Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Friday, October 03, 2008

good job lah, China

Skype has just admitted that China has been tracking and archiving users that use specific key words such as "Tibet", "Communist Party", "Democracy" and "milk powder" (heh) in their internet chat messages. not only are the messages stored, IP addresses, usernames and "other information" are also tracked, probably sufficient to identify the senders and recipients of such "sensitive" messages. of course Skype denies any wrong-doing, they were only notified of such tracking last week.

the next question: does the Singapore government do this as well?

actually, i don't think so. i highly doubt that our civil service has the resources (or the inclination) to do something like filter and track all "politically sensitive" MSN messages, Facebook wall greetings, and emails. i also don't think MSN, Facebook or Google will be involved with some shady deal with the Singapore government. (then again, i'm not sure how much influence Singtel has....) i remember there was some concern about sms in the past, but i doubt that the government closely tracks that like they probably do in China. (i DO think there is some "loose" scanning of political blogs, forums and related websites though.)

but that's just my opinion. and since when has my opinion been a deterrent for conspiracy theories? so, in a hypothetical conspiracy theory, say the Singapore government does scan our Skype chats, MSN messages, SMS messages and what not, what would be the specific "keywords" they want to look out for?

LKY? LSH? Nepotism? FamiLEE? Lee Regime? Opposition Party? CSJ? JBJ (probably not anymore....)? PAP? WP? MIW? Gahmen? ERP? Ministers' Salaries? S377A? Mr Brown? Mee Siam Mai Hum?

and did i just shoot to the top of their list by listing all the tracked keywords in one paragraph above?


Thursday, August 07, 2008

what does the olympics mean to you?

i haven't written a purple post in close to a year, so i thought that i will say a few things about the Beijing Olympics. (National Day? what National Day?)

for me, most of my attention about the Olympics is focused on basketball. can the NBA-star studded Team USA win back a gold medal on the international stage after humiliating losses in 2002 (finishing 6th), 2004 (losing to Argentina, finishing 3rd) and 2006 (losing to Greece, finishing 3rd)? this year's team is considered the most talented USA team since the "Dream Teams" of 1992 and 1996. the media has called this the "Redeem Team" as it seeks to redeem USA back to basketball glory. however, in the last practice game USA had before the tournament begins, USA barely scratched out a win over Australia, which is not even considered to be a medal contender. how will USA fare? i will follow every game closely.

a good many of us follow soccer. but soccer at the Olympics is not as exciting as it is an under-23 tournament, and most of the big names will not be there. the biggest name there will be the fallen-from-grace Ronaldino (who is not under 23, but each team is allowed 3 players above 23). but perhaps, what everybody is concerned about is not soccer per se, but the "club vs country" debate that has kept Lionel Messi (arguably the most talented player eligible) out of the Olympics so far. fearing injury to their stars, a few clubs are reluctant to release their players for international duty, much to the chagrin of FIFA.

[Addendum 8/8/08: Barcelona has released Lionel Messi at the last minute to play. FIFA president vows never to let this happen again in the next Olympics.]

how about the other events? traditionally, some of the more popular spectator events are those with aesthetic components: diving and gymnastics. we will follow swimming and athletics because we are fascinated by the fastest swimmers and runners of the human race. we will watch weightlifting, because we want to witness the strongest men in the world, but perhaps also because weightlifting brings back the glorious memories of Tan Howe Liang.
sailing, table tennis, badminton and shooting would also be prominently featured on TV, since that is where our athletes will be competing in.

talking about Team Singapore, did anybody have as much difficulty as i had in trying to find out who the members of the contingent are? i can't find the names on either the SNOC or the SSC website. in the end, i had to rely on trusty wikipedia for the info. it didn't fail to escape my notice that the SSC website has a "medal tally" and a "our medallists" section (but no "our contingent" section). a little optimistic, don't you think? that is not to say that Team Singapore stands no chance of acquiring medals; Ronaldo Susilo and (the bored) Li Jiawei stand an outside chance at their respective sports but maybe you are more interested in their love life than their chances. (anyone notice how we all got tired and stopped talking their non-local origins?) i think the best medal chance lies not in the Olympics but the Paralympics, where swimmer Theresa Goh previously earned 5th placing in Athens. [i also found it a little ironic that our best medal chance does not even have her own wikipedia page.]

