The dilemma of public vs private education

Is the current education availability landscape a boon or a bane  for the new age parents? Because of the knowledge & exposure to the global education landscape, the supposed ‘knowledgeable’ parents now became so concern with what ‘type’ of education they want their precious child to be getting. There are mainstream public school, private school, international & homeschooling – so many choices to choose from vs our parent’s time when there is just that one mainstream public school system.

I find myself reading, asking, analyzing & worrying excessively on what ‘sort’ of education system I should be sending my child to. My main priority is which education will help develop my child’s capability – but really when it comes to the nitty gritty part for me – it was just a simple – NO EXCESSIVE Homework !

Looking back, I only wanted my child to learn the Chinese language well so that she has access to more Chinese books vs just English books – which I often feel that I was at disadvantaged with. So I naturally enrolled my daughter to the local public Chinese medium school. And I never expect how my whole perspective change within the span of a year!

The accounts shared with parents of older kids attending the chinese school just shocked me & my experience of my girl getting all the weekly spelling from her kindy (according to the kindy, they are preparing the kids for chinese school) just does not sit well with me. I hear my sis in law complaining how her kid needing to complete the homework till 1am everyday & on top of that the kid’s weekends are spent on additional tuition classes.

So my question was – What is the school for then? If the kid has to do excessive homework & yet still go to weekend tuition classes – isn’t the school failing it’s role in educating the kids?

I firmly believe the parents’ well being is very important in a family. And I think if I (as the mother) has to be watching over my kid on her excessive homework every weekday nights after a working full day then weekends are spent on sending the child to tuition classes, I am pretty sure I will be not be very ‘well’ indeed – both physically & emotionally.

And thus – the alternative education came into the picture. Of course if the  alternative private / international school system is not available or even too expensive, I guess I will just have to resigned to my fate, but as I have mentioned – the availability & affordability have given us more choices. And precisely because of this availability, it furthers adds on to my ‘problems’ vs when I don’t have any other choice.

I always wonder why has the public education system eroded to just all memorizing & mugging? What’s with the excessive homework? Maybe our society has become really ‘complicated’ & the school is trying to keep up. But honestly I feel if anything, we need to simplify everything that’s getting so complicated now. People overthink & over analyze a small matter that they fail to focus on what matters. What matters is the child ‘understands’ what is being taught. Why 1+1 =2  & not 4 ? Why are we rushing them to do 20+14 when they don’t get why is 1+1=2 is not 4?

Honestly, does excessive weekly spelling actually help the child in building her vocabulary in building meaningful sentences? (eg. I had a hard time explaining the difference between happiness & happy – in Chinese to my 6 year old daughter, heck I don’t even know how to explain happiness – defined in dictionary as -state of being happy  in English!) do one explain ‘state of being happy’ to a 6 year old ?!

Yes, our public education has failed us. Our leaders are not in touch with the current trends. Our teachers are overworked & underpaid. The kids are not ‘inbalanced’ & unhappy, it is not wonder that bullying at school has gotten more vicious & deadly.

I can either be grateful that I have the means to give my child the alternative ‘better’ education system or be ‘angry’ that despite my tax contributions, our government failed the citizens in providing a decent education for future generation of this country.

So what would I choose? Can I be both?

Yes yes.. first world problems…






I love Johor Bahru as it is

Maybe because I am getting old or maybe that I have read too much zen stuff, OR maybe I  JB has slowly grown onto me. 8 years ago – it was a different story.

There was a lot of things I cannot stand like the ‘slow’ culture, the ‘I don’t really need your money-ya know’ or ‘nothing is urgent-really’ attitude. It was a shock to me coming from a competitive environment like Singapore. But as time goes by, I think that is what really makes JB unique to me.  There are times I miss those artsy fartsy stuff that is easily available in S’pore or even the events that Spore can do just because they have the crowd & definitely the strong currency that one can earn but really when it comes to simple boring living , JB wins hands down.

