SINGAPORE: Burger King announced that it will no longer provide dine-in customers plastic straws and lids for their cold drinks at its 42 outlets in Singapore.
The initiative began on Monday (Oct 15).
Replying to reporter's queries, Burger King said that customers can however still request for the plastic lids and straws at the counter.
"We understand that some guests with children will still require straws, so we are happy to accede to their request," said a spokesperson, adding that the lids and straws will still be provided for takeaways and deliveries.
The fast-food company said it was joining "the initiative to stay green" and welcomed its guests "to go green with them".
A total of 14.7 metric tons of plastic is used annually from lids and straws just for Burger King Singapore, it added.
Mr Goh Chin Hoi, the general manager of Burger King Singapore, said this move would help customers "rethink whether they really need them and get everyone to do their part in keeping the environment clean".
"It may seem like a drop in the ocean, but when more organisations adopt the initiative, we believe that it will send a positive signal to the community and we hope that eventually ripples turn to waves!” he added.
In 2017, Burger King replaced all their trayliners with Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSCTM) paper. The paper came from responsibly managed forests and other controlled sources where new trees are planted to replace those harvested.
In June this year, KFC announced that it would no longer provide plastic caps and straws at its 84 outlets in Singapore.
SINGAPORE: When chiropractor Dr Kevin Tomassini opened his own practice earlier this year, he did so in a co-working space - one that provided more than the usual access to a desk, Internet service and power sockets.
The space he chose, called Core Collective, was a co-working centre aimed at health and wellness professionals - and it came with professional healthcare equipment, back-end support, front desk staff and other amenities.
"I had been looking to open my own practice over the past two years but the cost of entry is high. You have to buy the equipment, pay for the build-up, the rent, staff and the facilities. With Core Collective, I saved around S$50,000," said Dr Tomassini.
Mox in Joo Chiat, is also angled toward a specific crowd, touting itself a “co-making space” for creatives.
Beyond providing a conducive space for work, it boasts 3D-printers, woodworking tools, sewing rooms and a fully-equipped photography studio.
It also has computers with premium design software, as well as several retail spaces for its artisan members.
For these operators, eking out a niche could be key to dealing with growing competition - a result of the rapid growth the flexible workspace market is seeing.
DEMAND CONTINUES TO BOOM
According to reporters, the flexible workspace footprint has nearly tripled between the end of 2015 and mid this year, growing from almost 1 million sq ft to 2.7 million sq ft.
Supply is expected to rise by 30 to 35 per cent in 2018, and another 20 per cent next year, Colliers said.
More operators have also entered the market, with the number of players almost doubling to 36 since 2014, said Cushman & Wakefield. There are now about 120 workspace centres islandwide, up 82 per cent since 2014.
Growth is being driven mainly by corporates, rather than freelancers, industry insiders said.
Ms Michelle Yong, who helms Core Collective and another co-working space, Collision 8, said that while they used to see demand from companies with four to six employees, they are now seeing more interest from "teams of 30, 40, 50 people”.
FLEXIBILITY A KEY BENEFIT
One such company is deals platform Fave, whose 50-strong firm moved into JustCo at Marina Square in June after its lease at a "traditional" office space ended.
“If you're in a fast-growing company, there's this contention between needing to factor in size for future growth, but not wanting to factor in too much, because then your overheads are high,” said Mr Ng Aik-Phong, the firm’s managing director.
A co-working space gives them that flexibility to grow on demand,
This is a boon, given the company’s plans to double its headcount to close to a hundred.
“We don’t need that extra 50 people immediately, so we’ll scale up. In other words, our cost scales up in tandem with our business and business needs,” he said.
Mr Ng added that renting a space within a co-working centre shaves off significant costs.
“You're renting a smaller unit but tapping into a larger common area, so that's already a win. Just on a purely rental basis, (you can save) 20 to 25 per cent, but if you include ancillaries then you're easily looking at 30 to 40 per cent savings.”
As a bonus, the company has also struck up two business relationships with other companies within the co-working space.
Mr Ng mooted that as more companies join the co-working space, the ecosystem could be a new way of expanding one’s client base.
IS GROWTH SUSTAINABLE?
On the back of growing corporate demand, surging office rentals and a growing start-up scene, industry insiders say the future looks bright for the industry, although there could be some consolidation.
“We feel (the growth) is sustainable for a number of reasons. There is quite a lot of demand from the occupiers. The space itself that's on offer at the moment, I don't feel it is an in over-offered environment,” said Mr Duncan White, head of office services at Colliers International.
He added that supply is tight within the Central Business District (CBD), where the flexible workspace footprint has already more than doubled from 969,000 sq ft in 2015 to 2.3 million sq ft now.
However, the growth is not without its caveats.
Mr White said there could be further consolidation on the cards, as smaller operators who “don’t have a niche” get taken over by the bigger players.
Ms Yong, however, sees room for more coexistence.
“There is room for both big and small players. In the way the hotel industry evolved and you have 3-star, 4-star, 5-star, I think we could see similar evolution of the co-working scene,” said Ms Yong, who is also the director of Aurum Land, a boutique residential property developer.
FUTURE TRENDS: TAPPING INTO RETAIL, ‘FLEX-CORE’ ACTIVITY AND LAYERING
As demand for co-working spaces continues to grow, analysts said the locations of these shared offices could increasingly pop up in shopping malls.
