SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Thursday (Jan 18) that it will pilot the use of PayNow this year to disburse Edusave Award funds to Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic students.
In its press release, MOE said the move is in line with Singapore's efforts to become a Smart Nation.
The pilot will involve two runs in April and September, benefitting 34,000 ITE and polytechnic students in total, who will receive the award money in their bank accounts on the day of the ceremony, the ministry said.
Currently, they would have to visit a bank to deposit their cheque and wait for it to clear before withdrawing the money.
MOE added that it will share more details of the pilot with stakeholders such as grassroots advisors, constituency offices, ITE colleges, polytechnics and award recipients before the first award ceremony in April.
It will also send letters to award recipients to let them know which Edusave Award they will be receiving, and enclose further instructions on how to sign up for PayNow using their NRIC number.
PayNow is a funds transfer service offered by seven banks in Singapore. The participating banks are Citibank, DBS/POSB, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC, Standard Charted Bank and United Overseas Bank.
MOE said it will review if the process can be extended to Edusave Awards for all other students after completing the pilot.
SINGAPORE: The total Certificate of Entitlement (COE) quota for February to April will be 25,636, a 1 per cent decrease from the previous quarter, according to figures released by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Thursday (Jan 18).
There was a quota of 25,913 COEs for November 2017 to January 2018.
In Category A, which is for cars up to 1,600cc and maximum power output not exceeding 97kW, there will be a quota of 9,345 COEs, down from the previous quarter's 10,081. The average monthly quota for this quarter is 3,115.
Category B, which is for cars above 1,600cc or maximum power output above 97kW, will see a quota of 8,338 COEs, marginally up from 8,246 in the previous quarter. The average monthly quota for this quarter is 2,779.
As for Category C, which is for goods vehicles and buses, the number of COEs is at 1,481, a slight increase from the previous quarter's 1,456. The average monthly quota for this quarter is 493.
In Category D, which is for motorcycles, the COE quota is 3,075, up from 3,053. The average monthly quota for this quarter is 1,025.
Open category COEs, which can be used for any vehicle type but end up being used mainly for large cars, will see a quota of 3,397, compared to 3,077 in the previous quarter. The average monthly quota for this quarter is 1,132.
Bidding under this quota will start with the first COE bidding exercise in February 2018.
This is the first quota affected by the new zero vehicle growth rate the government announced last October as it continues to steer Singapore towards becoming a car-lite society.
This affects all private passenger cars (Categories A and B) and motorcycles (Category D).
The growth rate for goods vehicles and buses in Category C will remain unchanged at 0.25 per cent until the first quarter of 2021.
SINGAPORE: Parents of UWC South East Asia students had mixed views on Thursday (Jan 18), barely a day after police said a driver who tried to get a female student from the school into his van had no “ill intent”.
On Jan 12, UWC's Head of College Chris Edwards sent an email to parents of the school saying a student had been "approached" while she was on her way home.
Reporters understands that the 32-year-old Singaporean driver had offered a lift to the teenager on Jan 11 because it was raining.
The incident was one of two of students from different international schools being approached by strangers in vans. The second involved a student from Tanglin Trust School on Jan 16, and the police said on Wednesday evening that it was an "unrelated" incident involving a female driver.
Some UWC parents said they found it hard to believe that there was no ill intent, while others said that even though they believed that was possible, the incident provides a good reminder not to take safety for granted.
Housewife Prisca Chu told reporters that her concerns were not completely allayed. “It rains all the time in Singapore, but I’ve never been offered a ride. I don’t think it’s common practice in Singapore,” she said.
Ms Chu, who has a five-year-old daughter in the school, added that given that the incident was one of two that involved international schools within a short period, she was inclined to think that it was not a coincidence.
Another mother, who has an 11-year-old son in the school, said she would wait for the school's confirmation before she believes that there was no threat to the safety of the teenager involved.
She said she was keenly aware that worse things can happen, because when she was in the United States, two children were nearly kidnapped from her neighbour’s home by someone in a vehicle.
Professor Rani Mullen, 50, said that some of the parents in a chat group she belongs to were upset, because even if the man had no ill intent, they felt that there should be more awareness that “it is just not okay” for anyone to approach children like that.
INCIDENT A GOOD REMINDER TO REMAIN VIGILANT
But she, like other parents, said that the incident was a good reminder for families who may be living in a “false bubble of safety” given Singapore’s reputation as a safe country.
Another father, who has a 13-year-old son in the school, said he was glad that the police were able to identify the driver. This incident, while said to be benign, was a reminder for the international school parents’ community that these incidents could happen in Singapore, he added.
