Category Archives: In The News

Red Sports – Daily PE? One primary school shows the way.

Just a quick post to link everyone over to Red Sports’ feature story on Seng Kang Primary School, the only school in Singapore that offers daily PE lessons for all its students, rain or shine.

Earlier this year, Porthos came home from school saying that he didn’t have PE that day, even though it was on the schedule. Why, I asked. “Because we were behaving badly. So the teacher punished us and didn’t let us go for PE.”

I thought that was one of the more absurd things I’d ever heard. I’ve also heard anecdotes of schools cancelling PE for PSLE revisions or make-up classes. Is it any wonder that the ruggedness of our nation is in question?

According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, “Singapore has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world. In Singapore about 30% of the children become myopic by the age of 7 and by age 12 about half of them are myopic. There is a grave need to prevent myopia in children at a younger age because the younger the age of onset of myopia, the higher the risk of developing eye related diseases later in life.” HPB also supports daily outdoor time because “emerging evidence suggests that spending more time outdoors may help delay the onset or progression of myopia.” (Source: HPB website)

Add in our obesity rates, and the range of learning disabilities and sensory problems present in our chidren, and Seng Kang’s example truly stands out.

Red Sports – Daily PE? One primary school shows the way.

IHT: Eating dirt can be good for you

Happy Chinese New Year!

I’ve always wondered about the saying – lak sup jia, lak sup tua – and now it seems there is science to support what the wise Hokkiens have known all along.

IHT: Eating dirt can be good for you

Which also makes Wells’ War of the Worlds extraordinarily prescient….

Want to prevent myopia? Head outdoors.

I’ve done a couple of posts on the apparent health benefits of exposure to nature

In case you missed it, Australian researchers have just completed a study that concludes that exposure to sunlight is a major factor in the incidence of myopia.

Comparing six and seven-year-old Chinese children in Singapore and Australia, they found that 30 percent of the Singaporeans were myopic, against just 1.3 percent of the Australians. The differentiating factor was the amount of time spent outdoors – 30 minutes for the Singaporeans versus two hours for the Australians.

“What we would suggest,” said the researchers, “is that what’s happened in east Asia is that they have got the balance totally out of kilter.”

What an indictment.

You can read more here:
Red Sports – Spending time outdoors in the sun stops myopia
AFP via Yahoo News – Sunlight can help children avoid myopia

Room for improvement in primary education? MOE wants to know.

In case you missed it in the news, MOE has begun a review of the primary education system in Singapore and is soliciting public views on the issues.

A committee chaired by Grace Fu is looking to “explore how schools can enhance holistic learning to better prepare our pupils for the future…. We want our children to be confident, retain a sense of curiosity and the desire to learn, be able to communicate clearly, and work well in teams and across cultures.”

The committee will be focusing on three areas:

  • Rebalancing the learning of content knowledge and the development of skills and values
  • Moving all primary schools to a single-session structure
  • Moving towards all-graduate teacher recruitment by 2015.

Athos started primary school this year, and Porthos will start next year. I am experiencing both the strengths and some of the challenges of our primary education system, and wholeheartedly support what MOE is trying to do with this review, in particular the rebalancing of curriculum.

If you care about primary education in Singapore, I encourage you to send MOE your feedback.If you don’t have the energy to craft a well-considered response, please leave your thoughts in the comment section and if there are enough views I’ll pull together a consolidated response.

Yasmin Ahmad shoots the Singapore family

Late to the party but I’ve just learnt that the talented Yasmin Ahmad was hired by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports to shoot an ad for Singapore’s pro-family campaign! If you’ve been a longtime consumer of Singapore’s campaigns, then you’ll understand why this is about as out-of-box as it gets. Good on MCYS!

If you liked this, please treat yourself to more of Yasmin’s work. Among her most well-known are the festive season ads she does for Petronas. These two are my favourites.

New Paper: The Most Boring Household in Singapore

This interview with up-and-coming Singapore politician Grace Fu focuses on her role as a parent. It struck me as containing many nuggets of parenting wisdom. I submit it for your consideration.

