Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Caste system in education?

Recently I've been hearing a lot of talk just by sitting at the coffeeshop eating my meal. Common topic of the day? The hawkers were lamenting that whatever that is being taught to their children is so advanced that even they have problems understanding it. Since then, I've been finding out more about this and even my colleagues have reservations about the current education system. What's the problem? It seems that there are certain questions being asked to a Primary 1 kid that even a grown adult with a degree couldn't answer.

Seriously... I remember my childhood and I do remember doing homework at home. However, I do not recall having a question that even my parents couldn't answer, and my parents are not very highly educated. How has the education evolved to its current state? I've seen some questions in the forums and seriously, since when did education become a place where they test your IQ? Some of the questions are obviously IQ questions. Subjects like maths test your command in english more than your command in maths.

To top it off, recently I heard that teachers have been giving homework to the parents so that they could teach their kids. This is to me, the icing on the cake. Regardless of the workload that is given to the current teachers, giving homework to the parents to teach their kids shows only 1 thing. Either the syllabus need a very serious review or the teacher is in need of a performance review. May I ask what's the use of going to school? If this is the case, the school might as well just give me a list of textbooks for that syllabus and I'll teach my kid myself.

Bring it back to the real world. This is equivalent to you telling your customer to do the work that you're suppose to do. Try to do that in your work and you'll  get a complaint letter directly to your boss, or even to your CEO depending on who is your customer.

When I heard of this case, immediately one word came to my mind. Caste. Definition of caste? I found one that describes the current education system I'm hearing.
Caste is an endogamous and hereditary social group limited to persons of the same rank, occupation, economic position, etc., and having mores distinguishing it from other such groups. 

How to relate this back to the education system I'm hearing? It means your child's growth is restricted to the level of the parents. Why is this so? It seems that the teachers are only in charge of teaching the basics and the rest is suppose to be covered by tuition or parents. Therefore if the parents are not well-off and not very educated, the child will definitely not do well in school, and deprive of chances to further their interests. Hence, the caste system.

What is happening to the education system? Or is this problem I'm hearing from the ground from a minority?

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interesting pink-noise systems

I was reading an article about Autodesk, a software company, moving into an open-plan building and the company installing a pink-noise system. Basically, this system emits a soft whooshing sound over loudspeakers that sounds similar to the ventilation system, but is specially formulated to match the frequencies of the human voices. The outcome? Unless you're quite near the person, you will not be able to hear their phone conversations or conversations with their colleague in the next cubicle.

A lot of companies are now moving into implementing an open concept and although it has its advantages, the fact is that many do not want to hear their colleagues conversation on the phone or with other colleagues. This pink-noise system will mask low level background noise and conversations, but still allow colleagues to have a normal conversation provided you're not too far apart. The problem is that all this noise is quite distracting and it distracts you from the work that you're doing.

Good idea, but a pity many companies do not put in as much effort as Autodesk to make the workplace environment more friendly.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Do not read too much into SMRT carrying 70 passengers per KM

Recently, an article has indicated that SMRT carry 70 passengers per KM, 10 more than Japan. Do not read more into it because the article did not say the whole story. The comparison was for average passenger-km per vehicle-km.

So what does this indicate? It just means that SMRT is squeezing too many passengers per vehicle compared with other more efficient metros such as Hong Kong and Japan. I'm not sure what's the whole point in bringing this up in the article.

Another look at the 37.9%

I find it disappointing that the emphasis of the hougang by-election was that the percentage of people choosing the PAP has risen from 35.2% to 37.9%. If you do not look at the percentage, only 145 more people voted for PAP in the Hougang by-election compared to the General election 2011. Whatever that Desmond is doing is clearly not what Hougang constituency is look for, and people at Hougang is clearly disappointed with WP in this by-election.

This by-election actually shows more of disappointment towards WP than support for PAP. Both sides need to re-evaluate their operations and strategy. Do not comfort yourself using other numbers or you'll be in for a surprise in the next election.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strength is always specific

I quote from Peter Drucker:
The great mystery isn't that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn't play the trumpet very well.

Jack of all trades, but master of none. Are we to be trained as such?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Inflation is up 5.4%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2012:
January: 4.8%
February: 4.6%
March: 5.2%
April: 5.4%

Housing and Transport are once again leading the pack, rising by 11.1% and 7.5% respectively year on year. Inflation rose almost across the board, in particular Housing. The inflation was surprisingly lesser than the 6% I've estimated. The drop might be due to the drop in inflation for recreation & others. However, I did notice the Singapore dollar strengthening so it may have contributed to the lower inflation.

