Saturday 29 June 2013

Education System - Primary

In the early 1980s, PSLE results were based on 4 core subjects: English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and Science with more weightage on the languages.  
As far as I can remember, the ratio of the marks for English to Mother Tongue to Mathematics to Science was 2 : 2 : 1 : 1 respectively.  However, by the time I took my PSLE, the weightage had changed to equal weightage for all subjects.  The ratio of the marks for English to Mother Tongue to Mathematics to Science was changed to 1 : 1 : 1 : 1 respectively. This was good news to me. I had always been very good in Mathematics so this meant a higher overall score for me. Since then, there were many changes to the PSLE. The latest information can be found on the MOE (Ministry of Education) website. With subject banding, primary school students now had the opportunity to take the subject at a higher level if they excel in it, unlike the system prior to that (EM1, EM2 and EM3).  Click here to read more on this.

In my time, students were streamed in Primary 3. Those who did not do well in their Primary 3 examinations will be streamed to study up till Primary 7 or Primary 8.  Those who studied till Primary 7 would still be able to take PSLE and proceed to a normal secondary school.  Those who were streamed to study till Primary 8 could only go to VI (Vocational Institute) to learn some technical skills. The problem was, some parents heard a lot of bad things about VI and worried that their kids might get into bad company. Thus, they did not let the children study at VI. So, at the age of 14 or 15, they would go out and work. With only primary school education, their choice of jobs was limited. Of course they could go for 'BEST' and 'WISE' classes offered by ITE later in life, but not many of them knew of this option especially if they don't work in the government service or big organizations.

Students now have more options when it comes to choosing their secondary school.  Students can apply for direct school admissions to the schools of their choice based on their achievements and talents before the PSLE results are released. Click here for details.  Students who are academically strong can also apply for the Integrated Programme.

Apart from the usual secondary school, they can also enroll in independent schools such as the Singapore Sports School,  School of the ArtsNUS High School of Math and Science and School of Science and Technology to develop their potential in the respective areas.

Friday 28 June 2013

Air Force Museum

With the June holidays coming to an end soon, we finally had the chance to bring the kids to the Air Force Museum. We didn't know about the existence of the Air Force Museum until recently.  Thought it would be a good place to spend their day and learn something.  It's free admission.

When we arrived, Sera and Lynn were very excited to see those jet planes, helicopters and missiles.  

Bloodhound missile behind Lynn

The picture below was an old sewing machine for sewing leather and parachute. I think it was very hard to use, got to use one hand to wind the wheels and the other hand to move the cloth or leather.

In the picture below, you can see Sera holding on to an old telephone's receiver. She was actually listening to a recording of an interview between Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore, and a BBC reporter.

Old Typewriter

Old uniforms

Sera was happy to be able to sit on this flight simulator and take a photo with it.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Quotes from 《志在四方》("The Dream Makers")

I had been looking forward to this drama serial 《志在四方》 ("The Dream Makers") which debut on 24 Jun 13.  Apart from my favourite artistes Zoe Tay, Rui En and Qi Yuwu, there are many other familiar faces such as Chen Liping, Chen Hanwei, Jeanette Aw, Rebecca Lim, Guo Liang etc who acted in this drama serial.  

The drama serial started with these lines from Rui En's character which I liked:


which was translated as:

I'd rather have the future
The past can never be changed
But the future can be forged

Related posts:

Quotes from episode 12 of 《志在四方》 ("The Dream Makers")

Sengkang Riverside Park

I have always wanted to go to Sengkang Riverside Park  Yesterday, since there was no haze, we brought the kids there.

We had our lunch at the Mushroom Cafe in the Park. It's a sheltered outdoor cafe. They sell food such as  nasi lemak, laksa, mee rebus, sambal fish with rice etc and at foodcourt prices. The servings were big enough for us (Ardon and me). We are considered average eaters. Halfway through our lunch, it started to rain. After Sera finished eating her food, she got bored. She started to sing and play with her soft toys.

When the rain slackened, we went out to walk around the park. 

Starfruit Tree

Mangosteen Tree

Can you see a green bird on the tree in the picture below?

Monday 24 June 2013

Mobile phones

Pagers were the rage in the 1980s and 1990s.  I bought my first pager when I first started looking for a job.  How fast things have changed in Singapore.  Mobile phones are now very common. It changed so fast that this generation of children, that is Lynn and Sera, had never seen what a pager looked like. 

