Cass: I have to first and foremost say that I know very little, and still have much to learn and be aware of, in regards to our social issues, national policies, and current affairs. Take the below as my narrow and brief perspective on certain issues from that of a young student that has still much to explore, read up on, and experience in life. As such, my way of thinking might lack depth, accuracy and long-term focus. The below changes can be done at an appropriate pace in the decades ahead, depending on how fast, or the direction which our society progresses.
Inequality in Education System – Even though certain streamings have been taken out, there is still the line drawn between elite and neighborhood schools. E.g. certain schools have more exclusive connections, financial capacity, resources, or opportunities for their students to learn diverse modules which normal schools may not have, and also a smoother route to a certain ideal educational pathway. One’s socio-economic background may also influence the type of school they enter.
All these further widens the income inequality since there is a significant relation between one’s educational qualification and occupation. More fundings can be given to normal schools, so as to even out the playing field with schools that have richer resources. Malay and Tamil mother tongue can be taught in all elite school to take away the Chinese privilege. Not all students are book smart and academically inclined. As such, there can be more diverse ways and options to teach and grade a student e.g. types of modules taught, and the way lessons are carried out, exam structure.
Inculcate into students how to express their thoughts vocally to be able to contribute constructively during discussion, and encourage independent thinking and self-reflection, rather than just textbook memorization during exams. There have been an increase in university places, and there will be more in the future but still, can the percentage of polytechnic students having the chance to attend local public universities be increased further? Since there are also places set aside for foreign students.
The sexuality education can be revamped to ensure schools be more opened in educating students on diverse sexual activities e.g. Masturbation, attractions and gender identities or orientation, and inculcate the right perception, attitude and treatment students should have towards the LGBT Community e.g. remove Homophobia, Transphobia.
Pre-marital sex is common amongst our present youths; watching pornography has also started from an earlier age. As such, the focus should shift from abstinence to protection, and also teach them to better understand their various bodily sexual reactions.
Students can too, learn the history and compare laws on sexuality with different countries and time periods, as well as the various societal, cultural, and religious views towards diverse sexual types and actions. All these knowledge are essential in allowing youths to have a broader mindset, and help in forming their own perspectives, as well as make the right and safe choices in regards to exploration of their sexuality.
Social Studies – It can be more balanced and in-depth in giving focus to alternative political insights and history, as well as teach and allow students to compare the different governing systems in the world e.g. ideology, pros and cons, the constituional rights we are entitled to.
MEDIA AND DEBATE
Media Censorship and Credibility – When I compared the mainstream and non-mainstream media in regards to how the Amos Yee Saga was portrayed, there is definitely biasness on both sides. However, I also realized certain information may have not been explicitly stated when they should have been, that will give a balanced perspective of how the case was handled.
There might be lack of information credibility on either sides. SPH and Mediacorp also seems to make up majority of our mainstream media and press. A significant number of political books and films with alternative insights have been banned for many years from Singaporeans.
If their accounts are really untrue, I am very sure Singaporeans would be able to differentiate between fact and fiction. If there’s nothing to hide, hide nothing. I feel Singaporeans should be given the right to gain access to such books or films that may be found only in overseas or limitedly in Singapore. All of us writers also have to be more responsible in our posts by showing both sides, as well as being factual and ethical.
Discussion on sensitive topics in society – Race, religion, LGBT issues. I shall focus on race and religion in my example. There are differences in ideals, cultures and ideologies. I’m very happy with inter-racial organizations promoting harmony. But it is done only on a superficial level. I see the need for such “sensitive” topics to be discussed openly.
Since it is harder to change the mindset of an older generation, we can start from baby steps e.g. allow students to learn more about each other races and religion on an in-depth level in a new school module, and have practice workshops and sessions on how to respectfully and tactfully discuss and debate with one another on the differences and misconceptions.
This will allow Singaporeans to learn how to practice open and tactful discussion, as well as embrace and be more open-minded, with the right attitude and perception towards diverse beliefs. Inter-religious organizations, community groups, and can also play an influential part in this. I highly encouraged this as I think for us to even be a more inclusive and opened society, we have to first – change the old school mindset of not discussing a certain topic because it may be too offensive or sensitive, which will allow us to better learn and understand one another.
Income Inequality – When we increase social spending on welfare, we have to touch on our reserves but at the same time, can we afford to spend more to help the poor and needy elderly who really need it? While ensuring a minimal amount of reserves remain untouched. Also, we can restructure the system to prevent people from misusing or depending on social assistance when they are actually able to work. It is not about blindly giving free social assistance even to people who are unemployed because they are not motivated to work but rather, assisting the most needy of the needy who really needs it.