So today – someone wrote about how Jaybee-ians are not willing to ‘pay’ a bit more for ‘better’ service & that maybe he has to move his business to up north. Well, I guess – if one needs those ‘extra’ money to buy another luxury car or another gold colored furniture at home or another ‘exotic’ cat/lizard/bird,  I guess JB is not the place to be.

JB folks are a practical lot. We do not see how having another expensive car is going to make one happier, or another expensive piece of furniture is going make our butts/bodies any healthier or even another exotic cat when there are dozens of abandon cats waiting for adoption are available at the pound.

We don’t go around drinking expensive coffee when we can have authentic local coffee that is cheaper by 800% vs some american brand (no kick at all for us!). We don’t go around eating some expensive fine dining when the food is so-so, cos we do not need to be ‘seen’ when we just want to enjoy our food as our tastes bud has very high standards. We KNOW good food vs average ones – trust me, real Johoreans can’t take average food as we will rather eat at home if we have to pay extra to eat average tasting food. Oh – but we do pay for good education. Someone used to tell me, education is placed at the ‘top’ Johoreans, & many are willing to pay for them. And Johoreans spends the most on education in M’sia.

Let’s not forget the not too far local suburbs (vs those foreigners’ oriented suburbs) community. There are free morning qigong classes available just because the teachers want to share the knowledge! There are oldies that have pot luck breakfast once a week in the garden! There are neighbours who make nice soups & share with their neighbour. They are people who go search for some local herbal plant when one hear one of the kids’ have HFM disease! There are people who plant vegetables & offer the community to take them if they want them (no charge!).

So ya – I love JB as it is. People are still the “I don’t need your money-ya know” attitude or “I do it because I want to & not because I want your money” or “what’s the rush” ?

For those who wants to make ‘more’ money by providing supposed better services – well, JBians are not interested in those extra services you see. They are just too practical. They prefer toyota vs audi/bmw just because they don’t see the need to be ‘seen’ with the car when a toyota gives us the same quality & service cos really – why do one need a ‘performance’ car when we don’t have that need speed from 0 to 100 kph in 8 secs or less when there are traffic lights to make you stop again?

So please – don’t criticise JBians about the service culture or  their ‘lack’ of want to spend more money on the extra services. We are not materialistic folks, we do not think that having extra service will make us feel any more ‘wonderful’ about ourselves.

Yes.. please leave JB & go join the city that people view you by your clothes you wear, the class you take in the flight, the car that you drive, the coffee joint that you go to, the place that you dine & the furniture that you use. Let’s not forget the city where you need 1 hour to travel to a place that’s 15km away or people who come out in droves into the shopping centres during weekends (btw, JB is a total opposite during weekends, people avoid the shopping centres, the roads are all CLEAR, people rather stay at home/go to parks & spend time with their family).

The list can go on & on about JB ‘s nothingness, boringness & simpleness.

So please, don’t go pollute your materialism into JB. JBians understands what is really living is like.


emulating actions or actions with conscience

I don’t get how is it that these ‘leaders’ of M’sia keep asking their citizens to emulate or to learn from another country all the time. As if M’sians are not ashamed enough, thanks to our famous leaders being famous around the world for their not-so-honourable actions or their show of ‘lack of knowledge’ by merely giving ridiculous remarks.

I get that to progress economically is important for the nation but if the nation progress without regards to the everything that is involve does not mean that it is good. Look at Bhutan, they do not have high speed trains, they do not have the high earning per capita but does that mean they poor – are they in poverty where there are no food to eat or no shelter – when they have clean air & the beautiful nature to live with? Yes it is all very subjective.

Look, M’sia is pretty developed. We have highways, we are one of the nation with high ownership of cars in the cities, everyone gets free education for 13 years (I only have to pay MYR1.00 stamping fee to register my daughter for Primary 1- how good is that right?!), we have diverse exports (not just oil,gas or palm oil, but services & processed goods) but why are we lamenting about mismanagement of state owned conglomerates like the airline or the national car maker ?