“Many of us are Westerners, and these things do happen where we come from. We bring our fears with us. It could happen. We are very lucky there are cameras and so much security here,” he said.
He added that he believes the police would have done their job thoroughly, and that he does not doubt their judgment.
Another parent, whose nine-year-old daughter studies in the school, said while it was good that it was nothing more serious, she would remain on guard. “I don’t think any country is ever 100 per cent safe, so we still have to be vigilant.”
Police investigations into the Tanglin Trust School incident, which involved a female driver, are ongoing.
SINGAPORE: A 25-year-old Singaporean woman was arrested at Changi Airport for failing to declare branded handbags and accessories she had purchased overseas for Goods and Services Tax (GST) payment, Singapore Customs said in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Jan 16).
The woman, who had arrived on a flight from Paris last Friday (Jan 12), had her luggage checked when she attempted to exit through the customs green channel without declaring the goods.
The handbags and accessories were worth more than S$11,000, Singapore Customs said. Investigations are ongoing.
Singapore Customs stressed that it is the responsibility of travellers to make an accurate and complete declaration of the taxable and dutiable items in their possession.
According to the Singapore Customs website, all goods brought into Singapore – including new items, souvenirs, gifts or food products – are subject to 7 per cent GST.
However, travellers can enjoy GST relief on goods meant for their personal use depending on the time spent away from Singapore. For travellers who are away for 48 hours or more, the value of goods granted for GST relief is S$600.
Meanwhile for those who spend less than 48 hours abroad, they are required to pay GST for goods that exceed their GST relief of S$150.
Under the Customs Act, any person found guilty of evading duty and GST when importing dutiable goods faces a fine of up to 20 times the amount evaded and/or be jailed for up to two years.
SINGAPORE: A doctorate student was found dead at a laboratory in Biopolis on Tuesday (Jan 16) morning.
Ms Katarina Chlebikova, 26, was a PhD student at Duke-NUS Medical School from Slovakia. Reporters understands that she was an intern at the Claridge-Chang Lab, which is affiliated with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.
Ms Chlebikova is believed to have killed herself by inhaling nitrogen gas found in the lab, located at 61 Biopolis Drive.
The police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said they were alerted at around 10.45am. She was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.
In response to a query from reporters, A*STAR said it has been informed about the death. “The matter is currently under investigation by the police,” a spokesperson said.
The police said they are investigating the case as an unnatural death.
According to a cached version of the Claridge-Chang Lab’s website, which has since been taken down, Ms Chlebikova graduated with a degree in biological natural sciences from the University of Cambridge. She worked at the lab in 2013 before pursuing a master’s degree at Edinburgh University, and returned to Duke-NUS as a PhD student.
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Institute of Mental Health’s mobile crisis service: 6389-2222
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
SINGAPORE: Two international schools in Singapore have warned parents after female students were approached by strangers and asked to get into a white van on separate occasions within a space of a few days.
In an email seen by reporters, Tanglin Trust School's chief executive Peter Derby-Crook told parents that a student was walking to the school on Portsdown Road on Tuesday (Jan 16) when the incident happened.
Mr Derby-Crook said the student was walking from one-north MRT station at 12.30pm when a white van stopped near her.
Two occupants from the van “tried to entice” her to get in, he said, and despite her ignoring them, they persisted.
“The two occupants got out of the van and continued to entice her but she moved quickly away and arrived at school safely,” he said.
The student reported the incident to the school, which made a police report and requested a higher police presence around the school.
“All parents of Tanglin Trust School were informed of the incident the same afternoon with the suggestion that students should not walk alone in the vicinity of the school but walk with friends,” said Mr Derby-Crook, adding that students were reminded the same day of how to stay safe and what to do if they are approached at any time by a stranger.
UWC SOUTH EAST ASIA STUDENT "APPROACHED": HEAD OF COLLEGE
Mr Derby-Crook's email came on the back of another sent last week which alerted parents to a similar incident along Dover Road on Jan 11 this year, involving a student from another school.
Chris Edwards, the Head of College of UWC South East Asia, sent an email to parents of the school on Jan 12 saying a student had been "approached" while she was on her way home.
"It has been brought to our attention that one of our Middle School students was approached on Dover Road yesterday afternoon, Jan 11, by a man driving a van," he wrote.
"He drove alongside her as she was waiting for the bus and called to her from the road, telling her to get into the van. The student took exactly the right action: She did not respond, walked away in the opposite direction, and informed a known adult."
In responding to reporters queries, the school's director of Communications and College Affairs Sinéad Collins said that the students and her parents filed a police report.