This month's inflation may be slightly lower by 0.1%-0.2% compared to April due to the recent Europe crisis affecting prices across the board. In fact, inflation may trend lower until September. That will be a welcome relief.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Scrum really ideal for big systems?

I was recently looking at Scrum, otherwise known as agile software development, and it got me into thinking if Scrum is a right fit for development of big systems.

Reason for my worry? Instead of providing complete, detailed descriptions of how everything is to be done on the project, much is left up to the software development team. Therefore, there is a complete reliance on the software development team doing the right thing.

However so far with my experience in dealing with software development teams, it is quite difficult to totally rely on them in doing the right thing. Let me explain. Scrum relies on a self-organizing, cross-functional team and there is no overall team leader who decides which person will do which task or how a problem will be solved. The scrum team is cross-functional so that everyone necessary to take a feature from idea to implementation is involved.

That is where I think there is an issue for big systems. Software development is not a one time job. Look at Windows XP. Over 10 years have passed and people still use it, and as a result people will still need to maintain it. Just imagine. If you do not have someone controlling the overall architecture of the software development, how will someone come in to maintain the "spaghetti code"? Without a central person controlling this architecture, anyone who comes into the team maintaining this code will have to take time to understand the structure. The worst part is that you may be taking over codes that were previously handled by 2 or more people. Sounds like a recipe for creating bugs? You bet.

Scrum has been touted by some as an increase in productivity. However in the long run, you may be better off having someone controlling the overall architecture because you do not want to waste your engineers' time in understanding the different styles of coding in one single system. If you have a consistent software development architecture, anyone can just come in and hit the ground running. It will also be easier to spot bugs before the customers find them.

It also seems like software development has taken a back seat and the level of skills that I'm seeing now is not as before. This is especially dangerous if you're doing scrum development because you will never know if the software module is truly finish. You may spend even more time trying to find that bug due to the inconsistent style of coding.

Scrum is a good idea but it needs a very capable development team. Not very common nowadays. Pity.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why all the ATMs seem to be only dispensing $50 notes??

This is ridiculous! Recently, DBS has started replacing all their ATM machines such that they only dispense $50 note. They are trying to make us spend more? I don't mind if they have 2 ATM machines and 1 of them only dispense $50 notes, but many times I've send only a single ATM machine that is only dispensing $50 notes.

I wonder if MAS has any rulings to prevent such cases. Grr.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Good to know that investors are not blinded

I find it reassuring that investors in the US are aware that the Facebook IPO is severely over-priced. In a business, it doesn't matter how much sales you make. It's the profit/earnings that matters. The fact is that Facebook was priced at 107 price earnings ratio. Why on earth did the underwriters price it as such even though GM has recently announced that they will not continue putting ads at Facebook? Well, the underwriters will pay the price. Good luck in them trying to hold the USD38 price.

107 PER? It smells like the dot com boom all over again. I hope that the results on Friday was not the result of overall market sentiment.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Singapore can learn from Europe

Read this inspiring article here by Professor Tommy Koh. In essence, he identified almost everything that is wrong with the policies now. Personally, I will summarise it into one sentence.
The over emphasis on money

That is the problem.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Let's not bring that up again

I find it disappointing that during the by-election, the candidate will bring up issues like the young vs old and Malays vs Chinese. In a multiracial country like Singapore, we shouldn't bring up debates like the Malays being forgotten and the emphasis on connecting with the young voters when it should be connecting with all voters.

I'm really surprised that this will be brought up at all. Does inflation only affect the young voters and Malays? If you're jobless, does it matter if you're young or old, or your race?


Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Strange is relative

I quote from the movie Dark Shadows:
Strange is relative

A short but powerful statement. In fact a lot of things are relative, or we can also say subjective. It may be strange to you but not to others. Therefore, think more deeply before you write-off what you've seen or heard. It may mean much more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is debt bad?

The recent happenings in France and Greece got me thinking on the concept of debt. The concept of debt is quite simple. Try to clear your debt as fast as possible and keep it minimal. This is why Europe is focusing on reducing their total debt.