I bought my first mobile phone in the late 1990s with the first bonus that I got from the company that I was working at that time. That mobile phone cost me $300+.  It was a simple thick phone with an antenna and keypad. The screen size was small. That was considered cheap then and with a subscription plan (classic plan) of $40 per month!

Subsequently, when M1 and Starhub came into the picture, subscription fee had gone down to $28 per month for classic plan as Singtel wanted to keep their subscribers. 

Now, you can get a smart phone with touch screen at prices less than $100 with many functions and applications on an average price plan.  Phones are now slimmer too. Nearly all smart phone comes with a camera (which I like).  In the past, there were times that I felt like taking some pictures but couldn't because I did not bring the camera. Now, we will definitely bring our mobile phones out so we can take pictures any time we want as long as the phone is not low on battery.

Mobile phones had gone from being thick and big to slim and small with small screen size, and now to slim and big with big screen size.  That is the only irony (big to small, then to big).

If you compare the phones then and now, yes, prices of mobile phone, in relative terms, had gone down.  For the same price, you can get better quality phones.

Haze in Singapore - Part 2

We were really glad that the PSI remained below 100 for the whole of yesterday afternoon and evening.  We were able to visit my parents and go to our place of worship. 

In the evening, we went out for dinner. After that, we went to Cold Storage supermarket for grocery shopping. There were news reports on Friday that said that the N95 masks and surgical masks were out of stocks at many places. Since we were at Cold Storage, I thought we could buy some masks if they had stock.

We had been advised that the N95 masks are the most effective for protection against the haze, which is predominantly made up of fine particles. However, I did not see any N95 masks at Cold Storage. Instead, I saw many cartons of surgical masks. These masks were sold in boxes of 50 pieces and cost $12.90. 

We thought the surgical masks would be sufficient for us. We bought one box of the masks just in case we needed to walk outside for 15 to 20 minutes when the PSI level is very high. This was mainly to cover our nose so that we need not suffer from breathing in the burning smell, not so much for protection against the haze particles. We were also concerned that wearing an N95 mask would be very uncomfortable and cause breathing difficulties. N95 masks were not certified for children, so children were advised to minimise outdoor activities when the PSI level is very high. Click here for details. So, it makes sense for us to just get the surgical masks since we were more concerned about the smoky smell. The children can also wear these surgical masks too.

I watched the 11 pm news on Channel U last night.  Pregnant women were advised to wear the N95 mask for not more than 20 minutes. 

Sunday 23 June 2013

Haze in Singapore - Part 1

For the past few days, Singapore was hit by haze resulting from forest fire in Sumatra Indonesia with the PSI (Pollution Standard Index) hitting as high as 400 on 21 Jun 13. This was hazardous level.  Ardon and I happened to go out on that day.  I had to wear sunglass so that my eyes would not be hurt by the smoke.  We did not wear an N95 mask because we did not have one.  Luckily, none of us fall sick.

With the PSI at such high levels for days, we had no choice but to close all the windows and doors.  We tried to switch on the air-conditioner only when the heat was too unbearable because we did not want to incur a high electricity bill. We also did not want the air-conditioners to get damaged from overuse. Luckily we also had two water based air-purifiers that we could use to clean the air in our home and get rid of the smoky smell indoor.

We were so happy yesterday to see that the PSI had fallen to below 100.  However, we were warned by the news caster that this was temporary.  

I wanted to bring the kids to some places this June holiday but we could not go anywhere outdoor because of the haze.  We can only go to shopping malls and other indoor places.  Clothes that were hung outside to dry also had a burnt smell.  Very fed up too.

Saturday 22 June 2013


My family did not own any camera when we were young.  So we did not have many childhood pictures.  Most of the pictures we had were taken by other people who had cameras. Cameras were expensive then and my parents probably feel it was not necessary to buy one.

I bought my own camera when I started working in the 1990s. It cost me about $300. The camera I bought required photographic film to capture the image. The photographic film usually came in rolls that can take up to 12, 24 or 36 pictures. We had to finish using the whole roll of film before we could get the pictures develop by the photo shop or else it would be wasteful.  