Apart from informing parents of the incident, the school also informed other schools in the area and fellow international schools.
PARENTS WORRIED FOR SAFETY OF CHILDREN
Parents whose children attend Tanglin Trust School said that they were worried, and that such news is “frightening”.
“I spoke to my children about this last night," said a mother whose two sons are students at the school.
"What nerve these people have trying to do something like this when there are security guards in the buildings around."
Another mother whose children aged 13, 11 and nine attend the school, has told them not to wait outside to be fetched. She said her older children have gone home on their own once or twice, but that she has told them not to do so for the time being.
Meanwhile, another mother, who has two daughters and a son in the school said she has reminded them not to respond to strangers, and to walk away.
The women did not want to be named.
Students who spoke to reporters said that since last week, the school has been strict about them leaving school alone - advising them to go in groups.
"I didn't expect this to happen in Singapore," she said.
Reporters has reached out to the police.
SINGAPORE: A new localised Chinese-language curriculum for pre-schools and kindergartens will be an additional option for pre-schools in Singapore to supplement existing resources, but those reporters spoke to pointed out that the materials they use are already rich in local culture.
The new curriculum, which was launched by Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on Jan 3, features scenes of Singaporean daily life that children can relate to, like experiences in an HDB setting. It also includes local stories and incidents, such as Sang Nila Utama’s founding of Singapura, the clean-up of Singapore River as well as the Bukit Ho Swee fire.
It was developed by the Confucius Institute of Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The Confucius Institute’s director Neo Peng Fu had noted that materials used by some pre-schools are sourced from other countries, or may not be of high quality. He added that many of the textbooks are imported from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
PRE-SCHOOLS ALREADY HAVE LOCAL ELEMENTS IN THEIR MATERIALS
But it appears that pre-schools here already have a local element to their materials, particularly for those which are developed in-house.
For example, the in-house curriculum at NTUC First Campus, which focuses on developing children’s oral skills, requires children to have conversations with each other. This, said NTUC First Campus’s Group Mother Tongue Languages Officer Connie Lum, means that children have a choice to include what they know in the conversation. NTUC First Campus operates more than 130 My First Skool childcare centres islandwide.
“So if the conversation is about food, they can include things like chee cheong fun and roti prata,” she explained.
Dr Lum added that the teaching aids and picture books they designed also depicts backdrops like Gardens by the Bay and a local bus terminal. Multi-racial children are also featured in the picture books.
“A lot of people have the stereotype that only boys draw things like buses or cars,” she said. “But in one particular book, we show an Indian girl drawing a truck and a Eurasian girl drawing a bus.”
“So we teach children about multi-racialism indirectly through the picture books, and we also show that girls can also draw buses or cars. So we are quite unique in that way.”
Over at EtonHouse, which has children, family and teaching staff from all over the world, its director of pedagogy Tina Stephenson-Chin stressed the importance of giving children opportunities to engage in experiences and traditions from their own culture, as well as from different cultures.
“Alongside Singapore’s national celebrations, culture and way of life, our community also actively share traditions and culture from their home countries,” she said. For example, children may explore various local cuisines, and families may have a go at creating their own versions of nasi lemak or ice kachang.
“These experiences are conducted in Mandarin and hosted by the Mandarin teachers,” she added. “In one of our schools, children were inquiring on the different kinds of buildings and their functions.
“The Mandarin teachers took the chance to introduce local landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade, Peranakan shophouses, various places of worship and museums.”
The local element is also evident in smaller preschools like Paya Lebar Methodist Church Kindergarten, which uses a curriculum named Le Zhong Xue, developed by a Singapore company and recommended by the Pre-School Chinese Language Education Support Group of the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning.
“The publisher invited teachers from China as well as teachers from Singapore to develop this curriculum in order to suit the Singapore culture and settings,” said the kindergarten’s Chinese senior teacher Teo Lee Kiang. “It is fully localised, especially in the ways that Chinese festivals are being celebrated in Singaporean style.”
“It has also been reviewed and revised in order to meet the needs of Singaporean children.”
Nonetheless, the various pre-schools do not appear to have ruled out the NTU curriculum entirely.
Paya Lebar Methodist Church Kindergarten’s principal Adeline Tso said that while she has yet to see the new NTU curriculum, they are “open to consider any programme that will be beneficial to our children".
Likewise, EtonHouse noted that the books and resources developed in the curriculum could be used as reference and a value-add to its teaching and learning resources.
“We are open to sharing ideas with educators from all over the world and greatly appreciate intelligent approaches no matter where they are from,” said EtonHouse’s Ms Stephenson-Chin. “However, many of our children are not local and so it would not be practical to offer an only localised environment to our families.”
