I commend the elders and leaders of RHC for putting up this foreign domestic workers manual that is based on Scripture and designed to help Christians live justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God. Well done, RHC.
Yesterday, while going through Genesis 1 with a friend, we read these verses:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:14-15 ESV)
This verse reminds us that God has put certain markers in time, “for signs and for seasons” into the fabric of nature to remind us, as Psalm 90:12 says, to “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. Man was designed to be finite and to contemplate his finitude, to think over his life and death, that his time on earth is fleeting and that by definition he is not God. To understand one’s place vis-a-vis the Divine, then, is at the center of gaining wisdom. Since we will not live forever, how we live matters. It matters significantly, before we all face the impending judgment (Heb (9:27) that will surely come. There will be a reckoning for our lives. And so, the passage of time, the numbering of our days is divinely ordained for the gaining of wisdom. Watching the seasons pass informs us of who we are, that time is marching on, and that life is slowly, like Nature, changing ever.
When I was a student in university, this was a keenly experienced reality. Whenever the fall came around, we started to put away our summer clothes, and out came all the jackets as the leaves reminded us that it was getting colder. The change of the canopies were reminders that it was time to change our lifestyle, to shorten our nights out, to bring out the warmer clothing and that thanksgiving was coming. As winter rolled around, it became time to bring out the thicker coats - the nights came earlier, the days were shorter. We adjusted the clock to maximise the dwindling light, and the menu offerings too, changed. I can only imagine what happens for agriculturalists as farmers around the world change their routines entirely based on the seasons. Nights were long and cold, and we huddled together over soups and looking for a hand to hold, a warm touch for the cold nights. Many winter time relationships always creep out of the silence of the evenings, much like the icicles that form on the edge of neglected windowsills. We all hoped for spring, which, when it arrived, was a celebration of bright, flowering color, with blooming and growing things sprouting everywhere. Clothing too changed, and so did relationships, as the spring ushered in a time of warmth and frolicking in the sun. We knew the spring parties would soon begin. When summer arrived, much clothing was discarded, marketing and sales from stores kicked into high gear, and life was again, transformed as the summer sun reminded us that it was time for rest and relaxation. For suspension, for unusual times, for adventures. And that’s how people lived their lives. And with each season, we contemplated life. One season passed, and another came. We marked time.
That’s why to this day, I look back and think over time in seasons - my memories are grouped by the seasons, more or less.
But here in Singapore, not so - it is an eternal summer of unending, oppressive heat. Well, of course there’s the occasional rainy December season, the haze midyear season, monsoon and all. Yes that’s true. But imperceptibly felt, the season is essentially singular here. What are some results of this?
I am persuaded that this is one reason why Singaporeans lack a reflectiveness that we experience when time is suspended by the seasons. We don’t have the natural space and time to contemplate existentialism - instead it’s just one unending rush of superficial, man-made industry. In our concrete jungle, although we have gardens and greenery galore, few of us take time to contemplate it, simply because it’s too hot and it’s always the same. What arises from this lack of reflection? Unable to contemplate time, we think ourselves immortal and godlike - a necessary arrogance and pride starts to grow, like mould on the soul. Unable to realize who are and we are not, our sense of pride expresses itself in accrual of possessions - a toxic materialism and addiction to wealth. Insecure in who we are, we eschew reflection and deep thought - we find the arts and music and humanities boring, our attention span stunted by the lack of space and time to pause and rest. Is this why we are so uncreative? Without the seasons ‘for signs’, what have we lost? Is this why we are so angry? So aggressive? So pragmatic? So utilitarian? Is this why we are so afraid - we even have a national word for that spirit - kiasu? To fear what we are to lose is to never really own what we possess.
TWO years ago, the Government announced an expansion of university places to give 40 per cent of each school cohort a shot at university education right here at home by 2020.
It translates to 16,000 places yearly and the additional spots will be provided mainly by the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University which will have a more applied, practice-oriented focus and produce a different type of graduate.
Parents and students no doubt cheered the move, and the promise of a better future for young Singaporeans. But now with the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee recommending pathways in which Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic students can work and further their qualifications, some parents and students are left confused. “Why this flip-flop?” asked businessman Terence Koh who has two sons studying engineering in the polytechnic.
"I was very happy that the Government was providing more places for polytechnic students and a more applied pathway that is suited for poly students like my sons. But now it looks like they are saying a degree path is not for them.
"They are better off going to work and furthering their qualifications through work," said the 46-year-old, after reading the recommendations.
But as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday, his ministry is not changing its stance. Neither is the Aspire panel trying to dissuade ITE and polytechnic graduates from pursuing degrees.
Rather, it is pointing out that for some students at least, a diploma plus deep and relevant skills may pay off better in the long run. As Mr Heng stressed, it is about having the “right and relevant type of learning experiences that will enable an individual to build deep skills and expertise”.
Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, who chaired the committee, stressed that the recommendations must be seen against a backdrop where there is growing demand worldwide for workers with deep skills. “The employers tell us this, OECD reports point this out and our study trips abroad confirm this,” she said, adding that students and parents must also be mindful of the changing nature of jobs and how technology is disrupting jobs.
She is right - the jobs that are in demand today may not exist tomorrow. These are important issues that students and parents must consider."
The article we’ve been waiting to read from Sandra Davie
Mr Albert Chua, Second Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from the University of East Anglia in Britain, and a Master’s in Public Administration degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Mr Benny Lim, Permanent Secretary (Home Affairs). Mr Lim holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in English from the National University of Singapore and a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.
— Bishop William F Oldham, addressing the Methodist Episcopal Bishops in New York, May 1916