In regards to higher taxes from increased social spending, we can lessen the burden on the sandwiched middle income by taxing more on the rich instead? We have a lot of millionaires by the way, or we can take cut down on our ministerial salaries to partially make up for the increased taxes? I think our current ministerial pays are exceptionally high.
I do not think lowering the pay will result in losing capable people to take up the job, or lead to corrupted leaders, or people with the wrong attitudes because – we can find a good balance of a ministerial pay that is competent using the benchmark of other world leaders, and one that is neither too low or high to attract the right fit. A too high salary on the other hand is what will attract corruption.
CPF Issues – The state control over our current CPF system may be seem as too tight or rigid for some, even though there have been recent revamps. Singaporeans may also feel they should have free access to their money since it is rightfully theirs, and that they would know how to spend and save up wisely. At the same time, I feel one pro to this system is that it does encourage a habit of saving up on a regular basis to ensure self-reliance in people e.g. having enough to spend comfortably during their golden years when they have retired.
Once they a certain age, they can take out a certain sum of money and receive monthly payouts even during their old age. If too much autonomy is given, there might be cases of some individual’s life long savings being unwisely splurged on e.g. scams, unhealthy habits like gambling. Thus, the right balance between individual freedom and state control can be tried and tested to find the best method.
I also hope to see more transparency on how our CPF and taxes are being used by the government. Instead of just suing when a certain politician is being defamed, there can be alternative avenues such as having an open discussion on the CPF issues with the people, or questions that will help Singaporeans better clarity and understanding how it works and correct any misconceptions?
High cost of living – An individual would need a minimum salary that is fair, and allows them to meet the increasing cost of living in Singapore. When we set a minimum standard for all jobs, it can ensure all Singaporeans regardless of job types can receive a just salary for their survival needs.
Affordable Housing and Healthcare – The government has been changing and making newer policies to better the needs of the people, which is good. Still, is there a way to shorten the number of years people can pay for their flats, and also further revamps to make it slightly more affordable for the poor? Healthcare can be quite costly for some too. Can there be once again, more financial assistance to help the elderly or needy who really cannot afford?
Transportation – Government has been making changes to improve the system e.g. changing sleepers, and they also have planned ahead on how our railway system will be like in the future. There have also been increased subsidies for transportation fares e.g. elderly, special needs. I think the frequent train breakdowns are definitely a prominent issue that has to be tackled, but at the same time, people should also be aware that it is a job easier said than done.
Marriages and Birth Rate – There have been multi-racial couples shown in shows, most probably to make Singaporeans more opened and embracing towards this increasing trend of multi-racial couples.
Some Singaporeans might put their career advancement before starting a family, and delay marriage or child bearing. Pro-family benefits or policies are good, but, since it does not significantly motivate couples to have more children, the government can find more alternatives to better tackle this issue? With a higher birth rate, our younger generation can worry less about the consequences of a future elderly population, and we can rely less on foreigners to keep our economy competitive and sustainable.
Freedom of Speech, Single Mothers, LGBT Issues, Animal Welfare, Human Trafficking, Abuse or unfair treatment faced by foreign workers etc. – Many of such non-profit or welfare organizations and issues may lack resources, fundings, manpower. Singaporeans in general may also lack basic awareness towards such social issues. There can be more exposure or fundings provided to such organizations? Laws and constitutions should also be revamped or improved to better meet the rights and needs of these minority communities.
Singaporean students should also be educated to have a basic understanding towards our laws and the rights of Singaporeans and minority groups e.g. right to freedom of speech. Voluntary welfare organizations e.g. youth centres struggling to run their operations can receive more governmental fundings if the social welfare expenditure allows it?
Freedom Of Speech – Amos Yee was not the first person in Singapore to make “insensitive” remarks towards religion. I think how it was handled was too harsh for a 16 year old boy, and unfair compared to other cases where they quit their jobs or left the country etc. Though on Amos parts, he did defy the authorities which delayed his court proceedings, jailing may not have been the best method for a young student’s use of “inappropriate and disrespectful” speech that may have wounded the feelings of others.
Xenophobia and Stigma towards certain jobs – Some jobs are looked down upon or deemed as immoral, for the lazy or uneducated. Such jobs can actually receive competent salaries in certain countries. And like any other Singaporeans, they are doing this job for a living which are important e.g. keeping our country clean, building our roads and buildings.
These infrastructural and environmental jobs are very essential to our country’s image, and used by our people and companies for their daily work and transportation. They are doing Singaporeans a big favor and without them because Singaporeans ourselves are not willing to do such jobs. We will be nothing without them, and we got to remember our ancestors were once foreigners or immigrants themselves too.
Hence, there should be changes in prejudiced societal perceptions or treatment to individuals who take up such occupations, as we are all equal and we all have self-worth, regardless of the country we come from, salary or type of job we hold. We are all one human race.
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Written by: Cass
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