired. Apart from industry-specific knowledge, broader skills are needed. As a result, universities must inculcate skills such as learning to learn, effective writing and oral communication, creative and critical thinking and problem-solving, personal and group effectiveness, and leadership. We thus propose a multidisciplinary approach to higher education that incorporates some basic tenets of the training required in the arts and social sciences.

The study of literature helps to develop a sensitivity towards language with all its subtle nuances, connotations and complexities; it also opens minds to new experiences and different perspectives. In addition, it helps us recognise cultural differences, which goes a long way towards creating a culture of acceptance and appreciation. In an increasingly interconnected world, a global mindset and an intercultural outlook can only be an asset.

As for the social sciences, they are particularly relevant because they give us the means to make sense of the world. They encourage us to examine how individuals, institutions and society interact. They also require us to assess why the different players function the way they do. We are thus challenged to reassess our assumptions, be sensitive to other perspectives, practise logical thinking and form reasoned opinions based on facts.

The social science line of inquiry also equips us with ways of grappling with larger social, political or economic issues by systematically breaking down a mass of information into manageable component parts for analysis. By distilling the facts from the figures, social scientists flesh out the stories behind statistics by providing interpretations of, and explanations for, social trends. These are skills particularly relevant in today's world.

With globalisation and growing international migration, multinational companies were among the first to realise that more than good management was needed. Communication, negotiation skills and sensitivity to different cultures could make or break that million-dollar deal.

These assets stem from taking an interest in the world with the tools that arts and social sciences give: the ability to recognise social trends and make systematic analyses to understand what lies behind the figures.

Administrators of arts and social sciences programmes may lament their inability to pin down specific career paths for their students. But it is precisely this flexibility that makes the knowledge and skills acquired in the arts and social sciences transferable across industries.

Putting aside the pragmatic benefit- cost analysis, the skills acquired in the arts and social sciences also help prepare the individual for a fulfilling life as a contributing member of society. And that, perhaps, is the biggest payoff of all.

The writers are from the School of Arts and Social Sciences at SIM University. Associate Professor Neelam Aggarwal is dean, and Dr Selina Lim and Dr Brian Lee are the heads of Social Sciences and Communication respectively. ST01/09/09

Teachers' Day Message: Wear sunscreen

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SAUDI ARABIA: First attack on royalty

RIYADH: A suicide bomber lightly wounded a senior prince largely credited for Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism campaign, when he blew up a bomb he was carrying near a gathering of well-wishers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the state news agency said yesterday.

It was the first known assassination attempt against a member of the royal family since Saudi Arabia began its crackdown on Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants eight years ago, following the Sept 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Prince Mohammed Nayef, the Assistant Interior Minister in charge of security, was receiving guests in Jeddah at the end of the day's Ramadan fast, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

The royal court said the bomber was a wanted terrorist who had approached the Prince under the pretext of giving himself up.

It is customary for senior members of the royal family to hold regular open gatherings at which citizens can air grievances, seek settlement of financial or other disputes, or offer congratulations.

The bomber detonated explosives packed inside a mobile phone while he was undergoing security checks, SPA said.

Upon hearing of the attack, King Abdullah swiftly headed to the hospital to which the prince had been taken, according to the agency. It said the prince was later discharged from hospital and that the bomber was the only casualty.

Saudi TV showed images of the prince after the attack. SPA also posted a photo of him receiving King Abdullah at the hospital.

The anti-terror chief did not seem affected by his ordeal and the only sign of injury was a bandage on the middle finger of his left hand.

'This will only increase our determination to eradicate this (militancy),' said Prince Mohammed. He is the son of Interior Minister Nayef Abdel Aziz, who is third in line to the Saudi throne.

The Saudi wing of Al-Qaeda was swift to claim responsibility.

In a statement posted on an Islamic website late on Thursday, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said it was behind the attack, according to the US-based monitoring group, SITE Intelligence.

The Interior Ministry has spearheaded the kingdom's aggressive campaign against terrorism, one that has intensified since militants first struck in the kingdom in May 2003.

Prince Mohammed has been largely credited with the government's recent success in crushing the violence.

The country is the birthplace of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and was home to 15 of the 19 Sept 11 hijackers.

On Aug 19, the authorities announced the arrests of 44 suspected militants with Al-Qaeda links in a year-long sweep that also uncovered dozens of machine guns and electronic circuits for bombs.

Last month, Saudi officials said a Saudi criminal court had convicted and sentenced 330 Al-Qaeda militants to jail terms, fines and travel bans in the country's first known trials for suspected members of the terror group.