And when asked if they will consider using the NTU curriculum, My First Skool said it will need to know more about it.
RESOURCES USED AT MOE KINDERGARTENS SHARED WITH THE REST OF PRE-SCHOOL SECTOR
However, already available in the pre-school sector are the materials developed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) for its 18 MOE Kindergartens (MKs). The curriculum, based on MOE’s Nurturing Early Learners Framework, develops children’s early literacy skills and seeks to nurture early bilingualism, with a focus on developing their listening and speaking skills through the use of songs and stories. All pre-school centres are invited to attend engagement sessions to check out MOE’s Big Books, which are used in English and Mother Tongue languages.
These Big Books, MOE told reporters, use contexts that children relate to, such as a walk in the neighbourhood, visits to Singapore landmarks like Changi Airport and Gardens by the Bay, as well as celebration of local festivals like Deepavali, Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and National Day. Anchor and partner operators, as well as non-profit operators, get the Big Books for free, while commercial centres get it at cost price.
A set of 24 Big Books in English and 32 Big Books for each of the three official mother tongue languages for K1 have been delivered to more than 800 pre-school centres which have indicated interest to use them, said MOE, adding that it has also started showcasing the use of these resources at pre-school forums.
Private operator Cherie Hearts is one pre-school that uses these Big Books, which it says adds literacy content to the classroom environment. Its Chinese-language curriculum, according to Noorsiah Allaudeen, head of curriculum at G8 Education Singapore, is developed by in-house curriculum specialists, and uses a “thematic-based integrated curriculum” encompassing the various learning domains of language and literacy, numeracy, discovery of the world, socio-emotional development, motor skills development and creative and aesthetic expression. G8 Education Singapore owns and manages Cherie Hearts.
Mrs Allaudeen also noted the local element is also embedded in the curriculum themes covered, especially during festive celebrations. “Chinese lessons are also brought to life when children go on field trips to places of attraction to learn about local culture and experiences,” she said.
She added that Cherie Hearts will also definitely consider using the new localised curriculum from NTU. “Our curriculum specialists will review its content and gauge the suitability and appropriateness, ensuring it matches our in-house materials.”
Nonetheless, it also taps on resources developed in places like China and Taiwan, because they have a "rich" source of Mandarin preschool teaching materials.
“As these countries have an abundance of highly qualified Mandarin educators and children’s book authors and publishers, G8 Education Singapore actively seeks out and uses the myriad of resources available,” said Mrs Allaudeen. “Similarly, we turn to the UK, US and Australia for English teaching materials.”
LOCAL GOOD, OVERSEAS BAD? IMPORTANT TO STRIKE A BALANCE
There are, however, drawbacks to using materials developed overseas. For one, said G8 Education’s Mrs Allaudeen, some themes, illustration, culture and practices may be irrelevant.
“As pre-schoolers relate best to daily and first-hand experiences, learning about things like the four seasons and looking at illustrations that they cannot relate to their immediate surroundings make some of these content inappropriate for our children,” she said.
Ms Teo from Paya Lebar Methodist Church Kindergarten added that curriculum developed overseas generally have a Chinese-language standard that is too high, as Mandarin is likely to be the first language for children overseas. “Using overseas curricula may cause the children to lose interest,” she said. “The children may also not be able to relate to the content as it is quite different from their daily life settings.”
However, using materials developed overseas may not be a bad thing, stressed Dr Lum from NTUC First Campus. Using the classic picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar as an example, she said many countries use this book as the content is “very common”.
“We cannot say that only localised content is good and discount some of the overseas picture books,” she said. “Then we will have a very narrow perspective.”
“There are many good picture books around the world, and some of the materials from overseas have very good Chinese values,” she added, citing a Chinese-language picture book which teaches children the values of the Chinese reunion dinner.
“It’s not a bad thing to expose them to different cultures.”
SINGAPORE: A director who has served on the board for more than nine years will be subject to a particularly rigorous review, if proposed revisions to the Code of Corporate Governance are passed.
The Corporate Governance Council on Tuesday (Jan 16) launched a public consultation on its recommended revisions, which it said are aimed at "supporting sustained corporate performance" and ramping up investor confidence in Singapore's capital markets.
On its proposal to subject a long-serving director to a rigorous review, the council reasoned that the independence of such a director might be compromised given his familiarity with the company's management. It was proposed that the board should explain why the director is considered "independent".
