To SAP or Not To SAP - The Dilemma of Attending a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) School

I find the education system in Singapore complicated.  It has Gifted Education Programme (GEP), Special Assistance Plan (SAP) and Bi-Cultural Education Programme (BiCEP), on top of the normal mainstream offerings in Primary Schools (currently, only the schools founded by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan offer BiCEP).  The system in Secondary Schools is even more complicated, which I will not discuss here.

The concept of SAP schools, I heard, was crystallised by our late founder Mr Lee who believed that China will be the next giant economy of this world.  Trust that man for the far foresight.  SAP schools were established in 1979 (so it is not something very new), with the purpose to preserve the ethos of the Chinese medium schools and to promote the learning of Chinese Language and culture.

Before AJ got into formal education, I had great admiration for SAP schools.  All SAP schools offer Higher Chinese right from Primary 1.  It means even if a non-Chinese chooses to study in a SAP school, he/she has to do Higher Chinese, not Malay or Tamil.  So one would expect the Chinese population in a SAP school to be 99.99%. SAP schools offer great opportunities for the students to deepen their learning of Chinese language and culture.  There are currently 15 SAP Primary Schools in Singapore:

  1. Ai Tong School
  2. Catholic High School (Primary)
  3. CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School (Primary)
  4. Holy Innocents’ Primary School
  5. Hong Wen School
  6. Kong Hwa School
  7. Maha Bodhi School
  8. Maris Stella High School (Primary)
  9. Nan Hua Primary School
  10. Nanyang Primary School
  11. Pei Chun Public School
  12. Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School
  13. Poi Ching School
  14. Red Swastika School
  15. Tao Nan School

So AJ went to a SAP school since Primary 1.  Honestly, I did not see much enhancement to the Chinese language in terms of academic progress in his first two years of school.  But, in terms of cultural aspect, the school did do more than non-SAP schools.

I only started to see the huge difference in the Chinese language enhancement when AJ started Primary 3 this year.  Honestly, the leap was so great that I started doubting whether I had made the right choice sending AJ to a SAP school. I was quite taken a back when I received this on the first week of school.

Term 1 and 2 Chinese Dictation List

I don't think my Chinese is poor, but looking at this list, I thought my son is in Primary 4 or 5, do you think so?  In the first two years of his Primary School, the Chinese standard was not like that.  It followed very much, in accordance to the textbook.  But this one is out of the textbook syllabus, I am very sure, because the Chinese spelling list (separate from this) is according to the textbook.

As weeks progressed, the pressure for Chinese to be polished got greater.  Parents are expected to prepare (预习) the lessons, and revise (复习) the lessons after the teacher has taught them.  Frankly, it is taking a toll on me.  And, the irony is, the rest of the three subjects are quite in a relax mode.  So I feel the imbalance here, greatly.

I was also curious why there is such high expectation in the Chinese language as compared to other subjects, so I started enquiring other classes of the same level.  Surely those students weaker in Chinese who might be in other classes (same level) will struggle with this dictation list.  True to my suspicion, every class has a different Chinese Dictation list.  Ah, I see now that the Chinese teachers are actually given autonomy to come out with their own list for their respective classes.  Even the way the dictation is carried out varies classes from classes (eg. in some classes, the teachers will read out, in some classes, the teachers will not). What puzzled me most is: while the Chinese teachers have such flexibility in conducting their lessons, I do not see this in other subjects.  The English spelling and dictation lists are the same throughout the different classes of the same level.  If languages could speak, they will say they are being unfairly treated.

So how is AJ coping with his Chinese?  Well, not in accordance to the expectation set by this Chinese teacher, of course.  While AJ can recognise words well, he is weak in their application.  So in terms of oral and composition, he will be weaker.  He will do better in Paper 2 than Paper 1.  It is something I will have to work on with him and I suspect that I may have to engage external help probably 2 years down the road (PSLE).   :(

Is your child in a SAP (primary) school?  Are you experiencing this as well?
After reading what I have shared here, will you still consider sending your child to a SAP (primary) school?
Do share your thoughts.