The 330 were among 991 suspected militants who the Interior Minister said have been charged with participating in terrorist attacks over the past five years.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

WH3.3.9 War in the Pacific

  • Double period: Chapter outline, slides and worksheets can be downloaded under War in the Pacific.
  • Triple Period: Video - Hiroshima.
  • CA2 scripts and review. You can check your marks under SCORES. You need to apply viewer permit with your google account. It's the same account you use for RESOURCES, DISCUSSION and this BLOG (when it's locked).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A case of enhanced reliability?

'Normally, when we stop suspected smugglers or carry out routine checks, people panic or show some signs of nervousness if they are hiding something.

'But this man was so calm and composed that I became suspicious. He even smiled and calmly said he had nothing to declare when I asked him if he had any items to declare.'

'Too cool' traveller caught with $200k worth of Ice at airport
By Wendy Hui

Nearly 1kg of the drug methamphetamine or Ice was allegedly found in a secret compartment of the man's bag. -- PHOTO: ICA

THE man's serene demeanour as he walked towards the Customs green channel at the arrival hall of Changi Airport Terminal 2 on Thursday night aroused the suspicion of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer on duty.

The 31-year-old Malaysian was stopped, and his luggage screened.

The officer's hunch was right: Close to 1kg of a crystallised substance - allegedly methamphetamine, also known as Ice, with a minimum street value of $200,000 - was found in a transparent plastic bag in a secret compartment of the passenger's trolley bag.

The ICA officer described the man - who was wearing a formal business suit and on a social visit pass - as being 'too calm'.

'Normally, when we stop suspected smugglers or carry out routine checks, people panic or show some signs of nervousness if they are hiding something.

'But this man was so calm and composed that I became suspicious. He even smiled and calmly said he had nothing to declare when I asked him if he had any items to declare.'

The man's trolley luggage had allegedly been modified with a concealed compartment near the handle mechanism. In an X-ray scan of the trolley luggage, ICA officers found the compartment secured with 10 screws.

They alerted the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). Officers from the ICA and the CNB unscrewed the concealed compartment and found the alleged drugs.

Methamphetamine abusers formed 16 per cent of all drug abusers arrested from January to June this year, second only to heroin abusers, who made up 57 per cent of all those arrested.

According to a report released by the CNB earlier this month, 1.47kg of methamphetamine was seized in the first half of this year, 50 per cent more than in the same period last year. ST22/8/09

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health-care debate: Myths and realities

Invented immediately after World War II, Britain's National Health Service (NHS) served as an inspiration for many countries which wanted to create a universal, state-funded health-care system.

Yet, to the amazement of politicians in London, their cherished institution has now been dragged into a vicious political debate in the United States.

Opponents of President Barack Obama's health-care reform proposals have accused the White House of seeking to copy the British model, complete with its alleged 'Orwellian bureaucracy', its 'rationing' of health care and its supposed willingness to let older people die in order to save money.

The criticisms have elicited a fierce bipartisan response from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and opposition leader David Cameron. They both have interrupted their summer holidays in order to defend their country's reputation.

As is often the case in such debates, facts are not allowed to interfere with prejudices. Yet facts do matter, for they paint a nuanced picture. Simply put, Britain's health-care system is nowhere near as bad as some Americans believe, and it is hardly anywhere near as perfect as British politicians claim.

The NHS is a bureaucratic monster. It is the biggest single employer in Europe and the third largest employer in the world - after China's People's Liberation Army and US retailer Wal-Mart. It is also heavily centralised.

Nor is it 'free', as ordinary Britons often say. The institution is funded through a tax levy which, on average, removes 10 per cent of a worker's salary. There is no way of opting out. Even those who have health insurance and wish to be treated in private hospitals still have to pay the levy.

The NHS devours 17.5 per cent of Britain's annual fiscal budget, almost as much as defence and education combined.

Is it worth it? The World Health Organisation (WHO) places Britain's health-care system in the 18th place in a global league of health-care systems. The US system is ranked 37th. Average life expectancy is one year longer in Britain, compared with the US. And all of this is achieved while spending far less than the US on a per capita basis.

To be sure, the US leads the world in high-tech surgery, and particularly in some cancer treatments, where the British record remains appalling.

To take just one example: At the moment, there are three pioneering ways of treating prostate cancer in the US. Two of these are unavailable in Britain, and the third is very hard to get.

However, the explanation for this discrepancy is obvious: As prostate cancer affects middle-aged men who pay most of the insurance premiums, US health companies have every reason to invest heavily in tackling it.

Nevertheless, when it comes to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, which require lengthy treatment, the British model would appear to be better, precisely because it is not driven by profit.

The biggest and most emotive dispute just now is over the concept of rationing, the allegation that Britain's NHS would either refuse to keep alive those who are too old or simply not treat those who need very expensive medication.

There is no such policy. Yet, in reality, a rationing system does exist.

