Sunday, June 29, 2014

Notes from Stanley - Sustainable Singapore; A product of interplay between Community Activism and Sound Policies

The President’s Address 2014 has been an affirmative and optimistic statement of what our government is seeking to achieve, making the firm promise to improve the lives of Singaporeans. I am pleased that our national leaders have taken constructive steps towards listening to the plea of Singaporeans, and have created or refined policies to meet the constantly changing needs of our country.

As a youth who had just entered working life, one of the greatest concerns my peers and I have typically revolve around finding stable jobs that provide us with competitive salaries and growth opportunities. Fortunately for us, we were born in a generation blessed with the resources, education and opportunities to make informed decisions on our own accord. To put it simply, we can ask ourselves what kind of lives do we want and select a career that suits us best. Ultimately, regardless of any misfortune which befall us, we can be assured that there will always be at least be a roof over our heads, and basic necessities that are provided for or subsidized by the nation. 

However, we have often forgotten how sheltered we are from the struggles experienced by Singapore’s pioneers, who were devoid of the resources which we now possess. To even aspire for a better future for themselves or their families was a farfetched dream. Having the assurance and wealth of a country that would be able to meet most Singaporeans’ needs was simply unthinkable at that time too! Therefore, it is certainly appropriate that our pioneers be rewarded for their valiant efforts in creating this country of possibilities, and their utmost right to reap what they have rigorously sowed. 

Nonetheless, amidst the new policies introduced in improving the lives of citizens, I am constantly apprehensive and concerned about the possibilities of our youths and nation developing a sense of entitlement -an insidious venom in the heart of any nation that wishes to progress. 

As a nation, if we constantly expect the government to provide solutions to every societal problem, we would inevitably be paralyzed by the lack of effort which the community (The common folk in the neighborhood) ought to provide. In every nation, the leaders and followers should always work towards a mutual goal and not be segregated. In order to bring Singapore to greater heights, our citizens should see our government as an organization which does not have solutions for everything, but rather be an activist and build a community of solution makers and feedback providers. We need to assist our government in planning and developing good policies, as well as executing such policies to make the lives of our community better!

Also, apart from communicating our needs, we have to acknowledge that scarcity exists. The limited supply of resources is unable to cater to the unlimited demands of the citizens.  Thus, in the hope of driving positive sustainable changes, Singapore requires collaborative efforts of both the grassroot leaders, as well as our citizens to create sustainable improvements to the community.

Learning from the financial woes of the European countries, I have realized that a nation has to work on the sustainability of all policies; populist and welfare, to prevent ourselves from being trapped in a vicious cycle stemmed by an unyielding sense of entitlement. As such, while we are all ambitious of increasingly better policies to alleviate the negative consequences of the rising living costs, prudency should always be our top priority. Also, we need to ensure that concrete steps are taken to progressively attain the ultimate goal that we are all aiming for. As much as I do applaud Singaporeans for having developed a respectable working culture of striving and pursuing our own paths of success, we ought to know that the nation is not responsible for our well-being merely due to the existence of welfare policies.

Last but not least, I believe that the role of the ASPIRE committee is paramount to the success of our nation’s progress and that we provide Singaporeans with multiple platforms to succeed while we constantly improve on the education system. We have to ensure that students who are less academically inclined do not fall through the cracks. Instead, I agree with the President’s stance on the importance of creating more alternative pathways for citizens to pursue better education and careers. As a late bloomer myself, I have travelled the route of a Polytechnic education and subsequently went on to achieve a degree. Through this educational path, I have seen how a vocational education provides a more suited learning environment that allowed me to hone my strengths and discover my talents in a way that differs drastically from what was provided by Junior Colleges. I have also had the privilege to meet many of my polytechnic’s alumni who have attained remarkable progress in their respective careers despite not having a degree. Thus, while we strive to allow the majority of our youths to be self-sufficient, and ultimately enjoy greater employability and income, we should not downplay the importance of the assistance that ITE and Polytechnic students require. 