maybe, in an ironic way, the Olympics is not about sports. Singapore's recent (successful) bid for the youth Olympics brought back some memories of Beijing's bid back in 2001. i remembered how disappointed my mother was upon reading that Beijing won the bid. "they will disgrace themselves on the world stage" i remembered her saying. prophetic? we will need to wait and see. sure enough, China currently has to deal with a quagmire of issues surrounding the Olympics, including unfulfilled promises made back in 2001, as well as natural disasters (just another earthquake 2 days ago). (i also find this a little disappointing, especially since Beijing's air quality obviously isn't that great).

but historically, the Olympics have always been political. (and some argue, they should be). maybe Beijing is no different? perhaps after all the noise has been made, people start to watch the actual sporting events, and 2 few weeks later, everyone has forgotten about all the nasty stuff that was said. maybe. but there is a growing concern that the unhappiness over this Olympics may go beyond verbal spats. the Xinjiang explosions just a few days ago unnerved many (some are more sympathetic than others). there has not been any major violence in the Olympics post-9/11 (maybe because there has only been one Olympic Games, Athens, post-9/11), but a repeat of something similar to the Munich Massacre or the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing would cause very serious damage to China's international reputation.

we are not surprised when the Olympic torch brings out sentiments of nationalism among the Chinese both in and outside of China. however, what i personally find most disturbing is that levels of nationalism are so high that university students are lynching each other (in a school like Duke no less). are these ominous signs of things to come in countries that have a significant PRC population (like a little red dot you know)? Taiwan has been relatively quiet of late, imagine what it would be like if things don't work out well with Taiwan.

what's the Olympics to you? the burden of Kobe Bryant? Lionel Messi's no-show? girls in leotards spinning ribbons? crossing your fingers that Singapore wins a medal? crossing your fingers that no more explosions occur? Tibet, Darfur and Myammar?
Chinese chio bu? a brewing storm?

2 weeks after the Olympics are over, would you continue to care?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

teacher tells student to get tuition: what's really happening?

KTM (in the comments on my inaugural SA post) brought this ST forum letter to my attention. The parent was writing in to complain that the school recommended his/her son to get private tuition because he "needs more help". The parent, well aware that private tuition is not cheap, is livid that that is the solution given by the school, supposedly the main provider of education. At first I thought that this was an irregular case. Certainly by recommending tuition, the school is admitting that they aren't good enough to do their job? But after reading that another parent was told the same thing, and Piper's thoughts, it occurred to me that perhaps this was not such a rare occurrence after all.

I want to do two things with this article. Firstly, I want to run through some possible but different scenarios and play the finger pointing game.

Scenario 1:
The teachers are horrible in doing their job. That is the reason why this parent's child and his classmates are all doing badly in school. These teachers, recognizing their helplessness, or fearing their performance bonus, encourages the students to get private tuition to save their grades. Whose fault is it: teachers, and maybe those who hired them.

Scenario 2:
The students are really really weak academically. Many schools practice streaming of some kind, and is not surprising to find the weakest students in each cohort grouped together in a class. You would expect this class to get the worst grades right? That also explains the "challenging class to teach" remark. The teacher knows this, but the parent is unhappy. The parent demands a solution to improving his son's academic results. Short of any other solutions, the teachers suggest private tuition. Whose fault is it: parent, for being unreasonable.

Scenario 3:
The parent stated that it seems to that the school called up the parents of all the teachers. If only one or two classes are doing badly, this shouldn't be the case. Perhaps, whether doing well or not, it is actually the middle management that demands the teachers to call up all the parents. Why? To encourage all parents to push their children a little bit more, perhaps by providing private tuition, so that all the students would do better, generating better KPIs and performance bonuses. Whose fault is it: middle management, for putting KPIs above individual needs of students.

Scenario 4:
The student in question is over-committed in several different CCAs. Because he spends so much time training, he suffers from lack of sleep and skips many lessons due to competitions. He also does not have enough time or energy to study and do his homework. He is falling behind in his studies but the teacher, who has 39 other students in the same class, decides that he/she cannot cater to the needs of this one student. In desperation, the teacher suggests tuition. Whose fault is it: the student, primarily. But also the school, for not limiting his involvement. [This is an unlikely scenario, as the teacher is likely to feedback to the parent about the student's overcommitment]

So which scenario is true? I don't know. And unless you have some inside information, nobody knows either. It may have elements of more than one scenario. Or it may be a scenario totally different from the 4 mentioned above. So whose fault is it? I don't know. And unless we have inside information, nobody can tell.