For example, Britain operates a National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - or Nice, as it calls itself, with an eye to good publicity.

Theoretically, Nice is supposed to just evaluate new drugs and surgical methods in order to determine whether these are safe and efficient. But it does more than that: It refuses to authorise any drug that will cost more than S$65,000 per life year gained.

Of course, the figure is arbitrary and, for those whose life is terminated as a result, a tragedy.

Nevertheless, as Nice chairman Michael Rawlings recently pointed out: 'All health-care systems have implicitly, if not explicitly, adopted some form of cost control.'

In the US, rationing also exists, albeit differently. Insurance companies routinely exclude certain illnesses from the coverage of their patients, or simply refuse to insure those who are too risky or too old.

The real question which Americans should ask themselves is what kind of rationing is worse - that of Britain, which may deprive its people of some of the latest technological innovations, or that of the US, where roughly 45 million citizens have no proper coverage at all?

Ordinary Americans would also do well to ponder why their country spends twice as much on health care as the rest of the industrialised world, but enjoys no better overall results.

Mr David Hannan, a British MP, had the courage to argue earlier this week that the US should blend the NHS model with that of Singapore - sixth on the WHO ranking - 'where people can opt out of a state-run system and into health savings accounts, giving them more choice'.

Yet Mr Hannan's intervention was dismissed by the entire British political elite as either unpatriotic or just eccentric.

So both sides of the Atlantic still agree on at least one point: Myths about the alleged superiority of their existing health-care systems remain more important than reality. By Jonathan Eyal, Straits Times Europe Bureau. ST20/8/09

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WH3.3.8 War in the Pacific

  • Double period: Chapter outline, slides and worksheets can be downloaded under War in the Pacific.
  • Triple Period: Video - Japan's War in Colour.
  • For your CA2 preparation, you can check out Sri Lanka/Northern Ireland SEQ compilation.
  • Bring note books for checking. History: notes completed up till War in Europe. Social Studies: notes completed up till Bonding Singapore. Those without will sit out video session.


Double Period

  • Social Studies Mock Exam (Elderly-Healthcare-Venice) Suggested Answers can be downloaded here.
  • Review of SS SBQ (Housing Quota)
  • SBQ Practise on WWII Europe/Nazi Germany (Bring SBQ worksheet on Hitler: Road to War)

Ceylon Citizenship Act

A brief timeline of the Sri Lankan plantation sector from PACT on Vimeo.

For your CA2 revision, check out compilation of Sri Lanka & Northern Ireland SEQs here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Context! Context! Context!

If the balloons popped, the sound would not be able to carry since everything would be too far away from the correct floor. A closed window would also prevent the sound from carrying since most buildings tend to be well insulated. Since the whole operation depends on a steady flow of electricity, a break in the middle of the wire would also cause problems. Of course the fellow could shout, but the human voice is not loud enough to carry that far. An additional problem is that a string could break on the instrument. Then there could be no accompaniment to the message. It is clear that the best situation would involve less distance. Then there would be fewer potential problems. With face to face contact, the least number of things could go wrong.

What is the context? Post in comments.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is Context? (Again)

Rocky slowly got up from the mat, planning his escape. He hesitated a moment and thought. Things were not going well. What bothered him most was being helpless, especially since the charge against him had been weak. He considered his present situation. The lock that held him was strong but he thought he could break it. He knew however that his timing would have to be perfect. Rocky was aware that it was because of his early roughness that he had been penalised so severely, much too severely from his point of view. The situation was becoming frustrating; the pressure had been grinding on him for too long. He was being ridden unmercifully. Rocky was getting angry now. He felt he was ready to make his move. He knew that his success or failure would depend on what he did in the next few seconds.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What is Context?

Every Saturday night, four good friends get together. When Jerry, Mike and Pat arrived, Karen was sitting in here living room writing some notes. She quickly gathered the cards and stood up to greet her friends at the door. They followed her into the living room but as usual, they could not agree on exactly what to play. Jerry eventually took a stand and set things up. Finally, they began to play. Karen's recorder filled the room with soft pleasant music. Early in the evening, Mike noticed Pat's hand and the many diamonds. As the night progressed the tempo of play increased. Finally, a lull in the activities occured. Taking advantage of this, Jerry pondered the arrangement in front of him. Mike interruppted Jerry's reverie and said, 'Let's hear the score.' They listened carefully and commented on their performance. When the comments where all heard, exhausted but happy, Karen's friends went home.
What is the context? What IS context?

136 killed at Berlin Wall

BERLIN - AT LEAST 136 people were killed at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989, researchers leading the first detailed study into victims' deaths said on Tuesday.