A Wife’s Submission; A Husband’s Love

She was his closest friend, his “tower of strength”, for more than three-quarters of his life — the woman who got his attention when she bested him in school, who ran their household and their law firm, and without whom he would have been hard-pressed to enter politics.

This is the love story of  late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo. A touching love story widely circulated.  If you haven't read about it yet, you may read it here.  Their successful love story was based on this mutual commitment, which sadly, is terribly lacking these days in marriages worldwide.  Divorce rate is on the high even in Singapore. Till death us do part? Well, not anymore (link).

I'm sharing here today, a Christian's perspective of marriage. This passage, taken from Ephesians 5:22-33, is so often heard in Holy Matrimony.  Because it is repeated so frequently, sadly, it is also often fallen into deaf ears (familiarity breeds contentment?).  Today, biblical submission, which is supposed to be viewed as service unto God, is one of the most difficult concepts in God’s Word. Yet this passage is an important passage to maintaining a healthy, godly husband and wife relationship. 

Importantly, I stress that this passage applies to both.  The husband is subject to the wife and the wife is to the husband.  The method is different according to the gender but the principal is the same for each.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” (verses 22-24)

The basic meaning of ‘submit’ is “keep yourself under” or “put yourself under the authority of”.  It is a matter of headship, and headship means authority.  This is the fulfilment of the Genesis 2:20 “an help meet”.  She is not to be his rival or slave but his willing, loyal helper to accomplish his aims and his goals.  She is to be his help meet and his partner in what he, under God, is led to do in life.  A wife shows submission unto her husband when she allows him to take leadership in the relationship.  The woman is made essentially a follower.

The key phrase is “as unto the Lord”.  The wife is subject to her husband not because he is such a wonderful man (though it would be nice if he really is), but because she has a primary relationship with the Lord.  A woman should not submit to her husband on grounds of her husband’s merits but she submits because it is pleasing to her Lord.  It does not mean worship her husband as though he were the Lord, but submitting to him as unto the Lord without expecting returning in kind.  When a woman submits unto her husband, she is actually submitting unto God.  It is not a gift or favour, nor a subtle form of blackmail but a joyful submission out of a willing heart.  

Submission should be not confused with a person being weak. Sometimes ‘submission’ can be misused and abused.  It is easy to allow culture to change the meaning of a term, we as Christians should be aware of this and be firm in the biblical meaning.  Culture views submission as a weaker person allowing a stronger person to use him/her, a person of lesser value giving up his/her rights to someone of greater value.  Sinners often twist and pervert the term, but that is not what the Bible means when referring to submission. 

A woman is not bound to submit to everything a husband desires.  When a husband desires his wife to ‘go along’ with something not biblical, she should be obeying the Lord instead.  She should obey God rather her man (Acts 5:29).  For example, an unbelieving husband may ask his Christian wife to stop attending church.  She is not bound to obey in this circumstance but to handle this objection by seeking the Lord and asking Him for wisdom.  Her submission as unto the Lord has eternal significance and will be a testimony of the Gospel unto the unsaved husband (1 Peter 3:1-2).  A wife is not bound to the desires that reach outside of biblical obedience, she is not a slave to her husband.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:” (verses 25-29)

By now, all of you should be able to see that it is obvious that there are more verses allocated to command how a husband should love his wife than how a wife should submit to her husband.  The Lord knows the hearts of mankind.  In a husband and wife relationship, when a husband loves his wife like the way he loves, nourishes and cherishes himself (verses 28 and 29), the wife will reciprocate naturally. The wife will submit to her husband willing, the wife will support her husband wholeheartedly, if she walks right with God.  It is almost a given thing: when the wife is faithful to the Lord, when her husband loves her like how Christ loves His church, she will submit to her husband automatically.