What we can and do know however, is that private tuition is not only prevalent, it is lucrative. Regardless of which of the above scenario is true, there is one constant: the tuition teachers earns the big bucks. The question I would like to ask is this: what does the existence of the multi-million dollar (tax-free) industry of private tuition reveal to us about education in Singapore?

1) Exam-oriented culture
At the end of the day, only your exam results matter. By its very nature, the platform of private tuition helps the student score better than school education, since school teachers might carry the "silly" notion of holistic education. Even if you have an excellent school teacher, it doesn't hurt to go for tuition just the same right? Probably may help you get 1 or 2 more marks.

2) Stressed and overworked students
I have a friend who had 9 tuition teachers at one point in time. Now imagine you go to school 5 times a week, you have CCA that meets maybe 3 times a week, and you have school assignments to do. You might have to do some group work, so you need to find time to meet up with your group members. Then, on top of that, you have to go for Chinese tuition, Math tuition, Science tuition, English tuition and violin lessons. And you need to practice your violin everyday. And sometimes your tuition teachers give homework too. How many of you guess that this probably isn't a good for the student long term? Or does having good grades in exams overrule all other considerations?

3) No need to take classroom lessons seriously
Private tutors do not teach anything the student has not been taught in class already. They re-teach, but with greater attention to the student since a school teacher has more students in the classroom. A student who knows that he has a tuition teacher at home paid to give him one-on-one attention going through the exact material gone through in class, is more likely to not the the actual class seriously. School is for socializing and having fun rather than for learning. The poor school teacher, meanwhile, has to deal with misbehaving and disruptive students while trying to impart some knowledge to 40 students.

I think there is little doubt that private tuition is more a bane than a boon to education. Students may score better in exams, but the costs of that (i.e. having no childhood) are great. Many Singaporean students eventually develop a "score well at all costs" mentality, resorting to cheating and academic dishonesty. Other Singaporeans attach so much of their self-worth to their grades that they suffer from low self-esteem and may develop suicidal tendencies. We are already know that too much stress is counter-productive to the student, and that the student needs to play to develop creative and lateral thinking skills. But we are slow to admit that we are giving our own children or our students too much stress. By the time the damage is done, it would already be too late.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

excuse me, are you from ITE?

I've stopped blogging completely in recent months, but the remarks by the principal to her Sec 5 students 2 weeks ago piqued my interest, and I started reading what some people were blogging about this incident. BL gave a good overview of the different issues involved, and Mollymeek has an interesting commentary on what this reflects about our society. It is also interesting to note that two teacher bloggers were not quick to condemn this principal. I have only one point to make. Molly and Piper did make this point as well, but did not articulate this as explicitly as I am going to do so:

What's wrong with going to ITE?

Some bloggers have pointed out that the remarks of the principal reveal the fact that she looks down on ITEs and this was unbecoming, especially from someone in the education sector. Well that may have been true, but it cuts both ways: the outrage shown by parents (and the public in general) reflects that they look down on ITEs too.

How dare you suggest that my daughter go to ITE!

Is this suggestion that offensive? Why so? Is ITE such a horrible place to go? Despite its impressive collection of accolades, despite being called a "jewel in Singapore's Education system" by Minister of Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam, despite all that taxpayer's dollars spent to upgrade ITE's facilities and image, deep down in our hearts do we still think ITE is a place for losers, a place of disgrace?

Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps the suggestion that these Sec 5 students go to ITE is not offensive, but rather the outrage was directed at the harsh pedagogical approach of the Principal. Or perhaps the outrage was directed at the assumption that the principal cared more about the school's ranking than the individual well-being of the students. Or perhaps we are indeed offended that Sec 5 students be suggested to go ITE. But it is not the fault of us, it is the fault of the system. Meritocratic, merciless, the system forces those with poor academic qualifications to be doomed to a lesser life.

That the less academically inclined be doomed to a cycle of poverty, blame the system if you like. But that the ITE graduates be looked down upon, be treated as losers, there's only you and me to blame.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

a quiet contemplation

I've been inactive for a while, mainly because I have been (and currently still am) very busy. I haven't been able to read most of the stuff that's going on, but there have been two clear issues which seem to dominate the plogosphere recently. The first is Myanmar. I currently can't make up my mind about Myanmar, and thus I won't blog about it. The second is the call for repeal of 377A. This issue has always been around, but recently there have been more calls for repeal than ever with celebrities making a stand, and a petition being prepared to be presented in Parliament. I hesitate to write anything about homosexual issues, party because I doubt I can bring anything new to the table, and partly because I am wary of participating in a discussion where people are passionate and refusing to budge on both sides (or in the case of the plogosphere, one side much more than the other). I'm not here to be critical of anybody (although those more sensitive might disagree with that), but instead I would like to invite my readers follow me on a short contemplative journey as I try to take a different approach to think about this issue.