It was important for younger generations to remember the brutality of the past, especially this year in which Germans celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, a key event in the collapse of communist rule in eastern Europe.

The findings are the result of a four-year project between the Berlin Wall Memorial and the Centre of Historical Research in Potsdam.

'It's very important to explain what it was really like and to highlight the inhumane consequences,' Culture Minister Bernd Neumann told reporters. 'The project restores the victims' dignity,' he said, adding that a recent tendency to trivialise the crimes of the former Communist regime in East Germany made such projects essential.

There is no official figure for the number of people killed outside Berlin on the long border that divided Germany, but German media have estimated that toll at 1,347.

The Berlin Wall was erected almost exactly 48 years ago and divided the former and present German capital - and Europe - for nearly four decades during the Cold War.

The East German government did not make public details of people killed trying to escape. 'Our aim was to give the victims a face and link that face with a story,' said Maria Nooke from the Berlin Wall memorial.

Of the 136 victims whose biographies are published in the new compendium 'The victims at the Wall 1961 - 1989', most were young men aged between 16 and 30.

Nine children and eight women died, and the figure also includes several West Berliners and eight East German border guards. A further 251 people died during regular border crossings, mainly from heart attacks, the researchers said.

Alongside the compendium, new interactive terminals at the memorial centre enable visitors to see archive material including photos, maps of escape routes and audio clips of the victims' family members. -- REUTERS

Monday, August 10, 2009

SS3.3.7 Bonding Singapore

Read the letter "What it means to be Singaporean". What are the challenges Singapore face; how can these challenges be managed? What are the outcomes of of being able/unable to manage these challenges?
  • What kinds of SEQs can be asked from this chapter?
  • What SBQs have been set on this chapter?

Revision (WWII Europe & Bonding)

Double Period
  • Review of SS Mock Exam (Elderly)
  • Review of SS SBQ (Housing Quota)
Triple Period
  • SBQ Practise on WWII Europe

Friday, August 07, 2009

India, China resume border talks

NEW DELHI: India and China will resume border talks tomorrow after a year's gap as the Asian giants look for ways to maintain their relationship amid a hardening of claims over their disputed border.

China's State Councillor Dai Bingguo and India's National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan will meet over two days to discuss their respective claims.

Twelve rounds of talks have been held before, alternating between venues in the two nations, and progress has been slow.

Beijing, sensitive to restiveness in Tibet, claims all of the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and is particularly inflexible over the state's Buddhist enclave of Tawang.

The area was the birthplace of one of the earlier Dalai Lamas and is the site of an important Buddhist monastery.

India says it holds China to an earlier agreement that settled populations cannot be disturbed in any eventual border settlement. Beijing says that formulation does not apply to Tawang.

'The first priority should be to try and exchange maps showing the lines of ac-tual control without prejudice to the eventual claim lines,' says retired brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal of New Delhi's Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

'We have done that with China in the least contentious areas, but need to do that over Arunachal in the east and La-dakh in the west to prevent any border incident leading to a larger accident. There cannot be anything more substantial for the moment.'

The decision to resume talks underscores Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's desire to explore lasting settlement of outstanding issues with India's most important neighbours, China and Pakistan.

Dr Singh has shown significant flexibility towards Pakistan lately, attracting much domestic criticism in the process.

While public opinion in India probably will not tolerate similar accommodation of China, at whose hands India suffered a military defeat in 1962, the Indian leader has shown he is open to fresh thinking.

Among his recent gestures to China was a decision to appoint the well-regarded Dr S. Jaishankar as his envoy to Beijing.

Though not a China expert, Dr Jaishankar, now High Commissioner to Singapore, was a key architect of last year's landmark civilian nuclear agreement with the US. That deal was supervised directly by the Prime Minister's office.

'There are two schools of thought on China,' says an Indian official with knowledge of the preparations for the talks. 'One says the relationship is developing in so many fields, so bury the border issue for later. The other says deal with it now before China becomes more powerful and turns its focus to India after fully settling Taiwan.'

Still, Mr Dai and Mr Narayanan are meeting amid rising unease in the relationship.

Beijing has been wary of the strategic overtones of the nuclear deal that former president George W. Bush inked with India, as well as New Delhi's growing economic and military ties with Tokyo.

Last year, it was markedly unenthusiastic when the US pushed through a special waiver for India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

More recently, it unsuccessfully tried to block a US$2.9 billion (S$4.2 billion) loan from the Asian Development Bank for development projects in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition, Chinese patrolling of the Arunachal border has been more assertive lately, according to Indian officials.

In response, India has embarked on a US$3 billion plan to modernise its border roads. It briefly stationed its front-line Sukhoi strike aircraft close to the China border earlier this year and is upgrading several border airfields. Arunachal governor J.J. Singh, a former army chief, has said New Delhi would raise two divisions of troops to defend the area.