However, I feel that reducing debt may not apply in all situations, especially in our current environment. In economics, there is always a cost in any kind of investment. What truly matters is your total return of investment. Therefore the cost of debt must be taken into consideration in any kind of investment.

If you're in an environment where the cost of debt is low, and the return of investment is high, why will you not use debt to fund the operational needs while using that amount of money to generate a higher return? Of course there must be safeguards such that the money can be withdrawn in a reasonable amount of time in the event that the cost of debt rises and the debt securities itself must be structured properly.

Having high debt doesn't mean that there is a problem. There is only a problem when you do not know what you're doing and you're over leveraging yourself. Greece is an example of that. But the rest?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What is true productivity?

I find it very weird that with all the focus on productivity, people did not realise that in true productivity, all the paper certificates do not matter. What truly matters is what that person can do and that person's reaction to different situations.

However, if we're really looking at true productivity, then why is there a push to squeeze in so many different subjects into the education system, in particular the primary education? If the push is into real productivity, why all the tests and cramming? Does it help in improving productivity?

In fact if you ask many of the adults, many of the things that we learn in school are not in use in our daily life. So is that productivity? Squeezing children to learn all the unnecessary things and depriving them of their childhood?

Personally, I myself already knew during my primary school days on what I will do when I grow up and I am still doing it. Who says children do not know what they want to do at that young age?

Look at true productivity from all aspects, and start from our education system.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Let the Greeks decide

Greece should stop discussing and quickly call another election. Let it be known to the Greeks that if they support the SYRIZA, they must be prepared to leave the Euro because the EU and Germany have already issued statements that the terms of the bailout will not change.

If the Greeks choose to support SYRIZA again, then let them choose with their eyes open. Greece leaving the euro zone may not be a bad thing. I was never a fan of a common currency. I have spoken a bit on it in this post here.

But then again... Holding elections again is a waste of tax payers money, and Greece doesn't really have a lot of that now.

Who is responsible for the birds at Orchard Road?

Now that the minister has cleared the air on who is in-charge of all the birds nuisances since the starting of Jan 2012, why are the birds still at Orchard Road? I've recently passed by Orchard Road and the birds are making a din as usual at the junction where Heeren and H&M is. That would mean that the pavements will be full of "white stuff" again every morning.

Orchard Rd is not important enough?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Slow down

I was reading an article recently about work-life balance and I found the following paragraph meaningful. Read it, digest it, and think about it.
Slow down. Speed is the enemy of nearly everything in life that really matters. It's addictive and it undermines quality, compassion, depth, creativity, appreciation and real relationship.

There is no short cut to what you wish to achieve. Doing it faster doesn't mean you will reach your goal earlier. In fact, it may be disastrous in the long run. Don't confuse productivity with speed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nothing new in iOS 5.1.1

I've just recently upgraded to iOS 5.1.1 from iOS5.1. Summary of changes is as follows:
  • Improves reliability of using HDR option for photos taken using the Lock Screen shortcut
  • Addresses bugs that could prevent the new iPad from switching between 2G and 3G networks
  • Fixes bugs that affected AirPlay video playback in some circumstances
  • Improved reliability for syncing Safari bookmarks and Reading List
  • Fixes an issue where 'Unable to purchase' alert could be displayed after successful purchase

Personally though, there isn't really anything new except for the security patches for Safari. For that alone, you should upgrade your iOS as the security patches allow a website to take control over your phone. Nasty stuff.

The 3G bug which I mentioned in this post here still exists. :(

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

TCO of nuclear energy

Recently it was reported that South Korea is building nuclear reactors to meet their energy needs. Before the governments everywhere take the short-term view on nuclear energy,  I hope they look at it from the long term perspective. According to an article at spinwatch here, it will take 73 billion pounds to clear up U.K's nuclear waste. Is the benefit of nuclear energy more than 73 billions pounds? I doubt so.

Do the governments look at the true total cost of ownership of nuclear energy? Do we need another incident like Japan's recent predicament to wake everyone up? It is best that there is a world mandate on the treatment of nuclear waste. No exportation of nuclear waste to other countries and that the countries responsible for generating it should be responsible for clearing it.