We start by talking about racism, and the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Whenever we talk about any form of discrimination or oppression, our vocabulary, our mindsets and our beliefs are all strongly influenced by this movement and the lessons we learned from it. In this political-correctness-conscious day and age, it is quite hard to envision what an overt racist was like. We have some glimpses of it still (according to Wikipedia, White Supremacist groups still exist today), but we are quick to dismiss them as aberrations of the human species, people so obviously wrong and downright crazy (not unlike the members of The Flat Earth Society).

Yet in the 1950s and 60s (not that long ago if you think about it), quite a lot of people were overt racists and white supremacists. In some places (such as in the South), the vast majority of white people were brought up in the tradition and sincerely believed that white people were superior to blacks. It is easy to react in disgust and vehemence when presented with such attitudes, but let us try to put aside our reactions and think for a while: What is it like to be a racist? How does such a person think? I found my answer, quite unexpectedly, in the book Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey (in the chapter on Martin Luther King Jr). Yancey himself was brought up a racist and a white supremacist, and this was what he recalled of that era:

The historians presented these names [Selma, Montgomery, Albany, Atlanta, Birmingham, St Augustine, Jackson], and I too now viewed them, as the battlefields of a courageous moral struggle. When I grew up in the South of the 1960s, however, they represented a geography of siege. Troublemakers from the North, carpetbagging students, rabbis and ministers protected by federal agents, were invading our territory. And the person leading the march in each of those cities was one number one public enemy, a native of my own Atlanta, whom the Atlanta Journal regularly accused of "inciting riot in the name of justice". Folks in my church had their own name for him: Martin Lucifer Coon.

King's appropriation of the Christian gospel galled us most. He was, after all, an ordained minister...We had our ways of resolving that cognitive dissonance, of course. We said that...King was a card-carrying Communist, a Marxist agent who posed as a minister...the liberal Crozer Seminary up north had polluted his mind. He followed the social gospel, if any gospel at all. And when the rumours about King's sexual dalliances surfaced, the case against him was closed. Martin Luther King Jr was a fraud, a poseur, not a true Christian...

There [in church] I learned the theological basis for racism. The pastor taught that the Hebrew word Ham meant 'burnt black', making Noah's son Ham the father of the Negro races, and that in a curse Noah had consigned him to life as a lowly servant (Genesis 9). That is when I heard my pastor explain why black people make such good waiters and household servants...'The colored waiter is good at that job because that's the job God destined him for in the curse of Ham,' he said. No one bothered to point out that the curse was actually pronouced on Noah's grandson Canaan, not Ham.

Around that same time, Mississippi's Baptist Record published an article arguing that God meant whites to rule over blacks because 'a race whose mentality averages on borderline idiocy' is obviously 'bereft of any divine blessing'. If anyone questioned such racist doctrine, pastors pulled out the trump card of miscegenation, or mixing of the races, which some speculated was the sin that had prompted God to destroy the world in Noah's day. A single question, ' Do you want your daughter bringing home a black boyfriend?' silenced all arguments about race.

[For the record, historical evidence did support the accusation that King was involved in extramarital affairs up until the eve of his death (the FBI bugged and taped King's hotel rooms), and also plagiarism in his graduate school thesis. Such however, should not diminish his contributions towards civil rights and indeed all humankind, but should instead serve as a reminder that even the most honored and deified heroes are but human and make human mistakes.]

With the privilege of retrospect, we may call such attitudes and beliefs deeply misguided and self-deluded. But we may not, in the strict sense of the word, call them crazy. Bring the aforementioned theological arguments to any contemporary Christian, and they will feel embarrassed that such views can even be considered to be true. But 50 years ago, they were indeed the norm in the South. Those who dare suggest that God made blacks and whites to be equal (as most Christians believe now) were considered heretics.

What if we are without the privilege of retrospect? What if we were born in that day and age, brought up with the same upbringing and teachings that Yancey had? What if all our lives we were brought up to believe that the blacks were an inferior race, and that "inalienable human rights", "equality for all races" and "tolerance for diversity" are concepts which are completely alien to you? Never heard of them before, and even if you had, you would dismiss them with disgust and couldn't possibly consider them to be true. What would you turn out to be?