In conclusion, I hope that the Singapore parliament and citizens alike, will not be complacent about the policies established, but stay critical and constructive towards the improvements we have to make in our policies to help ensure that no one gets left behind.

Mr Stanley Chia
REACH Supervisory Panel Member
Managing Director, Envisage Education Pte Ltd
Vice-President, SingYouth Hub

Friday, April 11, 2014

Do you believe in God?

Brandon: Do you believe in God?

Ander: Well… No, I don’t.

Brandon: Why?

Ander: There is no such thing as a God, I can’t see him or feel him. I rather put my trust on what I know to be truth or have seen to be truth.
How about you? Do you believe in God?

Brandon: Yes, I do.

Ander: Why so? Haven’t all the books you've read or knowledge you've gained from high school or university taught you to rely on logic rather than trusting in things which are false and baseless?

Brandon: I do agree with you that school has taught us to think and be logical in our thinking. But just because we have acquired the ability to reason, doesn't mean that we are right.

Ander: Oh really? So what have you learnt from all the science textbooks which you've read in school? Don’t they provide a better source of evidence and knowledge to rely upon rather than on mere faith, believes or feelings to help you tell right from wrong or the truth from the false, and vise versa?

Brandon:  Despite what we have learnt in school, don’t you agree that mankind have not and will never obtain a full understanding of everything that occurs in the universe?

Ander: I disagree with you. We might not understand everything yet, but someday we will.

Brandon: What makes you think we will? Have we till date, know what’s out there beyond our universe? Have we even clearly understood how our human brain works? As our society change and as we gain in knowledge, haven’t we only realized how much we don’t know rather than how much we know?

Ander: I agree with you, that we might never discover all the answers. However, does it mean that we give up and stop pursuing knowledge, understanding of the world and what is truth from what’s not?

Brandon: Nope. I agree with you, we should not give up. Instead, the pursuit of truth is of utmost important for the progress of humanity. However, that does not erase the fact or overrule the argument that we might never truly understand ‘everything’.

And hence here is where God apply, the notion of the supreme-being who created the world, who knows every bird and every tree, every river and every creek that exist in this planet.

The notion that amid the chaos and uncertainty, there is a form of order that regulates and controls the destiny of the world and each of us.

Ander: Right…. And what hard evidence does this ‘believe’ stamps on? Haven’t you heard that the ‘fool’ is someone who simply believes in an answer provided for questions that they can’t answer rather than relying on their own pursuit of the truth?

Brandon: I do agree with you to some extent. However, if you hypothetically treat God as a factual being and that he has provided you answers to questions which you will never truly be able to answer, and so happen that these answers are true. Nonetheless, no matter what… you just do not believe in these answers, doesn't that make you the ‘fool’ instead?

Ander: Hmm…. Interesting thought…. Than it depends on what our faith is based on then? I base my faith on logic/reasoning/science, while yours on God/religion?

Brandon: Yes. I guess you can put it that way. However, please do not get me wrong, I do not refute science. In fact I embrace it and see it as a source of truth and knowledge, similar to how you do. However, the key difference is that I rely on God to explain what can’t be explain and teach me values/wisdom/knowledge which I might never discover/understand by myself.

In addition, you are actually no different from me. Don’t you realize that you also have a ‘God’ in your life? 

Haven’t you realize that the determination and confidence in your argument must be based on your faith in your personal believes of what is truth and what is false?

Since neither of us can provide conclusive evidence whether or not God exist or not, haven’t we placed our faith in our personal believes to either support or refute the notion of God? In that sense, your own logic is your ‘God’, it being the object of your faith that provides you the confidence to refute God.

2 Corinthian 4:18 - while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

For those who have grown up with the privilege of becoming educated from the well refined education system of the modern/post-modern world.

How often have we become so confident and prideful that we think we know everything?
That we think we can reason everything?
That we think we can always tell the truth from the false, all the time?

Well, in some things we may. But in many things I have come to terms that we truly truly truly… can’t.

