Sent: Monday, November 25, 2013 4:56 PM
To: PM LEE
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Subject: 20131125 Vice Principal deserves promotion for ‘elephant in the room’ question
Dear PM Lee
I refer to Yahoo News article, “Jurong West Secondary vice-principal takes issue with ‘every school is a good school’ ideal”. link
JWSS vice-principal, Ms Pushparani Nadarajah was quoted as having asked “How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it).”
The above is an inconvenient question for the government, the elephant in the room which had not been acknowledged because the PAP government does not tolerate dissent. (having been in the RSAF for 6 years and 18 years trading in the SGX, the fear of losing one’s rice bowl is understandable).
PAP leaders, if they really want to lead, must learn to walk the talk. Simply talking about transforming every school into a good school during the National Day Rally Speech with Minister Heng repeating the message in the media convinces few. Action speaks louder than words.
CNA article, “Some well-regarded principals to head schools in heartlands: Heng Swee Keat” link, confirms the government has yet to understand the root of the problem. It is a purely cosmetic measure because one person is not going to change a decades-old perception of what constitutes a good school. http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/parliamentary-replies/2012/02/gifted-education-programme-gep.php
A principal is not any new, well-greased mechanical part where substitution easily leads to better performance. Perhaps if half the teaching staff of, say, Nayang Primary School/Raffles Girls Primary School is swopped with a neighbourhood school, perception will definitely change. This must of course include any additional grants, reduced teacher/pupil ratio, enrichment programmes, etc from the elite school.
What the government can do is redeploy resources evenly and relocate elite schools away from private estates to level the playing field. Having a healthy mix of pupils from different backgrounds will also enable potential leaders to have a non-ivory tower understanding of complex social issues.
As a concerned citizen, I have also been providing feedback to the government to walk the talk in other areas. To better understand the why the government has failed to lift the wages of low income Singaporeans, I suggested that Minister Lim Swee Say should experience being a low wage worker. link
In another feedback to Minister Lui Tuck Yew, I suggested senior MOT officials, including Minister Lui, to commute by public transportation regularly in order to understand issues first hand. link
If anyone thinks it is insulting, he is missing the forest for the trees.
Planners of our public housing must also experience the reality of living in the variety of HDB flats. Not permanently but at least on a temporary basis. They will then better understand the needs and issues of heartlanders. It is delusional to assume one has obtained knowledge through feedback from a largely silent grassroots. It’s like designing a product which one does not intend to use i.e. planning and designing public housing from District 9/10. Unlike other countries with a small proportion of public housing, wrong policy decisions will affect more than 80 per cent of our resident population.
In August this year, Norway’s PM turned taxi-driver for a couple of hours. He was able to speak with Norwegians personally and they were also candid in their views.
I am not suggesting that PM Lee goes undercover as a taxi driver despite the tonnes of taxi-related issues. If you really want to understand issues straight from the horse’s mouth, officers in the PMO could do an ‘Undercover Boss’ of sorts.
The PAP’s ‘read the right things’ instructional style of governance is archaic and should be discarded. The government must convince citizens that, although it may disagree, no action will be taken against anyone for speaking up.
It is now widely expected that the vice-principal will be given the boot/‘hentak-kaki’ in the near future.
But do bear in mind that her candid and honest view reflects a general opinion of the public as well as her colleagues. She was probably aware of the consequences of her action.
As the only civil servant who dared ask an inconvenient question, the government should be appreciative because a serious issue has been highlighted and tackled now instead of years down the road. Vice-principal Nadarajah deserves nothing less than a promotion for being exemplary.
Thank you and have a nice day.