Now at the price of $100+, you can get a decent digital camera with video recording function.  We can view the images on the camera's LCD screen once we capture it to see if it turned out well.  We can edit the pictures ourselves, display them on a digital photo frame so that we do not need many photo frames to display many different pictures. We can save the pictures in a SD  card, flash drive, our computer, CD or even online.  This means fewer physical storage space as compared to putting pictures in photo albums. We can print out the pictures using a printer when we need them. This is especially useful when the children's schools want their photos for some class activities; we do not need to "sacrifice" any photos for that purpose.  

When you compare the prices of cameras then and now, you can now buy a lower priced cameras with better functions and quality.  So, in actual fact, prices of cameras had gone down. 

Friday 21 June 2013

Public Transport Then and Now - Buses and MRT

Bus services were not so frequent in the 1980s.  On top of that, all buses were non air-conditioned.  On hot days, when the buses stopped for passengers to board and alight, and at traffic lights, the heat could be unbearable if there was no wind.  On rainy days, it was even worse! If we closed all the windows in the bus, it would be very warm and stuffy especially if the bus was very crowded. If we did not close the windows, you would get rain splashing into the bus.

In the past, we had to bring enough coins to take a bus.  For students, we had the student bus card to enjoy concessionary bus fare. We could also purchase the bus stamp from the bus company at $12 or $15  to enjoy unlimited rides for that month. I used to think how nice it could be if we could use the bus card even as adults so that we do not need to bring so many coins. My friend said that was not possible.

When the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) started operation in 1987, we started to use a fare card when taking the MRT.  They also came up with a stored value fare card that could be used on MRT trains. Later on, SBS and Trans Island added the machines so that we could use the stored value fare card on the buses. This fare card system enabled passengers to enjoy some rebates when switching between MRT and buses or switching between a few buses during a journey. Passengers just need to slot the card into the ticket machine, press the correct bus fare amount and a bus ticket would come out. 

Now, the stored value fare card is replaced by the ez-link card which is also a cash card. We just need to tap on the machine when boarding the bus and tap another time when alighting.  Then the correct bus fare will be deducted from the ez-link card. No bus ticket will be issued. We no longer have to remember the correct bus fare to various places.  We no longer have to worry about paying less than the correct amount of bus fare and get penalised by the bus ticket inspector. Most importantly, we no longer need to carry many coins to take buses.  This system turned out even better than what I could have hoped for. The only thing we need to remember, of course, is to top up the ez-link card when it is low in value.  Passengers can still pay for their bus fare by using coins and dollar notes if they forget to bring the ez-link card or when their ez-link card have negative value. 

Students are now issued a student smart card which acts as an ez-link card to enjoy concessionary bus fare.  This smart card and ez-link card can also be used for admission into public swimming pools etc.

Now, all the public buses are air-conditioned. Bus services are more frequent. Of course during peak hours, there will still be delays due to traffic conditions. There are now more MRT routes to many parts of Singapore. Public buses and MRTs are still very crowded during peak hours. That is one problem that nobody has been able to fully resolve.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

My House Then and Now

I've read about many people saying about "the good old days" so I thought I would write about the old days and compare them to the things we have now.  

This series of posts is not meant to offend anyone.  It is solely based on my own experiences and perspectives.  

I used to stay in a shophouse in a rural part of Singapore in my childhood years. The roof was made of some kind of metal (called "sa li" in Teochew, not sure of the English name). On rainy days, there would be water leaking through the roof into the house. At night, I could hear the neighbours' dogs barking and cats crawling on the rooftop.

Being in a rural area also meant there were very few bus services. There were only 2 bus services available and you could wait for more than half an hour to 1 hour during non-peak periods. We also encountered frequent blackouts.

Even though we had our own bathroom and toilet in the house (unlike those shown in the TV drama "甘榜情" whereby they had to walk a distance to the common toilet and bathroom), we would still need an umbrella to go to the toilet on rainy days. There was no sheltered walkway from our house to our toilet and bathroom. Our toilet was not the flushing type so someone had to come to the back of our house periodically to clear the manure. Can you imagine doing your "business" halfway and someone pulled the bucket away to clear the manure? Life was such then and this was in the early 1980s.