We have to acknowledge the foolishness of our pride and humbly recognize our lack of ability in understanding/knowing everything. We have to not just be confident in what we know, but also always be mindful that there are many things we will never know or fully understand. Such as the limitation of man…

Google and read ‘What is Man?’ by Mark Twain. It has always been such an endlessly thought-provoking piece. At least, for the humble me… 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Singapore's 20 hottest startups to watch in 2014

I've not been posting for quite awhile, hence apologies for not finding the time to write more!!!

But here is an exciting news I wish to share with all of you!

Collegify has been listed as Singapore's 20 hottest startups to watch n 2014!!! by the Singapore Business Review.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Speech at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Book Prize Ceremony on 12th November 2013

What prompted you to take on this road (Of Social Entrepreneurship) very early in your career although you were trained to be accountant?

Like many social entrepreneurs, the reason why I started Envisage was a very personal one. Prior to starting Envisage, I was already heavily involved in social entrepreneurial projects through Enactus (Or formerly known as SIFE) for over 6 years. Discovering that I have the talent and ability to change people’s lives through the positive power of business in a much more sustainable way, truly inspired me to expand the possibilities of my own potential to be an individual of influence.

Nonetheless, it did not take me long before I realized that trying to change a world by my lonely self, was indeed too lofty a goal. I am but a man, with limitations no matter my past accomplisments. It was then that I thought to myself, “Why not attempt to motivate others to do the same? Was the responsibility of making a difference a job of my own?”

As such, I soon decided to shift myself away from being the person who does everything, and to instead learn to motivate others to be involved and empowered to effect positive change! The famous “fishing analogy” is rather fitting in this context and that’s what I am trying to achieve. If everyone strives to do something positive for their society, no matter how small the scale, we can all live in a better one.

Defining Success

Success, does this mean obtaining vast sums of wealth? Does it mean leaving behind a legacy? Or gaining the best academic results and achievements for one’s own personal prestige? Perhaps it is the tingling feeling one gets when he or she helps someone in whatever shape or form? The list goes on and that’s the wonderful thing.

Success can manifest itself in a myriad of shapes and forms. I have come to realize that the definition of “success” comes down to relativity and what one’s personal dreams and aspirations are.
If you haven’t put together a mental picture of how you endeavour your life to be, it is paramount that you take a step back and do some serious soul searching. You do not want to end up with a death-bed regret of living in someone else’s dream instead of yours.

Do not force yourself to live in other people’s measure of success. Instead decide for yourself, “What motivates you? What makes you tick? What makes you happy and satisfied?” For whatever you decide, someone will surely disagree with you. But have the confidence to realize that “It’s ok!” to think for yourself.

It can often be mistaken to assume that the CEO of a MNC has achieved more “success” over a worker at a barista or has done better than a social entrepreneur (wink wink). However, it would probably be a surprise to you that he might be much less satisfied than the common man. I have met many high achievers in life who quickly realize that after all the wealth they have accumulated; they have learnt a few lessons about themselves:

1. It was never about the wealth, as it will never “Be enough”
2. It was always about what they were truly passionate about that drove them to do soooo well it what they have set out to accomplish!

Many of you here are high achievers too, well, at least academically. I applaud you for that, and there is no shame to give yourself a pat on your back for what you have accomplished. But one must remember to not stick his or her head in the clouds for too long. There are those that you have relied on for you to get this far. Your parents, your lecturers, your friends and probably many others. It is through their fervent support that you have achieved so much, for no man is an island. Hence, do remember that when you get the chance, go to those who have helped you and Thank them for what they have done for you! Nonetheless, remember this life-long lesson that only after I’ve experienced countless set-backs to realize, “Being humble is not about making yourself lesser as an individual, but making things less about you.”

The Courage to Do it!

On the note of accomplishments. An extremely memorable advice given to me by my mentor, Jack Wang, an extremely successful entrepreneur, was this…. “Stanley, due to your courage to defy the impossible, you will soon realize that the entire universe will come together to conspire in helping you succeed.”
Back then when he first said this, my immediate reaction was “Why?!”

His answer was simple. “Just experience it and get back to me when you have found the answer.”