For example, the 60,000-sq-ft JustCo centre, which was established in Marina Square earlier this year. The operator said it is the first co-working space to be an anchor tenant of a core district mall.
Four operators have also made their first forays into Orchard Road, a traditionally retail-heavy area, this year.
This conversion could pick up pace as landlords fight a weakening retail landscape, said analysts.
More sectors are also expected to hop on the co-working bandwagon, beyond financial, tech and creative industries.
“We may see a broad base of industries moving towards flexible space,” said Mr White.
In particular, Colliers said, companies may increase their “flex and core” activity over the next year and a half.
This model involves companies keeping “a core piece of their headcount under a traditional lease”, while having a smaller fraction of staff in a flexible workspace under shorter leases.
As for offerings, Ms Yong said, the future of co-working could involve a combination of services.
“We want to start layering more and more services, such as expanding into medical services, beauty and aesthetics. People are toying with the idea of super-campus, with lots of different layers of co-working and adding a co-living aspect,” she said.
FROM FAD TO NORM
At the heart of co-working's meteoric rise is an underlying shift in the way we work, experts said.
“It’s moved forward from being a fad to now being a norm. Especially here in Singapore we're seeing a new breed of workforce come to light,” said Ms Richa Sharma, associate director at recruiting company Page Personnel.
The digital evolution has made individuals more mobile, which has created a mobile workforce, she said.
Ms Sharma added that co-working’s popularity rides on society’s heightened consciousness of health and desire for work-life balance - something that co-working spaces appear to enable.
She cited studies that linked such spaces to lower levels of stress and anxiety, along with higher productivity.
“Co-working is trying to reinvent how you see a workspace. It’s evolved over the period, to now being much more of a necessity, and it will continue to evolve.”
The Big Read: No exams? No problem! Some tuition centres rush in to fill gap, soothe anxious parents
SINGAPORE: Right after the Education Ministry's (MOE) announcement last month that it would be reducing the number of examinations for students in primary and secondary schools, tuition agency Gavin's Tuition quickly surveyed some of its students' parents to find out what they thought of the move.
Over 130 parents responded: While they appreciated the ministry's move to reduce stress on students, an overwhelming majority (90 per cent) said they were concerned this would make it harder for them to assess how their child was doing in school.
The reduction of mid-year examinations would not provide them with "a true gauge" of the child's academic performance in the earlier part of the school year, and they feared that it would lead to a "nasty surprise" at the year-end examinations, said the tuition centre's director Gavin Ng.
He added that parents whom he has spoken to were also largely in favour of keeping the centre's in-house mid-year and end-of-year examinations, which are set by its tutors, even though the schools are removing such examinations for certain levels.
And he has plans to meet the demand: Next year, the tuition centre is officially making available its in-house exams to students who are not enrolled with the centre. Anyone will be able sign up to take the exams for a fee.
He is also piloting a series of classes, known as "stress-free learning programmes" which focus "less on drilling" and more on experiential lessons, such as learning about robotics and coding.
Gavin's Tuition is not the only one which has been quick to react to the recent changes. Other tuition agencies and tutors interviewed said that in the light of reduction in examinations in schools, they planned to introduce new programmes or tweak their existing ones.
Ignite Tuition Centre, for example, is looking to introducing more enrichment classes to supplement its current tuition classes for its primary to secondary school students.
Its operations manager Joy Ng said the centre will expand its enrichment programme to include courses on Chinese creative writing and science enrichment, for example, from next year.
Ignite, which has about 350 students, is also planning to roll out more "individual-learning assessments", in the form of ungraded, bi-monthly tests held during lesson time.
Such assessments focus on a student's non-academic skills, such as public speaking and presentation skills, Ms Ng said.
As part of changes to the education system, announced about two weeks ago by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, mid-year examinations for students in Primary 3, Primary 5, Secondary 1 and Sececondary 3 will be removed in phases from next year.
Primary 2 students will no longer have to sit for the year-end examinations from 2019. Currently, they do not have to take the mid-year examinations, while Primary 1 students do not have mid-year or year-end examinations.
After the announcement, Mr Ong acknowledged concerns that schools or tuition centres will undo the change by introducing other forms of assessments that are similar in nature but "are not called examinations".
Speaking earlier this month on the sidelines of the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference, Mr Ong noted that some tuition centres had expressed intentions to "simulate examination-like conditions for students to make up for the lost examinations".
"I strongly urge them not to do so," he said, adding:
Doing so would just be preying on the apprehension and anxieties of parents and students.
In their defence, however, some tuition agencies say they are simply meeting a demand.
'GIVING PARENTS, STUDENTS WHAT THEY WANT'
Asked if he felt that the centre's plans were at odds with what the MOE was hoping to achieve, Gavin's Tuition's Mr Ng said that he was responding to "the demands out there".
Stressing that his centre complies with the MOE's requirements in terms of "curriculum and syllabus", Mr Ng said that the feedback he had received from parents and students was that they had always appreciated the assessments.
Assessments aside, some tuition agencies said they have long embraced different teaching approaches in response to changes in the education landscape over the years.
KRTC Kent Ridge Education, which has 20 branches across the island, tweaked its teaching approaches more than a decade ago, moving away from grade-centric tuition.
Its principal Max Wong said that for younger students, for instance, assignments are not given grades. Instead, tutors would turn an assignment into a mini-competition for students during class, with rewards such as snacks given at the end of the assignment to encourage good work. He said:
In our marketing (and advertisements), we have never put in Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) or O-level achievements ... we have never talked about posting the students' results.
