Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Between Baey and Tay, who has a better understanding of China?

We should look beyond the issue of Sun Xu and his insulting remarks about Singaporeans.  After 8 years of sponsored study at our top schools and university, we still cannot persuade him to say a friendly word on Singapore. And the important question is ‘do we have enough people who can understand China well enough to do business there?’

Let begin with this interesting question …

Who will you send to China for a job assignment if you have to decide between Baey and Tay?  For the patriotic point of view, you may send Tay who seems protecting the interest of Singapore and not Baey who seems to side with the Chinese and accept the “dog” culture.

(Please refer to the facebook postings of Baey Yam Keng and Tay Ping Hui on Sun Xu for more details.) 

In reality, Baey could be a better choice as he knows the background of the “dog” culture and there are different and many meanings behind a dog and the reference of the dog.  He is more flexible in the interpretation of the meaning of dog.  And doing business in China with one meaning and one definition of dog is dangerous. Baey is able to notice the difference between renren.com and facebook.com, weibo and twitter.

That means Sun Xu is still in the inner cycle of China – Chinese thinking.  Not many local youths in Singapore will use renren or weibo as their main social media activities.  

For future job postings to China, it is very likely we will send more Tay-type of people to China as we are not able to produce enough Baey-type of candidates.  Of course, the HR departments of Singapore companies will find it easier to handle Tay-type candidates due to the common understanding and thinking towards China and Chinese people. In addition, the reality is our education problem. We have no choice (or very limited choice) as our bilingual bi-culture education is too skewed towards English proficient teaching.
And the best answer could be …

There may be an alternative, especially for senior positions in China; the GLCs will send people like Sun Xu to China.  Like it or not, Sun will have a better understanding of China (as well as connections) than Baey or Tay-type of Singaporean graduates.  If Temasek, GIC or GLCs want to make money in China, it does not matter whether this guy is pro or against Singapore provided he makes the money for you.

This, perhaps, is the only justification that scholarships are awarded to Chinese and foreign students.  And whether they are loyal to Singapore or not is secondary, the most important contribution from them is to make more money for Singapore GLCs.  Is this a big hope or a big dream or a big gamble?  Perhaps, in future, foreign scholars can serve their bonds with foreign branches of our GLCs and not necessary only in Singapore.     

Chinese teaching in our schools

Let bring in a typical example. Parents, who have children in schools, will soon have to go schools for learning progress briefing. Especially for primary one student, the Chinese teachers will give the briefing in English and discuss your child Chinese learning difficulties in English. The environment is like you are in a foreign land that Chinese has no relationship with you at all.

Starting from primary one, the children and their parents will treat Chinese as a foreign language.  Strangely, in our schools, the Chinese teachers must have a better command of English for effective communications and teaching, and even for his or her own promotion. Sooner and later, Chinese teachers will also forget that they are teaching Chinese because they have to improve their English not Chinese for communication with parents, children and MOE.

The end result is we will not have Baey or Tay type of students.  Tay is still bilingual and has good command of Mandarin.  The future education products will not be able to match the quality of Tay, not to mention Baey or even Sun Xu.

MOE realises that we cannot produce enough bi-culture students and graduates. So, the easier solution is to Import, like importing foreign talents and foreign workers to solve our manpower requirements.  As a result, we offer scholarships to Chinese students (also to Malaysia Chinese students).  However, the case of Sun Xu proves that we may have to think very carefully about this option and solution.

What have our schools, polytechnics and universities taught foreign students like Sun Xu?  Graduating from our top schools is no guarantee that foreign students will develop the bonding with Singapore. Even they have problems or want to say sorry, they will go to their embassies. For the case of Sun Xu, he went to Chinese Embassy to seek help.

Why can’t he think of saying sorry or express regret through his schools or university? Is there any Singapore body or establishment to help him? Or he has not though of it at all.

OB Maker for foreign scholars?

Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat said he trusted NUS will handle the matter well.  But why can’t he say MOE is willing to help and will have more integration programs for foreign students so that they can understand Singapore better? It seems that he is ignoring the basic problem. 

Perhaps, MOE can consider an OB maker for foreign scholarship holders – the unique Singapore way of maintaining social harmony.

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