The council said in its consultation paper that corporate governance codes around the world are increasingly emphasising the importance of directors being able to make objective judgments without any "vested interest or undue influence from interested parties".
The council also recommends lowering of the shareholding threshold for assessing director independence from 10 per cent to 5 per cent and including this in the Singapore Exchange (SGX) listing rules.
This will bring Singapore in line with similar thresholds in Hong Kong and Australia.
The council also wants a transition period of three years to be provided to allow sufficient time for companies to adjust their board composition and source for new independent directors.
Another recommendation is for a third of the company's board to be made up of independent directors.
SHORTER AND MORE CONCISE CODE
Mr Chew Choon Seng, the chairman of the council, said the recommendations take into account the changing business environment and the diverse views of various stakeholder groups that the council has engaged.
"The streamlined Code is shorter and concise," he said at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority-Singapore Exchange-Singapore Institute of Directors (ACRA-SGX-SID) Audit Committee Seminar 2018.
"It seeks to encourage companies to move away from a compliance mindset and adopt thoughtful corporate governance practices that will best support their long-term business objectives."
The council was set up by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in February last year to review the Code, which was last revised in 2012, when changes were made to ramp up board independence, as well as to strengthen remuneration practices and disclosures.
Mr Chew said: "Given the rapid pace of change in today's world of business and markets, MAS deemed it timely to take stock of how the Code has fared in practice and to evaluate developments since then in corporate governance in other comparable jurisdictions."
If the recommendations are implemented, 12 requirements from the Code will be shifted to the Singapore Exchange's listing rules - which requires mandatory compliance from all Singapore-listed companies.
The public consultation will end on Mar 15. The consultation paper can be accessed on MAS’ website.
SINGAPORE: One of four lanes remains closed along Somerset Road after a pipe leak early Tuesday (Jan 16) morning, national water agency PUB said.
The agency added that it sent out a service crew to a location near TripleOne at Somerset Road near an open carpark after receiving a report of a pipe leak at about 12.40am.
In an update on Facebook at 7.59am, PUB said that repair work on the pipe leak was still ongoing, and that one out of four lanes was temporarily closed to traffic.
In an earlier Facebook post at 6.41am, the agency said three out of the four lanes along the road were closed to facilitate repairs.
SINGAPORE: As Singapore continues to develop as a Smart Nation, there is a need to include more women in building a strong core of Singaporeans in all growth sectors such as science and technology.
Second Minister for Home Affairs and Manpower Josephine Teo said this at the launch of the inaugural Women in Technology and Design conference at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on Monday (Jan 15).
While female employment rate in Singapore ranks high globally, Mrs Teo said that pockets of concerns remain.
In the corporate world, women occupy some 30 per cent of the senior executive positions but just 9.9 per cent on the boards of publicly listed companies in Singapore, behind countries whose economies are less developed.
Specifically in the sector of science and technology (S&T), about one in four is a woman and this proportion has stagnated in a decade.
While the number of female IT professionals has grown about 10 per cent since 2011, it is still less than half the growth seen in their male counterparts.
At the local universities, female enrolment in S&T has plateaued at around 3,300 students, with the share of women dipping below 40 per cent.
This, she said, raised two areas of concern.
“The first is that as Singapore develops as a Smart Nation, new industries and career opportunities are opening up for those with specialised skills which often draw on a background in S&T.
"When young women who have the ability to master science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) subjects shy away from these disciplines, it sets them on a course in life that is less likely to benefit from the uplift that technology brings to industries and of course to careers,” Mrs Teo said.
“A second reason to be concerned is that in seeking to build a strong core of Singaporeans in all our growth sectors, it will most certainly be a loss to society if not enough of our women have the relevant training to come on board,” she added.
SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP TO HELP WOMEN IN TECH
The conference also saw the launch of the Women in Technology@SG (WiT@SG) interest group, housed under the Singapore Computer Society.
Made up of 11 women from Citi, IBM, DELL EMC and SUTD, the group was created to increase and advance the participation of leadership of women in technology through the creation of a platform for women.
"I think it's indisputable that women have a lot to add to the industry to contribute to the technology industry whether it be the intellect, creativity, emotional intelligence and many many more," said Meggy Chung, chair of WiT@SG.
"We need to do a lot more work in fostering the next generation of women in technology. We need to keep raising the participation of STEM," she added.
WiT@SG will provide programmes for its members to support and empower women in the industry. Each company represented will also take turns to host quarterly events for networking and industry discussion forums.
“One day perhaps, we won’t need a special conference for women in technology and design or for that matter, any special committee or taskforce to help women advance in any field. The time isn’t here just yet,” Mrs Teo said.