But just why it is so difficult that it has to be taught and to be reminded?  That’s because the particular feature of this love is self-sacrificing, which is the highest form of love.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

When a husband loves his wife to this extend, he usually find no problem in being the head of the house.  But man’s sinful nature tend to hinder this highest form of love, thus the Lord put this in His Word to teach us, to remind us.

Though men are created in the image of God, we need to take note that man (i.e. Adam) was first created then woman (i.e. Eve).  Eve was not created from dust but from a rib bone of Adam.  They were created in the image of God but were created differently and of different status.  Eve would not have existed without Adam.  In this analogy, the man must be the head of the household, the leader that is, and the wife the supporting role, the follower that is. 

When the husband loves his wife that much, he will be willing to give himself up for her.  This kind of self-giving is deliberate and purposeful.  The Lord gave Himself up on the cross for His church, in order to redeem His people by His grace.  This is the example the Lord set for the husbands to follow.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
(1 Peter 3:7)

So the husband must find ways to honour his wife and exalt her in the family.  This is his role and his duty. Just as Christ is the Saviour of His church, so the husband is to be the protector and physical preserver of his wife.  Headship and authority carry responsibility with them, submission by the wife to the husband should not make the husband a male-chauvinist.

“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (verses 30-33)

Prior to marriage, the closest ties are with one’s parents.  From the time of marriage, a man’s strongest and closest tie must be with his wife.  Brides and bridegrooms must recognize this and be willing to leave their fathers and mothers. 

So husbands, love your wives as much as you love yourselves, and wives, show your reverence to your husbands.  There is a great need for the display of such Christian standards in every Christian home, particularly these days.  This passage is a great reminder for my husband and I too.

All bible verses quoted above are in King James version.

Which Chinese e-Dictionary To Get?

About a year ago, I wrote about which physical Chinese Dictionary to get (link here).  One year later, we received notification from AJ's school that students at this level can use digital dictionaries now.  It got me a little excited because digital dictionary is definitely lighter to carry around and theoretically, it should be able to store more information, though it cost much more.

As I am only looking for the latest models and am more keen with those with stylus, I narrowed down to two choices:  Creative's Hanvision PX2131 or Besta All Pass-2.  Both are approved by Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB).

Creative's Hanvision PX2131

Besta All Pass-2

Creative's Hanvision PX2131 ($56 school price)

Hanvision PX2131 takes the form of a candy bar, in fact all their models are, which I detest.  I find candy bar electronic gadgets are very prone to crack screen.  Just ask yourselves how frequent do you see mobile phones with cracked screen these days?  I have, thus, discounted this model substantially even before I saw the real thing.

When I went to see it in AJ's school, I was met with another disappointment.  The device is really small. Smaller than a Blackberry Classic phone. 

The screen is very small and the keypad buttons are so tiny that I think the students will waste more time trying to type correctly than having the device helping them in finding meanings of words efficiently.

So I drop the idea of getting Hanvision PX2131.

Besta All Pass-2 ($45 school price)

Besta All Pass-2 scored here with me because it takes the form of a clam-shell.  Lesser chance of crack screen than a candy bar device is what I have presumed.

When I saw the real thing in AJ's school, I still didn't like what I saw, though the degree of disappointment was lesser than Hanvision PX2131.

The let down was, again, the small screen and the tiny keyboard buttons.  Although Besta All Pass-2 has bigger screen and bigger keyboard buttons than Hanvsion PX2131, it is still not up to my expectation.

So what is the verdict?

I guess we still have time to wait for more new SEAB models to come on board before we decide so there is no hurry to get one yet.  In the mean time, AJ will use the existing physical Chinese dictionaries that he has.  I have also decided to share with him this dictionary which I use for my Chinese-English translation work.

As for the digital dictionary, we will continue to use Pleco phone application, which I think is 1 of the best dictionary application softwares for phones.  

What abut you?  What kind of Chinese dictionaries do your children use?