Chinese comments on these developments have been acidic. An editorial in the Global Times, controlled by the People's Daily, has warned that the escalation of troop presence was a dangerous thing. It asked India to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China.

'Despite all this, political leaders on both sides have shown great wisdom in not allowing the border dispute to affect bilateral relations in other fields,' says strategic affairs expert B. Raman.

'Bilateral trade continues to gallop. Chinese companies are winning an increasing number of construction contracts in India, and more and more Chinese students are coming to India to improve their English while Indian students go over to study medicine.' ST6/8/09

Asian giants...

# IN CONTENTION: India says China illegally occupies 38,000 sq km of its territory in Jammu and Kashmir state. China claims 90,000 sq km in the east, covering almost all of India's Arunachal Pradesh state.

There are also conflicting claims over parts of the border along the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

# IN CONVERGENCE: India and China are set to discuss common positions on climate change this month and cooperate in monitoring melting Himalayan glaciers.

China is now India's No. 2 trade partner after the European Union, edging out the US. Chinese firms are increasingly clinching contracts for construction in India, while Indian IT firms such as NIIT and TCS are welcome in China.

Military ties are growing too: There have been two anti-terrorism joint exercises, and naval ships have exchanged port visits.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Public trust in China at a new low

BEIJING: Sex workers are more trustworthy than government officials. And state-published data is 'largely falsified'. These views from a just-published survey confirm the trend of declining public trust in China in recent years, observers said.

The poll of 3,376 people showed that trust in Chinese society had sunk to a new low in the past decade compared to years past, said the state-run Xiaokang magazine which conducted the online survey in June and July this year.

Nine in 10 attributed this to the ultra-competitive - 'quick success and instant benefits' - society that China has become.

The state of public trust in China is so deplorable that, as one netizen on the magazine's online forum quipped, 'when Chinese people talk about integrity, God laughs'.

While China's economy has grown phenomenally in the 30 years since it unshackled itself from a command system, social inequalities have mounted - and the country's legal system and governance have not kept pace.

A sign of bubbling discontent: a rising tide of mass protests in recent years.

Last year, the government dealt with more than 100,000 mass incidents of civil unrest. Data for this year has not been released, but news reports on clashes between people and local government officials abound.

In the survey in the latest issue of the monthly magazine published by the Chinese Communist Party, participants were asked to rank 49 occupations in terms of trustworthiness.

Their top five picks: farmers, religious workers, sex workers, soldiers and students.

Scientists, teachers and government officials ranked far lower.

At the bottom of the list: real estate bosses, secretaries, brokers, show business celebrities and movie directors.

In a separate poll, some 40 per cent of urban Chinese said they feared that an apartment building in their cities might collapse, after a 13-storey block fell over in Shanghai in June.

At one level, the Xiaokang survey reflects 'public sympathy for the underdog in an unjust society', said Mr Li Fan, a

Beijing-based expert on grassroots democracy, in a phone interview.

In a sign that society has lost its moral compass, teachers and officials who were once figures of justice and authority now have little credibility, noted Dr Zhao Litao, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute.

The crux of the problem, said scholars, was the erosion of the government's own cachet.

Of those polled, 49 per cent said they were 'extremely worried' about the credibility of the government and of the corporate world.

More than 90 per cent said they believed that data published by the state was 'largely falsified' or 'definitely falsified and cannot be trusted'. In a similar survey in 2007, less than 80 per cent of those polled were as cynical.

Dr Zhao said: 'Trust in the government underpins all trust in any society. In China, people often find they cannot get justice from officials or the courts.'

The blame lies primarily with local officials, said Mr Li, who heads a non-governmental research institute dedicated to mutual understanding between China and the world.

While ordinary Chinese usually hold the central authorities in high regard, local officials' repeated bungling has sparked social unrest and eroded trust at the grassroots, he said.

'Local officials should act as a neutral party working for the benefit of ordinary people, but they are instead often fighting with regular folk for land, fees or other sorts of interest,' he said.

If Beijing's aura of credibility is worn down as well, said Mr Li, 'there will be even more social unrest because the Chinese don't have a tradition of sitting down to solve problems'.

The slide in public trust needs to be arrested, argued an editorial in the state-owned China Daily yesterday.

It said: ' The first to put an end to public servants being alienated from public interest.'

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bombing Hiroshima 'was right'

WASHINGTON - NEARLY two-thirds of Americans think the United States was right to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 64 years ago, ending World War II, a poll showed on Tuesday.

Only 22 per cent of those polled said then-US president Harry Truman was wrong to order the devastating bombings of the two Japanese cities in August 1945, according to the survey by Quinnipiac University.