Like the other tuition agencies interviewed, KRTC has its own set of monthly assessments — known as "reviews" — but no marks or grades are given, Mr Wong added.
Learning Chapters Education Hub, meanwhile, already has "mindfulness elements" incorporated into class time.
Managing director Benson Lim said that at the start of lessons, students will have a five-minute breathing exercise to improve their "focus and concentration, not just in academics, but in all the things that they do", and ultimately to improve their grades.
Learning Chapters is looking to incorporate more applied learning into its lesson materials, he added. It is already planning to introduce workshops which use coding to teach mathematics.
While some tuition agencies are looking to make the best out of MOE's move, others, especially private tutors, have voiced concerns about its possible impact.
A private tutor, who would only gave his name as Kenneth, said he was worried his existing pool of students might shrink, which might affect his income.
Mr Kenneth, who has 12 students from primary and secondary schools, said that through interactions with his students' parents, some had casually remarked that "there might not be a need for so much tuition" once the exam cuts come into effect.
"(The parents) may not want to have tuition for the first half of the year, and might only start in Term 3," he added.
Ms Eleen Lim, a private tutor who coaches primary school students, added that with the new announcement, "a lot of pressure will fall back on the tuition teacher".
Given that schools are cutting back on examinations, Ms Lim — who has been giving one-to-one tuition for the past 18 years — felt that the "responsibility" will be on the tuition teacher to provide parents with constant progress updates to parents.
"I foresee a lot more stressed-out tutors," Ms Lim said, laughing.
Nevertheless, private tutor Darryl Gay, who teaches mathematics and science, felt that the time freed up following the removal of mid-year examinations would allow him to explore the two subjects more deeply with his students.
He envisages having more time to make use of videos and real-life examples to better explain mathematical and scientific concepts to his students.
WHAT PARENTS SAY
The move to reduce examinations is unlikely to cause many parents rushing to pull their children out of tuition centres, if the interviews with some of them are any indication.
Those interviewed mostly felt that the cutback would do little to curb academic stress, but would instead delay it till the year-end examinations.
Others said the lack of a middle "checkpoint" — as one parent put it — means they would not be able to track their children's academic progress properly. And this is one reason why the parents said they would still rely on tuition classes.
Homemaker Sharon Tan, 46, said:
Whether or not you do away with a mid-year examination, there will be an examination at the end of the year. There will also be national examinations to sit for.
Ms Tan, whose two daughters in primary school have tuition, said that by "placing emphasis on the end-of-year examinations … it will be worse for the child".
"It will not promote healthy learning behaviours … (like) being consistent with your work," she added.
Mr Ian Lum, a 44-year-old digital marketing specialist who has two sons in tuition classes, agreed: "If the school does not track how my children are doing, the only other way to know is through tuition classes."
Homemaker Choon Hui Leng, 39, added that tuition classes give her "an assurance" that her 11-year-old son is able to cope with the rigours of school.
"My son's tutors will update me on his progress regularly, and if there are areas he needs to improve on, at least we can (rely on) the tutors to guide (him)," Ms Choon added.
But there are a few parents who are mulling over reducing tuition for their children.
Said 38-year-old sales manager Sheeren Hoo: "If the schools are already reducing the number of assessments, I don't really see the need to put my daughter in tuition … (at least) until the second term."
CHANGING MINDSETS NO EASY TASK
Despite the MOE's continuing efforts to reduce students' stress and place less emphasis on grades, the tuition industry — estimated to be worth more than S$1 billion annually — is here to stay, experts say.
There are currently about 600 tuition centres registered with the MOE. "This figure has remained stable over the past three years since 2016," said an MOE spokesperson. Under the Education Act, centres offering tuition with 10 or more students must be registered with the MOE.
When Mr Ong announced the raft of measures to address academic stress, he told the media that the Government had no intention to ban tuition.
Pointing out that "it is not a criminal activity", Mr Ong said parents send their children for tuition "out of care and concern". He added that while there are "do-gooders in the community who conduct free or low-cost tuition to help weaker students cope with their studies", there are also negative tuition stories.
The Education Minister noted that for some students, school was not stressful but tuition was:
They are very tired on weeknights after school, or on weekends, because their day is packed with many tuition classes.
"Worst, they find that learning is not fun as a result and lessons have taken over their days and weekends," Mr Ong said.
He touched on the tuition issue again a week later, at the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education and Training Conference.
Apart from a reduction in exams, a student’s position in class and at their cohort’s level will also no longer be reflected in their report books, MOE had announced.
Some education experts to agreed that the ministry's latest measures are a step in the right direction, but felt that it would be difficult to do away with tuition completely since it is deeply entrenched in the Singaporean psyche.
Tuition is, after all, the by-product of another perennial national obsession — academic excellence.
Pointing out that "historically, a lot of focus has been on academic (performance)", Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said:
As long as the national goal posts are still there (in the form of national examinations) … as long as grades are a key factor, tuition will still be around.
Agreeing, Ms Denise Phua, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "Society — students, parents, educators and employers — had been conditioned for decades to rely on academic scores as the main success indicator in the education dashboard."
Associate Professor Jason Tan from the National Institute of Education (NIE) added: "The presence of major examinations that act as gatekeepers to further stages of education serves to fuel parental anxiety about their children's competitiveness relative to their peers in terms of access to preferred schools and courses."