This will ensure that all governments know the true total cost of ownership of nuclear energy. There is no easy way out. If there is, be sure it will bite you back some way or another because there is no easy way out when we're talking about energy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Problem with competition

I was reading an article on competition and I found that the author, David Brooks, hit the nail on the head on the problem with competition. Many people have confuse capitalism with competition. The problem is that in the race to be more competitive, we sometimes confuse what is hard with what is valuable. The intensity of competition becomes a proxy of value.

In the race to "improve productivity", some try to inject competition which resulted in disastrous consequence. Backstabbing people to get to the top, sabotaging other people so that they look good, etc. All this sound familiar?

The objective is to add value to the work you're doing, not putting other people down. What is valuable to the company? Sustainable innovation is not competition in that sense. It's finding your niche market, finding a market that your competitors did not see, and build it up to your advantage. That is the kind of competition that is healthy.

Does this kind of environment exist?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Higher wages come with productivity?

In an ideal world, increase of productivity will result in higher profits for the company, which will lead to better wages for the employees. However, there is one big problem. We do not live in an ideal world.

The problem is that without any external stimuli, there will not be any increase of wages because there are always reasons not to. The economy is not strong, the customers may not buy from us again, expenses are increasing, etc.

Therefore I dare say that very often, the "productivity" that is being used the most often is usually to overload a person with a lot of work. More output per employee so therefore, more productivity. Is that the intent? Of course not but we're not living in an ideal world where everyone is good and fair to one another.

To have true productivity, you must have the stick and the carrot. Carrot is there. Grants to improve productivity for example. Stick? I don't see it yet. I feel that there should be changes to the labour law to cover all employees. Personally, I'm not sure why must we differentiate between blue and white collar workers. Everyone is still a worker and why is there a differentiation between them? If you earn more, you can work them to death?

Puzzles me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Is it your belief?

I quote from Elly Roselle:
A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind

This simple and yet powerful sentence explains clearly what is a belief. It is something that holds your mind, something that you believe whole heartedly, and you think about it when you're awake or when you're sleeping. It is not an idea that just exists in your mind. Know the difference and it may help you.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How will the $900 million be split?

I think everyone is trying to guess how LTA and SMRT will split the $900 million dollar bill. Look no further than the SMRT annual report.

Base on their annual report, LTA owns the infrastructure of all the lines, which includes tunnels, tracks, viaducts and station structures. Therefore, these collector shoes on the tracks will most probably be the responsibility of LTA.

For NSEW Line, SMRT owns the operating assets including the trains, power supply equipment, cabling, electrical services, signalling system, and communication system to name a few. Therefore it will seem that SMRT is responsible for almost all the other items, especially the big ticket items.

Moreover, a grant of $480 million was given to SMRT to help them to own the operating assets of NSEW line. Therefore, I strongly feel that SMRT should be made to pay for what they own. This will send a strong message to the other transport operator that they better maintain their assets well, or it will come back to bite them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quality vs "Productivity"

I've read an article recently talking about the state of workers nowadays. It will seem that with the crazy drive for productivity, many companies seem to lose sight of the services that they are providing to their customers. In essence, this means the quality of their service.

No matter the definition given, productivity in many companies just mean that you can do multiple things at the same time. Simply said, it just means you're a jack of all trades. I feel that many are now discounting the importance of having specialists. In fact, if you look at our educational system, it seems to me that they are encouraging generalists more than specialists. Why? I'm sure they will give the usual reasons that it provides more flexibility, adaptability, etc etc.

Yes I do not deny that it does. However, there is one important advantage about specialists. They are the subject matter experts in their area and this will result in a improvement in the quality of thinking that you're providing to your customers.

For example, looking from the technology point of view. You may have an architect that has experience in designing Dot Net systems. For those in the technology sector, you have definitely heard of SharePoint. Tell me, who will provide more quality to your customers? A Dot Net architect, or a SharePoint architect?

Definitely the product specialist will be able to provide better value because they are able to design and optimise the solution that they are providing to the customers. How they can do that is because of their intimate knowledge of the product that they specialist in.

Granted I've seen so called product specialist whose knowledge is so rudimentary it made me feel that the certificate may not be real, but by and large, there are such experts out there, and the problem is that the current education system are no longer producing such specialists. In fact, the way the education syllabus is structured, it would also seem that they are even discouraging specialist even if you wish to go down this route.

Sigh. I pay school fees and yet I'm unable to study the modules that I'm interested. That's the 21st century for you. Stupid, but true.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...