Ben & Jerry's Flagship Scoop Shop in S.E.A

[Media Invite]

Ben & Jerry’s first Flagship Scoop Shop at 313 Somerset Discovery Walk 

Get your spoons ready because a new neighbour has moo-ved into town! Ben & Jerry’s opened its first Flagship Scoop Shop in Southeast Asia on 7th April at 313 Somerset Discovery Walk, greeting fans with free scoops of ice cream from 2pm-8pm. Exclusive Opening Day flavours such as Turtle Cheescake and Coconut Seven Layer Bar were served, and I had the privilege to savour the Coconut Seven Layer Bar yesterday!

My Coconut Seven Layer Bar ice-cream art which I was still thinking about a day later. 

Ben & Jerry’s Flagship Scoop Shop will serve an exciting menu of 18 chunky, swirly and euphoric ice cream flavours, alongside new shakes, sundaes, ice cream cakes and a wider range of merchandise. Staying true to providing fans the best possible ice cream made in the nicest possible way, Ben & Jerry’s is taking values-led sourcing local. Bakery items like brownies and cookies and herbs like mint will be supplied by SCORE Bakery, which works to rehabilitate inmates through skills training, and social enterprise Edible Garden City, who are a group of urban farmers championing the Grow Your Own Food movement in land-scarce and import-dependent Singapore.

This super rich chocolate milk shake that will definitely satisfy all chocolate lovers!

The Flagship Scoop Shop is also Ben & Jerry’s Community Action Hub where the company hopes to use fun and ice cream to inspire social involvement and progress locally. A new Benefit Tuesday Night programme, exclusive to the flagship, will run on a Tuesday every month, allowing various local welfare organisations to engage the public on their causes. Ben & Jerry’s will donate 20% of sales during the 7pm – 9pm event to featured social mission partners!

Peace, Love & Ice Cream designed by International Food Artist, Samantha Lee

In addition, Ben & Jerry’s has partnered international food artist, Samantha Lee, to create a delicious Sundae that will celebrate Peace, Love & Ice Cream! Available only at the Flagship Scoop Shop until 31 August 2015, all profits will be donated to Ben & Jerry’s Benefit Tuesday Night partners and fans can do their part today to get scoopin’ and share some lovin’!

And, not forgetting Ben & Jerry's annual tradition of saying “Thank You” with Free Cone Day (FCD) is back again on 14 April 2015, Tuesday, 12-8pm. This year, Ben & Jerry's will be saying thank you through music with their first ever dedicated channel, FCD FM, and supporting community partner, South Central Community Family Service Centre.

A dedicated channel just for Ben & Jerry’s fans on Free Cone Day, FCD FM will broadcast fans’ song dedications and accompany them as they wait in line for their free cones of ice cream. Their moo-tastic DJs will also be turning fans’ messages into songs to bring a little joy and laughter, and selected dedications aired will be featured across all their scoop shops real-time as an extra special thank you!

To participate, fans simply have to Instagram / Tweet (@benandjerrysg) their messages and song requests or comment on selected posts on Ben & Jerry’s Facebook with the hashtag #FCDSG in their dedications.

As Singapore rings in her 50th birthday, Ben & Jerry’s has also partnered The Thought Collective to launch the Diverse-City Trails, designed to create a shared experience among participants and spark two-way discussions around the issues Singapore faces, especially around social cohesion, which is vital to Singapore’s progress.

At the same time, Ben & Jerry's is paying it forward by giving back to the community through South Central Community Family Service Centre.  Ben & Jerry’s will be supporting South Central Community Family Service Centre (FSC), a champion of social innovation projects that cultivate the kampong spirit and promote community self-help. South Central Community FSC volunteers will be at the scoop shops to share more about their initiatives, so grab a cone and drop a note while you are at it! All donations made to South Central Community FSC on Free Cone Day will be used to set up a community emergency fund to match community efforts to help their neighbours out of financial crises.

Do join them on this magical and meaningful day as Ben & Jerry's says thank you and celebrate community kinship by leaving no hand unconed!