Why can’t our leaders just practice their actions that are within their conscience. Why can’t these leaders just be less concern with what they get from it all vs serving the nation. Or rather please just love the nation? If one just act according to our conscience – that act itself is already honourable.

Maybe the leaders should ask the people to carry out their acts with conscience. For eg, the traffic police shall summon drivers that are driving dangerously or drivers that causes traffic jams due to their inconsiderate parking vs fining drivers that hit the speed limit of 110km by 10km on a straight highway. Or the labour office officers actually bring the business owners that cheated the employees of their EPF vs taking in ‘money’ to keep their mouth shut.  Or the town councils ensuring that pot holes are fixed so that there are no road accidents for the bikers (that could caused their lives) vs approving industrial lots for commercial uses (like a night club).

Yes – we do not need to emulate any other nations or company. We just need to conduct our actions with conscience. Reason why Singapore is seem successful is because their leader conduct their actions with conscience (they don’t get high salary by not improving the lives of their people), the reason why China seem successful is because their leader try their darnest to show that they are corrupt-free (although they are not all like this), the reason AirAsia is successful is because their employees conduct their ‘procurement’ that is within their conscience as Air Asia is paying for their salaries.

I do not doubt that all M’sians can perform all the other nations or the big successful company has done. The issue is whether we can perform these feats with conscience. Is developing a highway by destroying the forests a right thing to do? Is there a need for a state (with 2.6 million inhabitants) that is almost the size of the whole of Peninsula M’sia (with 27 million inhabitants) to have a highway all the way from east to west? I am pretty sure M’sians can come up with creative solutions to resolve the transport connectivity issues without the need to destroy our precious forests.

Maybe we should just learn from Winnie the Pooh -“The things that make me different are the things that make me.” We shouldn’t feel the need to emulate because we are who we are, instead we should just do what’s right & just.


M’sia’s politics – just a show & tell

M’sia politicians – both from the ruling party & the opposition are all good for show & tell only.

The opposition will start with digging up the sordid past of the ruling party (which everyone already knows) then blow it up in the news. The ruling party then will just retaliate by showing what they can do just because they are in power by squashing the justice system to work their way. Of course – the whole show & tell just tells me that the ruling party are great politicians (note: politician not governors)

Now we have the ex-ruling party leader joining with other ‘failed’ leaders to bring down our current PM by signing some declaration. So there – another great show coming up for the world to see.

Personally – I do not support to this declaration just because none of the leaders deserved my support. Our ex PM is of shady past & crazy antics – his legacy after his 20 years of ruling is apparent in our current M’sia’s state. Then the opposition jailed leader – well, he was one of the cronies before he got kicked out because he got too anxious & greedy. Then there’s the ex PM’s son – which uses his father’s position to get rich & rise to power. And of course the great Lim Kit Siang – he disappoints me the most, because he is obviously not a leader because the coalition that was all gung ho after the previous election has all but gone to don’t know where. Is it true that M’sians vote based on race – and just because he is Chinese – the PAS hated him? I do not think so. Maybe PAS did not see the sincerity of him to actually leading M’sia without being biased.

Here’s a good write up on someone whom will not sign the declaration. I can’t help but agree. How do we support an ex PM that is as corrupt as the current or the opposition leader that failed to show leadership in times of need? I know I can’t. I would rather wait for the next general election, so I can see what ‘improvements’ that our current PM can deliver by then. Then – I will decide who deserves my vote.

Some substance in your column, please!

There are still some news going on refuting the fact that the locals do not want to do the 3Ds (dirty, difficult, dangerous) jobs thus SMEs hires foreign labour. So there are examples of M’sians going across the causeway to Singapore (about 400,000 of them) to work in the blue collar jobs (cleaners, welders, constructions, renovators etc). And when they were interviewed – they say they are paid RM2000-RM4500 a month. Look – I agree! Yes – working in Singapore does gets one more income.