An atomic bomb dropped from a B-29 Superfortress plane exploded over Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945, killing more than 140,000 people either instantly or in the days and weeks that followed as radiation or horrific burns took their toll.

Three days later, with Japan still reeling from the devastation wrought on Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki.

Another 70,000 people died in that attack, and Japan surrendered less than a week later, ending World War II.

The Quinnipiac poll showed that support for the bombings rises significantly with age, with nearly three-quarters of poll respondents aged 55 and older supporting the devastating bombings, compared with just half of 18-34 year-olds and six in 10 Americans aged 35-54.

'Voters who remember the horrors of World War II overwhelmingly support Truman's decision,' said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

'Support drops with age, from the generation that grew up with the nuclear fear of the Cold War to the youngest voters, who know less about World War II or the Cold War,' Brown said.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 2,409 registered voters across the United States between July 27 and Aug 3 for the poll. The margin of error was plus or minus two per cent. -- AFP

Sunday, August 02, 2009

WH4.4.6 Revision (Stalin)

Period I
  • SEQ Practise on Stalin: Bring your history textbook(s).
  • Compilation of SEQ on Stalin can be downloaded here.
  • You can check your SS Mock SBQ results under Scores. The rest have to wait.
Period II
  • SEQ Practise on Social Studies: Bring your Social Studies textbooks 3 & 4.

SS3.3.6 Bonding Singapore

  • Slides and Worksheet can be download here.
  • Chapter outline can be found here.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Le Kua Simi?

...but so should Canadians

I REFER to yesterday's letter by Mr Eric J. Brooks, 'Be grateful, Singapore', and wish to remind him he should be more grateful to his own country, Canada. While I agree Singapore has achieved considerable improvements in living conditions, he should treasure the better social benefits provided by Canada.

I understand the two countries operate under different social systems. It is difficult to judge which is better. But has Mr Brooks forgotten the following important basic social benefits provided by his home country?

The Canadian government provides and funds compulsory education for Ontario residents from primary to secondary level, up to the age of 18. It spends 7 per cent of its gross domestic product on education. Canadians enjoy these benefits, while we do not.

Ontario has two social assistance programmes for people in financial need: Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Programme. Under Ontario Works, a distressed family of four with children under 17 years old receives a basic needs allowance of up to C$446 (S$590) and a shelter allowance of C$660, making a total of C$1,106 a month. A distressed family in Singapore gets less than a quarter of this.

Under the Canadian National Health Insurance programme Medicare, citizens are fully covered with medical expenses prepaid, while Singaporeans must pay according to individual affordability with up to 80 per cent subsidy for the needy.

Perhaps Mr Brooks has been away too long. Would he trade these social benefits - free education, free medical care and good financial assistance schemes for sheltered walkways, regular rubbish collection and lifts that stop at every floor?

Paul Chan

Friday, July 31, 2009

Be grateful, S'pore

I AM writing to share many things Singaporeans take for granted.

Thanks to years of budget surpluses, when the global financial collapse hit, Singapore was able to use more money as a percentage of gross domestic product than any other country, rich or poor. Now, with its economy rebounding at a 20 per cent rate this last quarter, Singapore has recovered from the collapse faster than any other country. This is something only Singapore, with its deep pockets and years of good economic management, could pull off.

My home city, Toronto in Canada, has its rubbish collected only once a week, yet it is considered one of North America's cleaner cities. It is in the 36th day of a rubbish collectors' strike, with rubbish and foul odours on its streets and an increasingly serious problem with rats and insects. Some people even store rubbish in their refrigerators.

In Singapore, our rubbish is collected every day, no questions asked. For a $40 conservancy fee, we get a clean-up that would cost hundreds of dollars a month in the United States or Canada.

Most buildings in the US and Canada have no sheltered walkways to protect residents from rain or snow, unlike most HDB blocks. This is so even though there are Americans and Canadians who freeze to death outside in the cold every year.

Most North American cities I have lived in are cutting bus and train services just to balance their budgets. Singapore plans to add a new MRT line this year and more lines and stations over the next three years.

If a poor person lives in a building without a lift in the US or Canada, that is his tough luck. In Singapore, the Government is upgrading our four-storey HDB blocks with a new staircase and a wheelchair-friendly lift that stops at every floor.

If a poor person cannot afford to pay his mortgage in the US or Canada, he can be turfed out and left homeless. If an HDB dweller cannot pay his mortgage after he loses his job, he can seek a moratorium on payments from his community development council. This mercy, to the best of my knowledge, has no equal anywhere else in the world.

After living and working in six countries, I have known for a long time that no country takes care of its people the way Singapore does.