Assoc Prof Tan pointed out that the additional pathways in post-secondary schooling which the MOE had introduced in recent years had not led to a drop in tuition demand either.
"(This is) probably because the question for many parents is not 'whether my child can proceed to post-secondary education' but rather 'which post-secondary place in which post-secondary institution'," he said.
In a highly competitive culture, "each new change in assessment modes or admission criteria triggers parental anxiety about new hurdles to be overcome as part of a competitive race", he reiterated.
"For example, the Direct School Admission exercise was meant to signal the importance of non-academic experiences but some private tutoring agencies have responded by broadening their services to include coaching for both parents and students on how best to prepare for admission," he added.
More than just a policy change, the move to alleviate Singaporeans' fixation with tuition is something that requires all parties to work together and do their part.
Ms Phua cited the need to educate all stakeholders: "Many do not understand that exams are only one form of assessment and being exam-smart alone does not equate learning, and certainly may not cultivate the habit of self-driven lifelong learning."
Dr Chan said that while "all key players (in the education sector) have a role to play", the challenge is to change parents' mindsets — and this is something that requires "constant engagement", he added.
Ms Phua, a Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar GRC, also reiterated her call to deal with the "elephants in the room" — high-stakes examinations, such as the PSLE.
"Doing well for high-stakes exams and the preference for top popular schools are still habits lurking in the back of most minds. We should seriously confront these elephants in the room, and start piloting a few schools where PSLE does not feature," she said.
Mr Ong had laid out his ministry’s position on PSLE, when he spoke in Parliament in July in response to a motion on the future of education that was moved by the Nominated Members of Parliament.
Last month, he reiterated that the PSLE will remain, and described it as a “good feature” in the education system which allows students to take stock of what they have learnt during the six years of primary education. It is also a key mechanism for posting to secondary schools, he said.
Nevertheless, Ms Phua also called on the MOE to have deeper engagement with the tuition industry, to work with its stakeholders and analyse what they are doing, to "come up with even better solutions".
To wean students from tuition, Dr Chan said parents will need to see that tuition does not add value to mainstream education. When parents feel that whatever that has been covered in school is not enough, they may send their children for tuition, he noted.
All said and done, Assoc Prof Tan contends that the tuition fixation will be around for a long while because "it is a personal choice that has proven resistant to official attempts to ban it, for instance, in South Korea".
"International research evidence indicates that once private tutoring has become ingrained in the culture, it cannot easily be scaled back," he added.
SINGAPORE: Two new nursing homes, with a total capacity of 570 beds, will open in Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang by the end of 2020.
The homes, operated by Vanguard Health, will include facilities to cater to patients with dementia, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on Tuesday (Oct 16).
For example, wards will be designed in smaller clusters with communal facilities such as living rooms to encourage interaction among residents, said MOH.
Both homes will also be co-located with senior care centres within the Housing Development Board (HDB) estates.
This "provides a continuum of options for our seniors, ranging from day care to residential care in the same precinct", said the ministry.
Bukit Batok Care Home (BBCH), which is targeted to open in the middle of next year, will have a capacity of 220 beds, with its care centre offering 60 day care places.
To encourage integration with the community, the home will feature a "fenceless boundary", where residents from nearby HDB estates will be able to walk through the home to the nearby park or a future school.
BBCH will also have a public communal plaza where interaction can take place between nursing home residents, senior care centre clients, as well as the surrounding community.
The home's design will be based on providing a "healing and restorative living environment for seniors with abundant greenery", said MOH.
Senja Care Home (SJCH), which is expected to open by the end of 2020, will offer 350 beds. The home will also be co-located with a polyclinic in a 12-storey Integrated Healthcare Facility, said MOH, adding that 60 day care places will be available at the care centre.
"This co-location allows synergies between the different healthcare services through sharing of community rehabilitation and physiotherapy services to support polyclinic patients and seniors as their care needs evolve," added MOH.
Catering to the demand for aged care services, MOH said it is on track to develop 17,000 nursing home beds, 6,200 day care places and 10,000 home care places by 2020.
"MOH will continue to invest in aged care services, and build more communities of care, to ensure that our seniors are well-supported to age gracefully within the community, close to their loved ones," it said.
The homes' operator Vanguard Health was set up by MOH and MOH Holdings in 2015 as part of plans to grow and support eldercare services. It's currently operating three nursing homes - Pearl's Hill Care Home, Woodlands Care Home and Tampines Care Home.
SINGAPORE: The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore will have a new chief executive from Jan 1, 2019, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a press release on Monday (Oct 15).
Ms Quah Ley Hoon, 42, will take over from Mr Andrew Tan, who will be retiring from the administrative service on Dec 31 to pursue new challenges, MOT added.
Ms Quah will join MPA as its chief executive (designate) from Nov 1.
She has held leadership appointments in various organisations including the then-National Population Secretariat under the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Finance and Mediacorp.
Ms Quah holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Pantheon-Sorbonne in France, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD Business School) in Switzerland, MOT added.
Outgoing chief executive Mr Tan, who was appointed to the position on Jan 1, 2014, made "significant contributions" during his tenure, MOT said.
During his appointment at MPA, Mr Tan, 51, led efforts to conceptualise and plan for the new Tuas Terminal through the multi-agency Next Generation Port 2030 Steering Committee.