I don’t get why are the journalists do not write something of subtance for eg – what causes the Spore dollar to grow stronger while ours (Ringgit) does not seem to grow or rather stagnant in value while inflation happens year after year for the last 30-40 years.

If one gets RM2000 a month from working in Singapore – that means that their pay is SG800 a month – which honestly is pretty low. But you see they can have a plate of chicken rice for SG3 while Johoreans need to pay RM5.50 for the same plate of chicken rice in Johor. So the SG800 wage worker’s purchasing power is 83% more than the M’sia wage worker of RM800 (if you gonna say that the ‘cost’ in M’sia is high – then please ask how much the hawker in Spore pays for their rental stalls a month vs. M’sia’s). We really need to stop ‘converting’ SGD to Ringgit when one wants to compare the ‘very low’ wages of M’sia.

The govt policies failed us for the past 30-40 years. We didn’t have policies to improve the people’s education (but policies to reduce the standard of education). We didn’t have policies to improve public transport (but policy to have ‘made in M’sia’ substandard cars or ‘twin towers’ for landmark). We didn’t have policies to improve productivity for the SMEs (but we have policies to support cronies’ failed companies). We didn’t have policies to cultivate competition (but we have policies to support ‘selected’ few).

All the policies above contribute to our stagnant Ringgit value (look our Ringgit is not like Rupiah/Pesos/Bhat-as our RM0.50 can still buy us a bottle of clean water vs Rp 0.5) – so if one would like to compare Ringgit to Singapore dollar in terms of purchasing term, 1 to 1 is about right at this time (I cannot vouch if Ringgit will continue to be stagnant for the next 30 years – and who knows – Ringgit may be valued as SGD 1 to RM10)

Any sane person would not provide a RM2000 for a cleaner job in M’sia unless the cleaner does not just clean but should he also have ‘additional’ value like factory maintenance work eg plumbing, simple electrical work , one would GLADLY pays that amount.

So please get this – it is not the local ‘businesses’ that ‘insists’ in paying ‘very low’ wages, wages reflect the ‘value’ of one’s contribution.

It is our government led by the ex ‘wonderful’ PM that causes Ringgit stagnation in value & not keeping up with the inflation of the real world. M’sia is not China in terms of population – we CANNOT expect domestic consumption to help with the economy.

The govt can dictate higher minimum wage policy if they want – and the businesses being sensitive to the ‘real’ world will either just stop hiring low wage workers (by asking everyone to clean up after themselves) OR wind up the business (so now everyone gets NO job).

So please M’sian journalists – please write something of substance once in a while & not keep ‘reporting’ what people already KNOW. Do your research. Do some thinking (or is it our media does not allow it) . So that I can actually read your column without feeling like I am ‘so shallow’ is it  – so I will actually ‘PAY’ to subscribe to read from your site.


the argument for foreign help

So the latest hoo-haa about the 1.5Million of Bangladeshis entering our M’sia workforce is the news but this time due to some ministers complaining that it is because the locals refuse to do the 3 Ds (dirty, difficult, dangerous).

To be fair – it is not necessarily wrong but what the ministers fail to see (or ignore) is the fact that it in our nature. Humans are naturally lazy & averse to danger (in our genes to survive vs dying).

Then there are people writing sarcastic article to drive home some point & there is also one (reasons to review policies) that I feel is more objective.

For the sarcastic article – I feel a bit disappointed this article written by one of my favourite political blogger as he said the SMIs mostly owned by the Chinese will suffer. I guess he made this assumption because most of the SMIs are Chinese owned & that SMIs employed a lot of foreign labour just because they are ‘cheaper’ than locals.