Let's return to talk about homosexuality for a while. In some ways, this is a more complicated topic than racism. There are arguments about nature vs nurture; those who believe that the whole debate hinges on this distinction, and those who don't. There is a very vocal religious voice, and the question on how much religion ought to be allowed in the public arena and policy formulation. There is the question of "the conservative majority", it's existence (or lack thereof) and the justification of it's tyranny. And there is a question about the significance (or lack thereof), of a cosmetic and never enforced law.

I beg to differ when people say this is just a "simple case of equality". There are many intellectual issues to be argued out here, but it is not surprising that these arguments lead to no consensus or conclusions. In the 1950s, theologians and academics no doubt argue about rights and civil liberties for blacks, but is the other side ever convinced?


How was racism overturned in the 1960s? Certainly not by arguments. Partly by legislation perhaps, but the main force was the change in attitudes and mindsets of the majority of the whites. How was it done? According to historians, the turning point was when people watched on TV as white policemen beat up black protesters who were unarmed and did not fight back. No intellectual arguments could be as effective as the moral outrage in observing such an appalling scene. Martin Luther King Jr, quite possibly was only effective because he stubbornly stuck to the principle of "non-violent resistance". He didn't have to do so. Night in and night out, King and his supporters were beaten and cattle prodded by policemen without any apparent signs of progress. Many blacks and students grew impatient with his approach, often labeling King as soft, and gravitated towards the Black Power rhetoric and armed revolts. In Chicago, King was actually booed off the stage by Black Power advocates.

With the benefit of retrospect, we applaud King's moral courage in traveling city to city, bearing abuse from authorities yet at the same time trying to cool the tempers of the protesters. In Birmingham, a white man rushed on the platform and assaulted King with his fists. King's supporters surrounded the white man, but King cried out "Don't touch him! We have to pray for him."

But what if we do not have the benefit of retrospect? What if you were King, and then you decided enough is enough? If the whites don't get it when we ask them nicely, then we'll take the hard approach to make them understand. What would have happened then? Do you think the white supremacists would have buckled without fighting back? Would this have ended in any other way than a civil war, countless more deaths and a great tragedy?


"Civil disobedience", or the lack of it, is something often spoken about in the plogosphere. As Singaporeans, what is our mental image of "civil disobedience"? Dr Chee denouncing the government in some public protest? As I read stories of Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi, "civil disobedience" seemed to be a totally different creature. Here are some instructions Gandhi had for his followers (source Wikipedia):

1. A civil resister will harbor no anger.

2. He will suffer the anger of the opponent.

3. In so doing he will put up with assaults from the opponent, never retaliate; but he will not submit, out of fear of punishment or the like, to any order given in anger.

4. When any person in authority seeks to arrest a civil resister, he will voluntarily submit to the arrest, and he will not resist the attachment or removal of his own property, if any, when it is sought to be confiscated by authorities.

5. Retaliation includes swearing and cursing.

6. Therefore a civil resister will never insult his opponent, and therefore also not take part in many of the newly coined cries which are contrary to the spirit of ahimsa.

7. In the course of the struggle if anyone insults an official or commits an assault upon him, a civil resister will protect such official or officials from the insult or attack even at the risk of his life.

Compare this to Singapore's versions of "civil disobedience", like this recent protest/petition for Myanmar.

We seem to take the understanding of "civil disobedience" and "non-violent resistance" quite literally. As long as we are not (physically) violent, we are being civilly disobedient, and that puts us in the same category as the protesters who marched alongside Martin Luther King. But the spirit of civil disobedience, at least what seems to be intended by Gandhi and King, goes beyond merely "no physical violence". It's about protesting without getting angry. It's about willingly accepting insults, blows and arrests without providing any insults or blows in return. King was deeply concerned that the response to hate must not be hate in return, but love. Such was the only way to "save the Negro from seeking to substitute one tyranny from another."


What is our approach towards homosexual issues? What is our own approach towards our opponents in the homosexuality debate? Do you really think Christian-bashing will further your cause or actually cause your opponent to harden their stance? Do you think that since none of us are engaging in any physical violence, any and everything we say, we type and we blog is fair game? Do you think this issue will be solved by arguments, or even online petitions? Do you think the intolerance of the intolerant is in itself not guilty of intolerance?