Remarkably, the answer quickly emerged within the first few months of my endeavours. It is in the midst of all the drama…

1. Attempting to reach out to 3 thousand youths in Singapore towards effecting social change over the last 3 years
2. Being selected to represent the youth voices in the Our Singapore Conversations
3. Nominated to represent Singapore in the 7th UNESCO youth forum in 2011

That I came to realize that despite my own constant feeling of inadequacy standing shoulder to shoulder with illustrious youth leaders from all over the world, or discussing national issues with ministers, did I discover that it was the mere “courage” to take on increasingly seemingly insurmountable challenges which allowed me to keep growing from both my failures and successes.

It was the courage to envision what our society should look like, and the greater courage to pursue that vision, as well as the radical enthusiasm I have in imparting my vision to others that I have managed to inspire many others to follow and serve the community in the way which I’ve attempted to.

So I come with this message, to ask you to keep the courage in your hearts alight.

Dare to dream big and have the guts to do what you have the passion and desire for.

As Plato once said “Courage is knowing what not to fear”. Fear not the possibilities of failing, instead focus on what you can achieve!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuition a definite necessity in Singapore?

Referring to the article I read on Today's newspaper:

I felt that the writer has put up some really pertinent points regarding why tuition is often seen as a almost definite necessity for Singaporean kids.

Having taught in a tuition center before, many parents do subscribe to such services, partially so that we can act as a 'day care' or homework supervision services. This is to 'outsource' the need for themselves to worry or lecture their kids on whether they have finished their homework.

Such situations are commonly observed and mostly seen as a necessary evil;

  • Regardless of how good the tutor actually is at teaching
  • Regardless of whether the kid is effectively learning (Being exhausted from an entire day of class)
  • Regardless of how much it cost!
  • Regardless of whether the kid is learning what he should, or is he simply downloading content which will only be useful for the exams, which might be forgotten a few weeks later...
As these debates on the necessity of tuition or call for greater regulations of private tuition arises, a higher-level of consideration should perhaps be about how we as a society can disassociate 'academic performance' with 'the potential for success'. This is because even if a student does fantastically well in primary or secondary school, if they have never learnt how to learn or acquired a higher purpose/motivation to learn, they will never really become self-motivated to succeed. Instead, a generation of youths that dreads the local education system will be bred, fueled with the misconception that their academic achievements will provide them the sure chance of success.

Truth be told, 'Yes' technical/academic knowledge or specialized skills are required for someone to succeed in the earlier parts of his career. However, a person who has ability to be creative and innovative, the social emotional skills to manage one's own state of mind/emotions and that of others, as well as the leadership skills and courage to lead and serve are character attributes that takes a life-time to develop. Of which, I have utilized within my business and community work to outperform that of my peers in their respective careers. Even during my polytechnic and university days, these soft-skills and understanding of how the real world works, enabled me to differentiate myself from that of my peers and excel in other ways, and scored comparatively well in academic projects or even exam answers.

Although some might argue that you can have your kids get engaged in tuition and at the same time put them through enrichment classes or camps to acquire soft-skills/the right character, being an educator/coach of non-academic programs in schools have made me realized how students naturally prioritize the learning of academic content over these much more important life-skills! And this is not the fault of the students, but that of an education system and parents who made them feel that doing well in exams is everything..!

An entire shift in the educational approach of our nation has to occur, if we are to have the confidence of nurturing a truly competitive workforce of the future.
Higher level management positions and many future careers that might arise, will require much more soft-skills rather than the hard-skills gained from textbooks. If we keep harping on the need to maintain our 'academic competitiveness', we will definitely lose sight of the purpose of a robust education system. That is to ensure that our youths grow up to become persons of good character, equipped with the skills to succeed in their careers and become positive contributors to our society.

To re-emphasize my point, Academic success does NOT equate to Career success. Nonetheless, I am not saying that tuition is not necessary. However, for the sake of your child, please be careful not to over do it.

If your kids are not doing well in their studies, DON'T worry, encourage him to excel in other areas, help him gain his confidence and he will be self-driven to succeed in his own unique way! 
That's the responsibility of loving parents...