Participating Scoop Shops on Free Cone Day

Stamford American International School Launches State-of-the-Art Innovation Center

[Media Invite]

I believe in exposing young people to the financial and investment markets at the earliest possible moment when they are ready.  Thus, since AJ was about 7, I started talking to him about running of a company, how a business generates its profit, how it raises funds, how it markets its products, etc.  I have also exposed him to books which explain the importance of investing and having recurring passive income (read here and here).

The East is slower at catching up in this aspect, compared to the West.  Investment in stocks and other financial instruments are only taught at university level in Singapore.  I hope this will change soon.

So when I received an invite to check out the Stamford American Innovation Curriculum at the Stamford American International School, I was very excited.  To think that these high school students (Grades 8 and up) will be exposed to the financial markets, such as how the stock exchanges work, and how people buy and sell different stocks or shares, got my adrenaline going.

Through a collaboration deal with Bloomberg, Stamford American International School’s State-of-the-Art Innovation Centre will include a financial laboratory. It is a first for high school schools in Asia.  Using a project-based learning approach, students in the finance elective will be introduced to the mechanisms of investing and trading.  Bloomberg Professional service, the leading information platform used by over 320,000 financial professionals worldwide, will be available for students in Stamford American International School (what a privileged bunch!).  Students can now access breaking news stories, perform market analysis, compare investment strategies and analyse specific companies with this platform.  I am so jealous!

During the official launch, we were given a tour of the Innovation Centre and witnessed a live stimulation demo session of the high-school curriculum. 

Mr Peter Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg, helping Stamford American students during a live Bloomberg simulation

With this newly launched Innovation Centre as the latest milestone in its legacy of progressive education, Stamford American International School aims to provide students with real-world exposure to the business and financial world – equipping students with analytical skills and business acumen from an early age.  I'm pretty sure these young people will get a great head start in the financial sector when they graduate.

A Night of Magic at Raffles with Joe Labero

[Media Invite]

Most people love magic shows, AJ and I are no exception, which explains why he had a magic workshop birthday party last year.

Early this year, when Joe Labero came to Singapore for A Night of Magic at Raffles, I had secretly hope that I could bring AJ to watch this spectacular, mind-blowing performance. Following the success of Incanto in 2013 and A Night of Magic at Raffles in 2014, renowned magic master Joe Labero returned in 2015 with a brand new fiery show assisted by the hottest guest performers and fire artistes – Burnt Out Punks. At as young as 12, Joe Labero started practising magic, and the passion grew and he decided to make it his profession.  When someone discovered his/her passion young, and given substantial time to develop his/her passion, you know he/she is likely to be very good at it.

Due to the overwhelming success of A Night of Magic at Raffles earlier this year, the fiery extravaganza has been extended from 26 March – 3 May 2015 to satiate your curiosity and welcome you into the world of magic.  And with much thanks to PR Communications, we got an invite to watch this. 

This four-time Merlin Award winner has conjured hypnotizing illusions, as awe-inspiring as they are mind-blowing and spectacular, to dazzle the audience at the beautiful Jubilee Hall theatre at Raffles Hotel in Singapore.  I couldn't believe my eyes when he performed stunts right in the midst of the audience (yea, not on the stage). We were all dazzled by Joe Labero’s mesmerising magic acts.  I like Joe Labero's charisma and that he was able to engage the crowd and even teased a couple of people in the audience whom he picked to assist in his show.

With illusions so stunning and spectacular, you are guaranteed to have a whale of a time.  A Night of Magic at Raffles is certainly one mind-blowing performance not to be missed. The show has been extended from 26 March – 3 May 2015 at the grand Jubilee Hall theatre in Raffles Hotel. Do note that children under 5 are not permitted for the show.

April 2015
7.30pm show on 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 28, 29
3.00pm show on 4, 11, 12, 18, 19

May 2015
7.30pm show on 1, 2
3.00pm show on 2, 3

For ticketing details, please refer to Sistic.