Eric J. Brooks

Sunday, July 26, 2009

WH3.3.4 War in Europe

  • Complete chapter summary notes on War in Europe.
Topic: Road to War in Europe
  • Understanding goals and outline can be found here.
  • Worksheet can be download here.

WH4.3.4 Revision (Stalin)

  • SBQ Practise & Review: Stalin's Rise to Power (will be given in class; to be completed in class)
  • SEQ on Russia: an overview
  • Review of Social Studies Mock
  • Check your SA1 corrections submission status here. Alert me about errors.
  • Mock exam marks will be posted here too. As and when they are available.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

How the Humanities can help you get that scholarship!

The public service is not looking for conformists and 'yes men'. It is looking for people who have a personal point of view, regardless of current policy. Even a few mavericks...will be useful because they will add vitality and diversity to the service.

What the PSC wants aside, can you see how these qualities of thought and expression are cultivated through learning the Humanities?

THIS year, of the 15,000 A-level and International Baccalaureate (IB) students in Singapore schools, more than 2,500 applied for Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarships. To arrive at a manageable number to interview, the PSC took into account their teachers' assessments, academic results and records of their co-curricular activities and community involvement programme. Eventually, some 350 applicants were picked for the interview.

Before the PSC interview, every applicant sat for psychometric tests and was interviewed by trained psychologists. The tests are meant to assess the candidate's general, verbal and numerical reasoning abilities and to give a rounded view of his psychological profile. Every candidate who sits for the psychological profile interview will be seen by PSC. The candidates themselves write a short essay on their own values. The PSC panel reads all these background papers and reports before meeting the applicants. After the interviews, which stretched over five months, the PSC eventually awarded 84 scholarships.

The 84 scholarships were awarded on merit, regardless of the background of the candidates. PSC scholarships are not bursaries given out to the less privileged. The number of scholarships given out each year depends on the number of deserving and suitable candidates, not on the economic situation.

While the outcome of the selection exercise leaves the chosen happy, more than 2,400 other students would be disappointed. A few schools would also be puzzled as to why not all their top students were selected. The PSC owes all these people an explanation.

How are scholars selected?

PSC members all share a strong sense of responsibility in ensuring that the high standards of Singapore's public service are maintained and the long-term needs of the service are met. We realise that the decisions we make will determine what kind of public sector leaders Singapore will have in 15 to 20 years' time.

If the selection of scholars is done well, many, but not all, of our Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries will be scholars. Scholar public servants can be derailed in their future careers for many reasons. Some may have poor supervisors while others may be in a bad job fit. But the PSC must share responsibility if we miss a fatal character flaw or are misled by false pretences.

First and foremost, we look at integrity. Integrity is vital because while pragmatism may be a key concept for governance in Singapore, it is dangerous to have Singapore governed by public servants who are unprincipled pragmatists.

A person's integrity is best assessed through his behaviour over a period of time. It is too complex a trait to assess through interview alone, and we depend on the schools and psychologists to give us a first cut of their reading of the candidate's integrity.

Teachers play a very important role. Their impressions matter because they have first-hand experience of the student. The PSC takes their assessments, both negative and positive, very seriously. However, they should not exaggerate the strong qualities they see in their favourite students as it could be counter- productive, raising our expectations of the candidate when the reality does not fit the hype. Nor should teachers be over-critical just because a student is a bit of a maverick. As long as they have integrity, these are talented outliers whom our system must be flexible enough to fish out eventually.

The psychologists are trained to look for signs and indicators that suggest whether or not a candidate has integrity. They can determine whether the candidate has strong values which he is not afraid to express or uphold even against peer pressure. Maintaining one's values is not the same as following rules. The person with integrity will challenge the rules if they go against his values and principles. But how he challenges the rules is also important, for it reveals how shrewd and street-savvy he is.

During the interview, we judge if what the teachers, psychologists and military officers (in case of national servicemen) say about the candidates is accurate and fair. We try to balance the different perspectives, bearing in mind that people behave and perform differently in different circumstances. We hope that our overall view is a more rounded and balanced one. The interview also gives the candidate a final chance to redeem himself if the assessments are off the mark.

The second most important quality is commitment. An 18-year-old can have an interest in a public service career, but it is almost impossible to get a fix on his commitment to the public service or loyalty to Singapore. In any case, most 18-year-olds know what they don't want, rather than what they want.

The candidate's level of commitment in serving the community serves as a proxy indicator for his commitment to the public service. How committed is he to his community involvement programme? What is his reason or motive for taking part in it? Does he truly enjoy serving the less fortunate or is he doing it primarily to make his CV look good? What reasons does he give for wanting to join the public service? Do they ring true or is he saying what he thinks we want to hear? Given his character and personality, is he likely to break his bond or stay overseas?