Now, I stay in a HDB flat in almost the same part of Singapore. This place has developed a lot. I can walk from my flat to the MRT station in about 15 minutes.  There's no water leaking problem from my flat's roof. Hygiene conditions and the overall environment are much better now. I no longer have to wait so long for buses and there are many bus services at the main road to different parts of Singapore. Don't forget the MRT line that goes straight to Singapore's shopping district, Orchard Road. So far, we have only encountered one blackout in June 2004 which also affected many other parts of Singapore.

All HDB flats that are 3 rooms and above have 2 toilets. Waste matter can be flushed down the drain with the press of a button. All of the waste matter is eventually recycled, even the water.

Although I do reminisce a bit about the past, I do not miss it, especially when I think about the above. The good old days? Well, doesn't seem all that good to me.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Punggol Point Park and Punggol Jetty

We had a bit of time last Thursday so we thought we would drop by Punggol Point Park and Punggol Jetty.  It was a sunny day so it was a good day to visit this place.

The road leading to Punggol Jetty
Upon arrival, we were awed by the magnificent sea view.  It's been a long time since we last went to the beach.  I simply loved the view of the sea and could not resist taking many shots of it.  

You can see some people fishing at the jetty in the picture below.

This is the water lily pond.  There are some fishes swimming inside too.

sand filled playground
This part is supposed to be a cowboy town ranch - Punggol Ranch, owned by Gallop Stables.  Not sure whether it has started operations as we did not have the time to take a further look at this. 

If you are not driving, you can take bus service number 84 from Punggol interchange.  It would be good to check the SBS transit web site for the latest update on the bus service number in case there are changes in the the bus routes.

This place is so beautiful.  Will want to come back again when we have the time :)

Monday 17 June 2013

《最重要的決定》(The Most Important Decision)

I first knew of this song 《最重要的決定》 when one of my friends' friend posted this Youtube video on facebook.  I immediately fell in love with this song.  The bride sang very beautifully too.  

It was a pity only part of the song was recorded.

I found out from my friend that the song was titled "最重要的決定" (The Most Important Decision) and the original singer was 范玮琪 (Christine Fan). The lyrics was written by 姚若龙 (Yao Ruolong) and the music was composed by 陈小霞 (Chen Xiaoxia).  It seemed that this song was a wedding gift from Yao Ruolong and Chen Xiaoxia to Christine Fan.  Christine Fan married 陈建州 (Chen Jianzhou) in May 2011.  






Which translate as:

I often think I will not be able to find
anyone else who will treat me as well as you
You even took good care of my family
so much so that all my friends supported you

You still have some shortcomings that you could not change
You could be so stubborn that even fairies could be hopping mad
But there are very few things in life that are perfect
We cannot possibly have everything

You are the most important decision in my life
I'm willing to wake up by your side every day
even our arguments were very enjoyable not cold
because true love is not about winning or losing, it's about intimacy 

You are the most important decision in my life
I'm willing to break free from the fear of the unknown
Even tears can clear up, putting ourselves in each other's shoes
Because there is not shortcut to marital bliss, we have to work hard at it.

Very meaningful lyrics. Especially liked these few lines "可是人生完美的事太少
我们不能什么都想要" (But there are very few things in life that are perfect, We cannot possibly have everything) and "幸福没有捷径只有经营"(Because there is no shortcut to marital bliss, we have to work hard at it). That's why there is this saying "there's no Mr Perfect or Miss Perfect, only Mr Right or Miss Right". Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Both parties have to make an effort to make the marriage work and not to give up easily.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Episode 7 and Quotes from Episode 8 of 《小子当家》 (I'm in charge)

In episode 7 of 《小子当家》 (I'm in charge),  Liu Guowei (played by Elvin Ng) together with Wang Xiaohui , went to see the principal and discipline master of Jiemin's (Liu Guo wei's niece) school.  He pleaded with the principal not to expel Jiemin from school, or else she will end up joining secret society and enter the path of no return.

Elvin Ng acted this part very well.  It was done in an amusing way and made us laugh. I also noticed the way he twitch his facial muscle that even Lynn also agreed that he did that expression very well, it was really not easy to do that. Thumbs up for Elvin Ng. :)

In episode 8, Benson Lee said this to Wang Jiahao:
"人啊, 最重要的武器不是拳头,而是头脑" 

which translates as "Our most powerful weapon isn't our fists, is our mind"

How true!

Related posts:

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Yoei Egg Boiler - Part 3 (Soft Boiled Eggs)

We tried to use the Yoei Egg Boiler to make soft boiled eggs.