It is totally reasonable and natural to be frustrated and to be angry if you feel that your cause is right, but others just don't get it. It was also totally reasonable and natural for Martin Luther King to be frustrated and to be angry. And he probably was too. But we're all glad that he didn't succumb and act out of that frustration and anger.

The repeal of 377A is a battle about legislation. I don't have anything against that, but as far as I am concerned, the far more important battle is the one over people's hearts and minds. And such a battle is not won over arguments, over petitions, or even over legislation. A question to ask is: in fighting so aggressively and passionately for legislation, are you actually losing the battle over hearts and minds?

I just watched on TV an episode of Life Story, featuring the life of Paddy Chew, the first person in Singapore to publicly declare he has AIDS, and a declared bisexual. I wasn't too impressed with the production of the episode, but it's point was clear: Paddy Chew was a human, just like you and me. A human who perhaps might not be so "normal", but still has dreams and aspiration like any other human. A human who upon realizing that his days are numbered, struggled with shock, rage, grief and the acceptance of his condition. A human who, knowing that he has made mistakes and are paying for them, decides to make the best of the life he has life. A human who needs care, concern and love from the people around them. Just like you and me.

I don't know how many Singaporeans watched that episode of Life Story. I don't know if there are Singaporeans who after watching this show, question, challenge and de-construct their own views, assumptions and beliefs about HIV patients and people with different sexual orientations. But my guess is, a show like this (
tacky production notwithstanding) challenges and changes the mindsets of more people than the most passionate and aggressive arguments.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

the first degree: a publication on scholarships

i was quite surprised to receive a copy of "the first degree" today, together with today's edition of TODAY. [siah lah, there are 3 "today"s in the last sentence...] it caught my attention because the girl on the cover looked like sun yanzi for a moment, but actually it was a Mrs Leong-Ho Hil May, a MOE post-graduate scholarship holder.

according to the color-printed guide (on page 35), "the first degree" has been established since 2001, and i feel quite obiang for not knowing about this free magazine/guide until today. i was quite aware about the scholarship special the Straits Times has once a year, but i wasn't aware that there was a free version being distributed by TODAY.

first thing i noticed about "the first degree" is the scholars depicted in the magazine are all quite chio or yandao (especially this probably-PRC babe on page 26). maybe this is the first thing everybody notices. of course this has no bearing on the reader when deciding whether or not to take up scholarships right? right?

the second thing i noticed was that the timing of the publication was kind of weird. why September? the JC2 students are in the midst of preparing for their prelims and A Level results now. while they might be considering about options after A level results, they are more likely thinking about integration by parts and the first law of thermodynamics. well, if you think they are really really nice guys, maybe they published at this time to serve as motivation to JC2 students to spur them on to do well. if they are really really really nice lah.

the third thing i noticed was that the articles on scholarships only run from page 7 to 34. from page 36 onwards are articles (and advertisements) on SIM, APMI Kaplan, MDIS, NAFA, MIS, Hartford Institute, SHRI, RTRC and Informatics Education Singapore. hmmm i wonder why there are no articles on NUS, NTU and SMU. there are also two content pages. page 4 is the scholarship contents page, while page 6 is the "education" contents page.

the above three points i noted above lead to one conclusion. this is a commercial enterprise. this publication actually is, not unlike the Straits Times scholar special, one large collection of advertisements. it is not public service, articles about Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarships notwithstanding. maybe SPH might partially motivated by altruistic concerns, but i think if not for the money the advertisements bring in, this colorful and glossy publication would not exist. similarly, expensive photographers and photoshop-ing (a la xiaxue) is but basic marketing strategy, a September edition is a promo for the March edition (and the extra revenue doesn't hurt), and there exist articles on private institutions because private institutions paid for it.

now, there is nothing wrong with it being a commercial publication. just because it is a collection of advertisements doesn't mean you must not patronize the advertisers. i happen to not think very highly of the current M&Ms commercial on TV, but this does not affect my consumption of M&Ms one bit. my point is just this: just don't take this as an authoritative source of information about your available options after A levels. you may decide to go for a scholarship still the same, but let it be after you have really contemplated the implications and considered all the options available, and not just all the options that appears on "designed-for-scholars" publications like this and the Straits Times scholarship special. it is not in the best interests of scholarship agencies (and SPH is one of them too) to publicize the various other options available, so you just won't see them on such publications.

if you are a JC2 student and a potential scholar (or a parent of one), you may want to look into these links, as well as this more recent article on Singapore Angle, so that you can make a more informed decision about your future.