Some candidates think that they can demonstrate how committed they are by giving 'politically correct' answers and appearing to be pro-government. They fear that being critical of, or sceptical about, government policies or decisions will make them lose points with the PSC. Unfortunately, in attempting to second- guess the panel and seeking to give the 'correct' answer, they often end up giving the impression that they have no integrity.

There is, of course, nothing wrong about agreeing with and supporting government policy, but some candidates go to the extent of suppressing their own views in order to impress the panel. It is all right to be critical, even sceptical. Being critical means you care about our nation and want to improve things and correct what you think is wrong. Being sceptical means you are not naive and do not accept everything you read or hear.

The public service is not looking for conformists and 'yes men'. It is looking for people who have a personal point of view, regardless of current policy. Even a few mavericks - people with unconventional viewpoints who are willing to challenge assumptions - will be useful because they will add vitality and diversity to the service. We are looking for people who dare to think and question because innovation within Government is possible only when there are public servants who are willing and able to debate existing rules and policies.

The PSC is of course looking also for high quality. A person of integrity and commitment will make only a limited contribution if he does not have innate ability: the ability to analyse issues, to come up with creative ideas, to perceive opportunities, to solve problems, to motivate others, and to get things done.

But ability is not measured only by academic results. While we do select from students who are at the top in terms of academic performance, our experience shows that above a certain cut-off point, academic results cannot help us differentiate between candidates. We need to look for other qualities, such as leadership skills and ability to work with others.

When assessing a candidate's leadership skills, we are not interested only in the leadership roles he held but also what kind of a leader he is. His school record will give us an idea of what leadership posts he held. The psychologists will then probe to find out what kind of a leader the candidate is. Is he a consultative and nurturing leader or is he an assertive and task-focused one? We favour no single leadership model because the public service is looking for a diversity of leaders.

Our psychometric tests measure IQ and various facets of the candidate's personality. While IQ is generally not a bad predictor of success in life, it is not the only relevant factor, which is why some people with very high IQ do not make it in life. To assess whether a candidate has the potential to make it to the top of the public service, we need to look for non-cognitive skills as well.

EQ - the ability to understand yourself and to interact well with your environment - is increasingly recognised as a vital ingredient for successful leaders and managers. Studies have shown that successful corporate CEOs do not need to have the highest IQ, or even relevant experience, to reach the top and be successful. But without EQ, they often fail.

Why recruitment is an art

NO CANDIDATE is likely to have all the desirable traits in equal abundance. All candidates will excel in some areas and not others. It is a given that all the candidates we interview excel academically. But because candidates will vary in everything else, the PSC will have to exercise judgment in making trade-offs. This is why recruitment is an art, not a science.

The PSC must distinguish between core traits such as integrity and commitment, and traits which can be acquired over time, such as communication skills. The PSC will need to be mindful of the fact that women generally perform better in interviews; they are generally more mature (at 18 years old) and confident, and they often speak better than the men.

Candidates who come from humbler backgrounds may lack the polished exterior of their more privileged colleagues. We must look beyond appearances to determine the substance.

While we may ask tough questions in the interviews, we have no intention to deliberately trip you up. The better candidates must expect harder questions. If you walk out of the interview room thinking it is a breeze, it could well mean you have failed. We need to ask difficult questions because we are less interested in ascertaining what you know than in finding out how you think and what kind of person you are.

There is no point mugging for the interview. Appearing before the PSC is not like taking an exam. You only have half an hour and a long-winded answer is not going to help. But it is always good to show you are aware of, and have an interest in, what is going on in Singapore and in the world. Hence, please read the daily paper because invariably someone will ask you what caught your attention in that day's newspaper.

It helps if you seem to know what you want in applying to join the public service. Those who are more focused and have had internships in ministries they are interested in, have a distinct advantage over those who come before the panel and say they have no clue what the public service is all about.

You only need to be yourself, relax and feel free to express your views. We are not looking for the right answer because many of our questions have no single right answer. If you do not know something, it is better to admit your ignorance than to try to fabricate an answer. Being yourself means not attempting to be what you are not. If you fake your personality, you will tie yourself up in knots and will very soon be found out.

We are looking for an interesting conversation with you. We will begin to take notice when we hear something genuine and spontaneous being said which reflects your personality. ST25/7/09

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why did the speaker make this speech?

Watch this clip. This is the speech that inspired this article. Are you able to analyse this source for why the speaker made this speech? You can share your views in DISCUSSION. Reward? Priority marking for mock ;)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Testing Assertion SBQ

Today we went through the Testing Assertion SBQ. You can download a sample answer to this type of question here.

For practise, you shall use the History SA1 sources and attempt this question:

Study all sources.

Collectivisation in the USSR was a success. How far do these sources support this statement? Explain your answer [8]