"Mr Tan established a strong maritime innovation eco-system and championed R&D to support strategic outcomes. He set up several centres of excellence, including on next generation port modelling and simulation at NUS, maritime energy and sustainability at NTU and maritime safety at Singapore Polytechnic
"Under Mr Tan’s leadership, Singapore has been consistently ranked as the
top international maritime centre. To chart the future directions for the Singapore maritime cluster," MOT said.
Among his achievements on the international front, Mr Tan successfully led MPA’s efforts to secure the re-election of Singapore into the Council of the International Maritime Organisation in 2015 and 2017, MOT added.
SINGAPORE: How prepared are our youth for the future? My biggest epiphany about this subject came about from dangling S$50 bills before students.
I have run dozens of future-readiness workshops with thousands of local university students where I would start by announcing that we were going to carry out a simple experiment.
I would take out a S$50 note, hold it up and tell the students that whoever wanted it could come up and take it, no hidden catches or tricks.
Typically what would happen was … nothing except for baffled glances between the students and nervous laughter.
After a few minutes, someone would stand up and make their way to the front of the room and ask for the note. This someone would invariably be male, and a foreign student from China, India or the West.
I remember only a couple of female students getting up, but sadly they sat back down again when they saw another male contender stand up. Hardly any Singaporeans came forward.
Afterwards, we would ask the students:
What prevented you from stepping up?
I’ll tell you their answers in a bit. But let’s reflect on how ready our Singapore youths truly are, to face a future of rapid change, unpredictable opportunities and hyper-competition.
On the surface, things look good. Every other week I read news about Singapore topping this or that employability or education index. Just this week, the World Bank released their Human Capital Index which Singapore topped.
However, if you look closer, some of these rankings are informed by basic mortality measures. Are we measuring our ability to thrive, or merely to survive?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that we are great at gaming the rankings – the Singapore education system is the best training ground for producing highly efficient linear thinkers who have no problems operating in a rules-based structured environment.
Just like robots.
Spot the massive problem here? It’s planned obsolescence for our youth if we are still measuring success by outdated metrics. Because in a world of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, we can’t compete on those terms anymore. We need to equip ourselves with different skills, mindsets and tools.
THRIVING IN A VUCA WORLD
In the real world, we all know what gets measured gets attention, a concept that management expert Peter Drucker made famous.
So how do you measure future-readiness of our youth and their ability to thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world?
In order to build a complete view, you have to look at a few perspectives.
Firstly, consider employers and what they are looking for when they hire future talent. The vast majority of employers are shifting their focus to identifying talent with strong soft skills, and this view is given further support by research linking social emotional intelligence to success in the workplace.
In addition, you also have to consider the needs of our youth and what competencies they need to face the future with confidence.
We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety, loneliness and depression from students, and it doesn’t matter how much training they are offered if deep down they believe that it’s hopeless.
Also consider perspectives from domain experts such as futurists, psychologists and leadership experts who have insight into human potential and what abilities will become increasingly important in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
A FUTURE READINESS INDEX
There have been many efforts at assessing future-readiness of human talent based on economic measures, living standards, productivity and other external measures. However, in my view, the biggest challenges we face are internal ones – skills, mindsets and beliefs.
If I were to build a new genre of future readiness Index, it would focus on essential “deep human” superskills, all of which are well-researched, and can be taught, observed and measured objectively.
Interestingly, many of the corporates and educational institutions I work with tell me that these superskills are becoming increasingly rare at precisely the time where they are rising in importance.
A future readiness Index for our youth could comprise:
1. Focus and insight. Our school-aged youth are the first generation to have crucial brain stage development in an environment of mass distraction and technology addiction. The ability to control their attention, focus on what matters, and form insightful connections to separate the signal from the noise will be crucial to their success in life.
2. Self-awareness. In an increasingly ambiguous world, self-awareness is a sensing ability that enables us to navigate uncertainties and understand when to change course, when to fight for convictions, and also having the humility to consider that your idea may be wrong.
A body of current research suggests that self-awareness is linked to more effective leaders and bottom-line profits in companies. Perhaps most crucially, self-aware people are curious and self-motivated life-long learners.
3. Empathy. Empathy is the ability to shift perspectives, and understand others on a deeply human level. Coupled with self-awareness and the ability to assert appropriate boundaries, empathy is a superskill that allows you to connect and engage others effectively.
4. Complex communication. In a world of constant strategy shifts and restructuring, not to mention the added challenge of working virtually with cross-cultural teams, it is essential to have sophisticated communication skills such as giving effective feedback and conflict resolution.
5. Entrepreneurial thinking. The ability to spot opportunities, promote your ideas, evaluate risk and reward, and act fast is crucial in an ever more competitive world.
6. Adaptability and resilience. This is a fundamental hygiene factor. It doesn’t matter if you have all the previous five abilities if you give up easily, are paralysed by failure or do not possess the psychological flexibility to adapt and keep going through turbulence.
An index like this can actually be a useful and practical tool for individuals and institutions.
For example, when students enter university, they can complete a future-ready diagnostic assessment that gives them a simple graphical overview of their strengths and developmental areas, and recommend activities and experiences tailored for them.
Employers can complete this diagnostic tool to give each student post-internship feedback on their future-ready capabilities, as can academic advisors and peers.
Students can see their strengths objectively, learn where their blind spots are and track their progress over the university journey.
This way, the index generates a personal development roadmap rather than just a set of arbitrary scores that no one has a sense of ownership over.