The Electric New Paper: The Most Boring Household in Singapore

I have to do a quick linkback to an earlier post concerning the Wii, and another on the modern-day malaise called the Nature Deficit Disorder.


In a mind-boggling turn of events, one of Singapore’s most wanted men has somehow managed to escape and is presently at large. Mas Selamat Kastari, the leader of Singapore’s Jemaah Islamiyah network, a group which has links with Al Qaeda, is allegedly the man behind the plot to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi International Airport.

Quite apart from the vexing question of just how he was able to escape in the first place (I mean, good heavens this is Singapore and the ISD we’re talking about, and it turns out he limps!) the ongoing manhunt has turned parts of Singapore into a military stronghold. There have been reports of some parents not letting their kids go to school, and among people I’ve spoken to, a general sense of disquiet.

For all our sakes, I hope he is found soon.

You can see stories/videos at these links:

Mothers hold the key to the future of science

Now how do you like that for a headline! Here’s what The Australian had to say about it.

Wii = Exercise? Think again.

The Pilgrim family does not own a Wii, and we have been sorely tempted on a few occasions to buy one. The kids played on their friends console and loved it. And hey, at least it gets them on their feet and moving about.

BUT, if you think that the Nintendo Wii works as a substitute for exercise, check this article out.

NDP – An Artist’s Impression

Evidently, the National Day Parade made quite an impression on Porthos. I came back from work and he presented me with this drawing: Continue reading

A Parade for the People

Despite the downpour earlier in the afternoon, the Pilgrim family decided to go ahead with our plan to watch the National Day Parade.

I remember attempts in previous years to watch the parade from the periphery. It was always fun, but I felt distinctly outside the real event, part of the Ticketless Masses.

But oh the wonders of having it on the bay this year! Continue reading

Happy Birthday Singapore

Singapore turns 42 today! She’s young by developed world standards, sometimes breaks my heart, but is otherwise an extraordinary nation, and a place we are glad to call home.

The Pilgrim family loves to watch the National Day Parade. The highlights for us are the heavy machinery (the flypast, the Chinooks with the flag), the Red Lions parachuting down, and of course the fireworks.

This year’s parade will be the first of its kind, held on Marina Bay on the largest performance floating platform in the world. A nod to Singapore’s perennial ingenuity.

I happened to be at the Esplanade for lunch yesterday and here is what I saw:

Continue reading

Good Bye, Braddell Angsana

Every Sunday we go to Grandpa and Grandma’s home for dinner, and our journey takes us down Braddell Road.

Every Sunday without fail, I marvel at the magnificent angsana tree that stands in the middle of the road. It’s not just a grand dame of a tree (80-years-old!), it’s also a romantic, expensive oddity in practical, pragmatic Singapore. In 2005, authorities decided to spare the tree and build a new road around it, at an additional cost of $200,000. For me, the tree was a marker of a society that had come of age.

Every Sunday, the 5 seconds it took us to slow down and pass the tree was a time for quiet delight. In the tree, and in the society that would work its way around it.

Every Sunday until this Sunday. Continue reading

How Much Would You Pay For A Place In School?

This week my eyes were opened to the wild system of debentures in the Hong Kong international school system.

In brief, some of the best international schools in Hong Kong issue debentures (a kind of bond) to help pay for construction and other costs. These debentures are then bought by companies for their expatriate employees, or direct by parents, who are then given a place in the school, or at least allowed to jump ahead in the queue.

Demand for debentures is now far in excess of supply, leading to vibrant trade and soaring prices. This week, the front page of the South China Morning Post reported that for one school, agents quoted a rate of HK$3 million (that’s about SGD $600,ooo, or USD $380,000) for a debenture. And the school’s official rate is HK600,000!

And I thought the Singaporean obsession with enrichment classes was bad….

Here’s an article if you’d like to read more – “The $1m question”, The Economist