The truth is foreign labours are more expensive. While their supposed minimum wage is RM900 – they expect overtime (they want to work 6days 12 hours a week) so that they can get at least a monthly wage of RM1200. Housing is to be paid for by the employer (that adds up to RM200 a month minimum). The initial cost of application with govt & the agency fees that could cost RM3000-5000 (for a 3 year term). All these means – the cost of a foreign labour per month is actually RM1500 minimum (why I say minimum? well, there are other costs like levy – where sometimes employer cover for, yearly health screening, yearly increment, benefits like air ticket to go back home – 3 months of absence with leave etc).

So are these foreign labours truly ‘cheaper’ than a local? Nope – they are not. They cost about the same. But why we (these stupid Chinese SMIs) still employ them? Well – just because they are ‘reliable’. They come to work when it is a work day. They are not so ‘hardworking’ – they sometimes skives (like all humans do) at work. While our work is not dirty / dangerous , it does require strength but not the whole of 8 hours. We employ a few locals with the pay of RM1500/month with less work hours than the foreign worker (ie 8 hours/day, 5.5day/week) yet the locals could never attend work everyday – thus – unreliable.

Like all businesses in the world (as mentioned by RPK including his restaurant in UK) faces labour shortages. Same with our industry. The SMIs in M’sia tries to work around these challenges by improving processes & productivity without any support from the govt (unlike Spore’s govt massive support to SMI for productivity). Our small company for example increased our business revenue by 38% with the same number of workers in the last 7 years. Everyone in the company enjoys the fruits of productivity by having higher pay. While 5% does not seem like a lot, but we did all that without adding any capital / machinery investment, just pure process improvement (which means using our brains vs brawn).

I am no expert in policy or government policies. But what I do know is this – we need to instill the simple ethic of  “responsiblity” either through educating from young or through legal employment laws to drive home the point (for eg. how is our labour law does not ‘allow’ companies to fire high absentism or cheating of customers without the lengthy process of domestic inquiry?). Responsibility does not entail just coming to work everyday but also responsible to one’s actions and to the people that we serve.

I do not think the locals shuns the 3 Ds work. They do not mind the work, but then they can’t work a full 5 days work – they can only work 3 days work week. (Hmm… this gives me an idea – maybe I should employ people for part time work – 3 days work week!)

I have past long gone from lamenting about the lack of workers or rather immune to it. I have to just keep on reading, asking, experience & think of new method of work to continue to survive in the ever changing competitive environment.

What is dignity, really?

With the Malaysia day ‘celebrations’ gone, we are still reading, hearing & watching news of that day.

Other than the usual rhetorics anti chinese etc etc, I find it particularly interesting when some was talking about the Malays dignity being trampled on.

Dignity is defined as screen shot below


I am guessing the guy was talking about the 2nd definition.

Sometimes I think either the Malays think too highly of the Chinese or the Malays dignity is very fragile.
But how do one threaten someone’s self respect, self worth or pride? So I guess it must be the latter.

Breaking it down by the 3 definition.

Self respect: we either respect yourself or not. So when do one feel that their self respect is trampled on? It is SELF respect. So.. I guess it must not be this self respect that Malay is talking about.

Self worth: this is where we see our own worthiness. So, even if my mother was educated till grade 6, but because she see her worthiness work in taking care of her family well vs what people sees – then doesn’t that means it’s all just yourself? So.. I guess this is not the self worth that Malay is talking about.

Self esteem: this is where how we value ourselves (closely related to self worth) therefore making one feel better or worse about ourselves. Now, if we value ourselves based on others people standards, I guess one would feel a bit bruised here but if we value ourselves based on what we deem as valuable, how can one feel lousy? So, again it is again a personal thing. No one can hurt your esteem if you do not allow it.

So, after much pondering on that Malay opinion about the Malay dignity being compromised or trampled on, I come to the conclusion that
1) he is clueless on what dignity means
2) he really has low self esteem, low self worth & self respect issues which I think need some proper counseling from some doctor.
3) I have wasted my time thinking about this dignity thing

Still… I did learn in detail about dignity.