CORE BELIEFS AND VALUES
An index sheds light on the breadth of the problem but we also need to consider the issue of depth.
Over the past few years my explorations in future-readiness have been a continuous journey of humility. The more I learn the less I realise I know. As the saying goes, real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
For instance, in teaching future-ready abilities, I have realised skills are only the tip of the iceberg.
What is far harder is shifting mindsets and working on core beliefs. For example, learning empathy is more than the skill of merely voicing out empathic phrases. True mastery of empathy includes developing a mindset of compassion, supported by a core belief in a common humanity.
How to instill empathy in youth involves a whole eco-system modelling all these levels – behaviours, mindsets and core beliefs.
Remember the S$50 experiment – what stopped the Singaporean students from getting up?
Most said they missed out on the instruction, or that they feared taking a risk or didn’t want to look greedy in front of others.
What haunted me was the memory of the female who stood up and sat back down again when she saw male students rising. The student in the front row who said that S$50 wasn’t enough and he may have done it if it was S$100. And the ones nodding off in the back row, sleep-deprived from their jam-packed content-heavy curriculum.
It is tempting at this point to think that this is a “millennial” problem, but if we were to truly embody the empathy we want to develop in our youth, we would see our part in creating the reality that exists today.
What holds our youth back isn’t just a question of skills, it is a question of mindsets. And how we fix it goes beyond organising workshops or devising new training programmes.
It requires a complicated, big, profound conversation that also involves contemplation of culture, power, gender, privilege and all the other elephants in the room that shape how our youth view the world and engage with it.
If we really want to prepare our youth, a future-ready index is a helpful start as a means of aligning our goals and collecting data.
But the real work is that we ourselves, parents, government and authority figures, must understand our role as stewards. We must be the change we want to see, do the right but sometimes difficult thing, and be prepared to challenge our own calcified, fixed mindsets, even if it means admitting our mistakes.
If we are stewards, we must travel alongside our youth, instead of pretending that we can send them up the garden path equipped with a toolbox of skills that we ourselves don’t apply.
The root of the word “index” means to point, but what is more important than a pointing finger is a helping hand.
SINGAPORE: It all started 16 years ago when Madam Sally Lim, 43, moved into her newly renovated home in Choa Chu Kang.
A week later, red itchy rashes started popping up on her arms and neck. Her condition got worse over the months with the skin on her body and face flaking. A smelly fluid also oozed from her armpit and neck which were scratched raw because of the itch.
Doctors she consulted diagnosed her with eczema, apparently triggered by the fresh coat of paint in her newly renovated flat. She received steroid injections for her condition.
“They worked wonderfully. My skin was even better than normal. But it only lasted a short while,” she told Channel NewsAsia.
Over the years, Mdm Lim tried many other treatments in the hopes of managing her eczema better. However, she still suffers from outbreaks about three times a year which can last for months each time, and she has to take oral steroids to keep them in check.
INCREASED AWARENESS, CHANGES IN LIFESTYLE
Mdm Lim, a patient at the National Skin Centre (NSC), is one of many in Singapore suffering from skin conditions. Whether it is for eczema, acne or pigmentation disorders, the demand for dermatology services is rising. In 2016, NSC had 304,000 outpatient clinic attendances, up from 263,000 in 2008.
In order to meet the rising demand, a new building - scheduled to open in 2022 - will be added at the NSC in Novena which will boost capacity by 50 per cent, NSC said during the building’s groundbreaking ceremony in April this year.
Dr Lynn Chiam, a dermatologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, attributed the increase in demand to a combination of factors. This includes a greater awareness of skin problems and treatments available. In addition, the use of many different skin products at the same time can create problems.
Travelling overseas frequently exposes an individual to different climates and conditions which can also trigger skin problems, Dr Chiam said.
Senior consultant at NSC Associate Professor Chua Sze Hon echoed similar views. He said the greater awareness of skin diseases has led to more people consulting dermatologists.
“Patients now seek more effective management to relieve the burden of skin diseases in their lives rather than to suffer in silence,” he said.
Assoc Prof Chua said that the impact on sufferers can be “very significant”.
“For example, severe eczema and psoriasis often result in reduced self-esteem, sleep disturbance, loss of concentration at school or work, social withdrawal, depression, increased leave from school or work,” he said, adding that caregivers may be faced with fatigue looking after the needs of sufferers as well.
Dr Chiam said that research has shown that skin diseases can impact a person’s quality of life more significantly than other medical conditions, as it is visible to other people.
Mdm Lim admits it has not been easy dealing with her eczema. She has been approached by strangers asking about her skin condition and whether it is contagious. She has also received unkind comments from family members, which she said "hurt the most".
“They would ask me: ‘Why are you so dirty? You must have been eating anyhow,’ and commented that my face is disgusting because of the red and black patches I had,” Mdm Lim said.
ECZEMA MOST COMMON SKIN CONDITION IN SINGAPORE
For the past three years, eczema has been the most common skin disease treated at the NSC.
There were 18,405 new cases last year. The next most common condition – benign skin tumours – saw 6,846 new cases, according to figures from the centre.
In fact, the incidence of eczema in Singapore is one of the highest in the world, said Dr Chiam.
This could be attributed to Singapore’s hot and humid weather, leading to excessive perspiration which can affect the skin’s barrier function, she said. Over-washing with soaps can also be detrimental to the skin barrier, she said, adding that with an impaired skin barrier, eczema can result. House dust mites that thrive in hot humid weather are also common triggers of eczema, she added.