The recipe given was based on 6 eggs stored at 25 °C. To get the eggs 50% cooked, we would need 20 ml of water. To get the eggs 70% cooked, we would need 30 ml of water.

As mentioned in previous posts, all our eggs were stored in the fridge, so we thought we probably needed more water than the recommended amount to make soft boiled eggs. For the first attempt, we put 50 ml of water on the heating plate to cook one egg. This resulted in a hard boiled egg. For the second attempt, we tried using 30 ml of water and the egg still turned out to be hard boiled egg. We have to mention that we did not take out the eggs immediately after the power light on the Yoei Egg Boiler went off.

For the third attempt, we tried 20 ml of water to cook one egg. After about 5 mins, I saw that the light above the button automatically switched off. I did not take it out right away. Perhaps that was why the egg whites turned out hard while the egg yolk was ok, slightly watery. I would think it was about 70% cooked.

Today, I put 15 ml of water on the heating plate to cook 2 eggs. About 4 to 5 minutes later, the light turned off. This was how one of the eggs looked.

This was the texture we wanted. 

We did not take out the eggs right away after the power light went off for all the attempts because we wanted to see how the eggs turned out unattended.

Part 1     Part 2     Part 4

Monday 3 June 2013

《叫你一声 My Love》 (Call You My Love)

《叫你一声 My Love》 was one of The Little Tigers'(小虎队)earlier songs. The Little Tigers was the first boy band in Taiwan. The members consists of Nicky Wu (吴奇隆), Alex Su(苏有朋)and Julian Chen (陈志朋)。

This is a very lovely song that I have always liked.




叫你一声 My Love 
能不能 叫你一声 My Love 该不该把眼泪聚成弯弯的小河流

叫你一声 My Love 
能不能 叫你一声 My Love

This roughly translates as:

There was once a legend
You and I were in the legend
We lived on the Sunshine Coast
Enjoying every moment of the day
Let hope makes the world go round

There are some dreams that we need to have
There are some words that we must say
You should have known how I felt long time ago
I am proud to announce my love for you
That's because I care too much for you

Call you my love
Dear do you care as much for me too
Can I call you my love
Shall I let the tears flow like the river
and sing a love song

Call you my love
Dear are you thinking of me
Can I call you my love
Is it because you do not believe in the happy ending of fairy tale
so you dare not come and look for me

Sunday 2 June 2013

《动不动就说爱我”》("You Always Say You Love Me")

《动不动就说爱我》 一直是我很喜欢的一首歌。这首歌是1988首次发行的,且由芝麻龙眼这个女子二人组合所唱的。芝麻的本名是陈艾玲,龙眼则是林育如。芝麻属高音,龙眼低音, 两个合唱的可说是天衣无缝。很可惜龙眼在1989的一次车祸意外中丧命。享年只有25岁。

《动不动就说爱我》 的旋律优美,歌词也挺好的。 之后也有好几位歌手拿来重唱。

"Alway Say You Love Me" is a song that I've always liked.  This song was first released in 1988, and was sung by "Zhi Ma Long Yan" (a female singing group which consists of 2 girls, named Chen Ailing and Lin Yuru). Zhi Ma has a high singing voice while Long Yan is the one with the low singing voice.  They harmonise very well.  It was a pity that Long Yan died in a car accident in 1989, at the age of 25.

"Alway Say You Love Me" has very good melody and lyrics. Subsequently, there are also other singers who sang this song.




离别后也没有什么 会让我更难过的理由
只不过很想 让泪水痛快一次的泛流

每个人都错 错在自己太成熟轻易让爱上心头[让爱上心头]




This roughly translates as:

After you left, there are no more reason for me to be upset.
it's just that I want to let my tears stream down .

We are wrong, wrong to think that we are mature enough to fall in love.

You always say you love me, 

Who has measured how long to love before you can make a lifelong commitment.
Does it matter whether I try to keep you?
Once the dust settles down, just let my tears wash away my wounds.

Is it true that all of us will have times when we are touched that we tend to forget ourselves?

Our hearts become fragile and need passionate tenderness

We are wrong, wrong to fall in love without reservation.

Always say you love me, 

but you have never asked me what I wanted, you gave me an empty promise
does it matter whether I try to keep you,
you want to leave anyway, 
I just hope you will not step on my wounds.