MISCONCEPTIONS EXIST DESPITE AWARENESS
While there is increasing awareness of skin diseases, Assoc Prof Chua stressed the importance of continuous public education as there are still misconceptions.
He recalled the case of a 14-year-old boy whose parents were convinced that his rashes were due to a food allergy after they “researched” on the Internet.
They imposed food restrictions on him, but it did not help his skin condition. As his condition worsened, the teenager became socially withdrawn.
He was diagnosed with eczema when he was eventually brought to NSC for a consultation. His condition improved with treatment.
Mdm Lim agreed that public education is important. She herself has borne the brunt of such misconception.
“Many people had the misconception that the condition is contagious, can be easily managed and can be cured permanently,” she said.
Some also think that seafood is the main cause of her condition which is also not true, Mdm Lim said. In fact, food is not a common trigger for eczema, Dr Chiam said. She added that the most common allergen in Singapore is dust mites. The condition is also not contagious.
Mdm Lim said she manages her condition with the understanding and support of her husband.
“Getting support from loved ones is very important,” she said.
SINGAPORE: The world's longest commercial flight took off from Singapore on Thursday (Oct 11), with excited and apprehensive passengers on board settling in for a marathon 19 hours in the air to New York.
A spokeswoman for Singapore Airlines told reporters that Flight SQ22 departed at approximately 11.35pm (1535 GMT) with 150 passengers and 17 crew on board.
Two pilots, a special "wellness" menu and more than seven weeks' worth of film and television entertainment accompany the travellers on the 16,700-kilometre journey to the Big Apple.
The long-range Airbus A350-900ULR is configured to carry up to 161 passengers - 67 in business class and 94 in premium economy, with no regular economy seats available.
For the flight crew - which also includes two first officers and a 13-strong cabin contingent - the workload will be broken up, the airline said, with each pilot having a minimum eight hours' rest during the flight.
But for passengers, the challenge will be what to do with all that down time when they're up in the air.
For those not packing a weighty novel (or two), there will be 1,200 hours of audio-visual entertainment to choose from.
Dining options will include dishes the airline says have been selected to promote well-being in the skies, with organic offerings on the menu.
Passenger Peggy Ang, 52, said before the flight that she felt "apprehensive because I'm not sure what would I do in 18.5 hours" inside the plane.
"Now that you asked me, I'm a little bit worried. I'm thinking of sleeping, watching TV, doing my work," she told reporters after checking in at Changi Airport for the flight.
"I have a lot of notes to read, hopefully I can sleep well," said Ang, a membership director of an IT services firm.
Some of the passengers were flight enthusiasts, like Singaporean engineer Danny Ong, 50, who bought a return ticket.
"I'm coming back on the next flight. I enjoy the passion of flying," he told reporters, adding he would binge on the in-flight entertainment.
Pier Messaggio, 41, an Italian electronics designer based in Singapore, said he is part of a group called "First to Fly" whose members have been on board all of Singapore Airlines' inaugural flights.
He and his group met during the world's first commercial flight of the Airbus A380 double-decker plane operated by the airline in 2007 and discovered that everyone had a passion for flying.
"I fly for fun ... I'm an aviation enthusiast," Messaggio told reporters.
Airbus said the A350-900URL plane's cabin has higher-than-normal ceilings, larger windows and lighting designed to reduce jet lag - all part of an effort to lessen the stresses that can accompany almost a day on a plane.
"Research has shown that hydration and food intake are important factors (to consider), such as avoiding foods that cause gas or bloating as well as excessive alcohol," Rhenu Bhuller, a healthcare expert at consultancy Frost & Sullivan, told reporters.
"The biggest concern is Deep Vein Thrombosis from a combination of sitting for too long and also from dehydration," said Gail Cross, an associate consultant at the National University Hospital in Singapore.
The twin-engine plane uses a modified system that burns 25 per cent less fuel than other aircraft of a similar size, Airbus said.
The flight from the city-state to Newark Airport can take up to 18 hours and 45 minutes under normal weather conditions, but the pilots will have something in reserve in an aircraft capable of flying more than 20 hours non-stop.
Singapore Airlines originally flew the route for nine years using the gas-guzzling, four-engine A340-500 before abandoning it in 2013 because high oil prices made the service unprofitable.
But the carrier is hoping that the introduction of more fuel-efficient planes will set cash registers ringing even as crude prices soar above US$80.
Thursday's flight will top the current longest direct air link between cities - Qatar Airways Flight 921 from Auckland to Doha, which takes 17 hours 40 minutes.
"It's turning out to be a race between a few airlines eyeing the longest routes inter-continentally," said Shukor Yusof of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.
"They are hoping to capitalise and exploit a very niche market," he told reporters.
Facing increasingly strong competition in recent years, Singapore Airlines has consolidated its low-fare subsidiaries and is strengthening its premium segment.
"Ultra-long haul services comprise an important component of that strategy," an airline spokesman told reporters.
The company is the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR plane. It received the first aircraft in September. Six more are due for delivery by the end of the year.
"We are optimistic about the demand for non-stop services to the US," the spokesman said.
Analyst Shukor, however, said it remained to be seen whether the airline and other operators of marathon flights can withstand the pressure from rising oil prices.`
SINGAPORE: The Singapore economy grew 2.6 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter, slowing down from the 4.1 per cent growth in the previous three months, advance estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) showed on Friday (Oct 12).
The ministry’s estimate was, however, above those of private sector economists polled in the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) recent quarterly survey. The survey of professional forecasters released last month estimated Singapore’s third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) to be 2.1 per cent.
On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally-adjusted annualised basis, GDP growth expanded 4.7 per cent, picking up pace from the previous quarter’s 1.2 per cent.
The manufacturing sector remained the key driver of the economy but growth slowed to 4.5 per cent year-on-year in the July to September period, down from the 10.6 per cent growth in the previous quarter.
Growth was supported mainly by output expansion in the electronics, biomedical manufacturing and transport engineering clusters.
On the other hand, services growth held steady at 2.9 per cent from a year ago, with support largely coming from the finance and insurance, business services, as well as wholesale and retail trade sectors.
Construction continued to underperform with a contraction of 3.1 per cent year-on-year, extending the previous quarter’s 4.2 per cent decline, on the back of weakness in public sector construction activities.
Mr Jeff Ng, chief economist for Asia at Continuum Economics, said the slowdown in third-quarter GDP is in line with his expectations.
“This time round, services provided some stability, with a trend-like expansion. Manufacturing slowed as expected from base effects, trade war concerns and confidence taking a hit," he said.
The advance GDP estimates are computed largely from data in the first two months of the quarter - in this case, July and August. They are intended as an early indication of GDP growth in the quarter, and are subject to revision when more comprehensive data become available, said MTI.
MTI will release the third-quarter Economic Survey of Singapore in November, which will include performance by sectors, sources of growth, inflation, employment and productivity.
In a separate statement on Friday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it is “slightly” steepening the slope of the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate (S$NEER) policy band in a “measured adjustment” to its monetary policy.
Looking ahead, MAS said: “The Singapore economy is likely to remain on its steady expansion path in the quarters ahead, keeping output slightly above potential.”
SINGAPORE: The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Friday (Oct 12) tightened monetary policy for the second time this year, saying it expects the economy to continue to expand steadily and core inflation to rise.
The central bank - which manages policy through exchange rate instead of interest rate - said it would “slightly” increase the slope of the Singapore dollar nominal effective exchange rate (S$NEER) policy band, in a “measured adjustment” to its monetary policy.
It kept two other policy levers – the width and mid-point of the band – unchanged.
“The Singapore economy is likely to remain on its steady expansion path in the quarters ahead, keeping output slightly above potential," the central bank said in its latest biannual policy statement.
This “measured adjustment" of the policy, it said, is “consistent with a modest and gradual appreciation path of the S$NEER policy band that will ensure medium-term price stability”.
Following the announcement, the Singdollar appreciated against the greenback. It was last seen trading at S$1.3743 per US dollar at 10.18am, compared with S$1.3765 before the announcement.
GLOBAL GROWTH 'RELATIVELY RESILIENT'
MAS operates a managed float regime for the Singapore dollar, allowing the exchange rate to fluctuate within an unspecified policy band, rather than to a fixed value. It changes the slope, width and centre of that band when it wants to adjust the pace of appreciation or depreciation of the Singapore currency.
Friday's decision to tighten policy marks the second time it has done so this year. In April, the central bank slightly increased the slope of the policy band from zero per cent to allow for “modest and gradual” appreciation, – marking its first tightening move in six years.
The tightening comes despite advance official estimates released Friday showing that Singapore's economic growth slowed to 2.6 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter, down from 4.1 per cent in the previous three months.
MAS said Friday that the economy has "largely evolved as envisaged" in the April policy review and that the level of economic activity is assessed to be slightly above potential.
It also said that global growth has been "relatively resilient", although it did caution that trade friction between some major economies could weigh more discernibly on global economic activity next year.
Singapore's GDP growth should come within the upper half of the 2.5 to 3.5 per cent forecast range this year and moderate slightly in 2019, MAS said.
RISING INFLATIONARY PRESSURES
In the quarters ahead, MAS said, imported inflation is likely to increase on account of higher global oil and food prices.
The central bank expects core inflation to edge up further to around 2 per cent in the months ahead, and come in between 1.5 and 2 per cent for the whole year. Next year, core inflation is expected to average between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent.
Concerns over inflation likely played a key role in MAS' decision to further normalise policy, said Standard Chartered economist Jonathan Koh, who had expected the central bank to stand pat.
“We thought it would be a no move as we had trade tensions in mind. But looking at the statement, it seems like MAS views trade frictions more as tail risks and seem to be more concerned about rising inflationary pressures,” he said.
But having already tightened twice this year, Mr Koh thinks the MAS will likely opt to stand pat during the next policy review in April next year.
“The global backdrop is pretty uncertain and we expect Singapore’s growth to start slowing slightly in 2019, given that the manufacturing cycle has started to ease off already,” he said.
Mr Khoon Goh, head of Asia research for ANZ in Singapore, thinks otherwise.
He said the central bank’s latest policy statement “sounded more hawkish”, with the recent trade tensions being downplayed.
“This suggests to us that the MAS is not yet done with policy normalisation, and a further increase in the S$NEER slope is likely if the economy evolves as the MAS expects,” he added. “Our baseline view is for another tightening in April 2019.”
Echoing that, Mr Jeff Ng, chief economist for Asia at Continuum Economics, thinks there is a “strong possibility” of further tightening in 2019, likely in April, on the back of expectations for higher inflation.