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Free Learning 2

Last week I recommend Duolingo for learning a new language. What if you not only want to learn languages? There is a website for you to take free courses from the world’s best universities.

Let me introduce: edX. It is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider. There are different courses to choose from. Either you want to upgrade yourself for work advancement or for personal satisfaction, explore the courses offered. You might find one or two courses that interest you.

Similarly to Duolingo, edX also has an application version that you can download from your smart phone. But I prefer the website version on a laptop as the courses are taught in videos. Watching the videos from the laptop is much easier than watching them on the tiny screen of smart phone.

If you are looking for work advancement and would like a certificate of achievement, feel free to upgrade at a cost.

Thus far, I have taken two courses and am quite satisfied. The third course is on the way. As the courses offered are for university level, the depth that they cover might be difficult for some people. Do read the reviews and course details before you enrol for the course.

The website is https://www.edx.org/

 

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Thank You, Singapore!

Singapore is 50 years old this year!

Every Singaporean and permanent resident household receives a SG50 funpack. Every funpack is different. Here are the items that are inside the funpack for my family.

1. The tote bag that contains all the items. (It reads “Never mind lah!”)

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Tote bag in red and white

2. Some related booklets

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Booklets

3. The national flags. (One inside the plastic bag)

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National flags

4. Snacks and drink (haw flakes and lollipop)

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Snacks and drink

5. Figurine of Singa, erasers, Snap card game, etc.

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Singa figurine, erasers, etc

6. I was wondering why the image is mirror image, and then I realize it is tattoo.

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Tattoo

7. The most important thing that I was looking for: “NDP 2015”

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“NDP 2015”

I do not unwrap the items. They will be kept for my children and grandchildren to see, excluding the snacks and drink, of course!

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It is November Again

This is my 201st post and it marks another year of blogging for me. The writing has slowed down because I wish to enjoy my pregnancy journey rather than rush through it. I have not decided whether I will change the writing style, I would like to continue to write about language learning and education with added experience in becoming a new mother.

I have an uncompleted task to share my Japanese language learning experience from last year. Thus, there is no new item this year. My wish is to have a happy and healthy baby while maintaining my blog until November 2015 and further.

Wish me all the best! I hope to see you along the way to my next double anniversary.

 

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When Help Comes with Conditions

Two different encounters, two different responses. I do not know whether I have done the right thing, but I know I will not regret.

1. Will you pay for me?

As my husband and I were queuing to pay for the groceries at the supermarket, a woman in her 50s approached us and asked us to pay for a bottle of 1.5l Coke. My first response was to reject her. My husband, on the other hand, pitied her and asked why she wanted us to pay. She said her mother wanted to drink and she was unable to pay because she was jobless.

As I was the one who was paying for the groceries, my husband had to reject her no matter how much he pitied her. My husband asked her to ask other people instead. When we had done shopping, we took a glance at her and she was still asking around but no one wanted to pay for her.

Later, my husband told me her mother looked like a retarded person. I did not see her mother. Still, based on the following reasons, I insist that I will not pay for her:

(a) Coke is not healthy food. If she wanted to buy a loaf of bread, a tin of biscuits or a packet of noodles, I would consider paying.

(b) Coke is for drinking. I would buy food for someone so that he or she would not get hungry but not drinks. Singapore pipe water is safe for drinking, so a person can always get free water. OK, maybe I am too harsh… I would consider buying the person a bottle of mineral water.

(c) The woman can always go to Ministry of Social and Family Development to get some help. If she does not know where to start, she can always go to any community centre to ask.

(d) There are too many con people out there and I do not trust the woman.

2. Can you give us 10 cents?

I was taking the lift down and saw my neighbour’s boy and two other children at the lift door. He asked me for 10 cents. Before I could ask further, he said he wanted to buy ice cream. There were two boys and a girl. I know the two boys, they live at my block. I asked whether 10 cents was enough. The girl showed me that she had 45 cents and she was short of 10 cents to buy an ice cream. The other boy said they (the two boys) needed 50 cents each.

So, I gave the two boys 50 cents each and the girl 10 cents. The girl said thank you happily while my neighbour’s boy teased her, “She is my neighbour, not yours.”

I laughed inside my heart at the boy’s comment. I like girls more than boys, and since they are together, they must be friends, though she is not my neighbour. I won’t tell the little boy that I would rather pay for the girl. I walked away happily.

Why I pay for the children?

(a) I know the two boys.

(b) I like the girl.

(c) I have always wanted to help the old ice cream vendor but I cannot eat ice cream and other cold food. I do not want to pay the ice cream vendor without getting the ice cream because he may think that I pity him. This is just a good chance for me to help the old vendor indirectly.

(d) I feel happy when I help them.

 

In both situations, I use logical facts to analyze. Of course, the second situation has an advantage because I know the boys and the old ice cream vendor sells ice cream daily nearby my neighbourhood.

Do you help with a condition? Please share your views. Thanks.

She Made a Decision

I can still remember the reactions of my classmates when I told them I am going to complete my test quickly and go to meet my idol. I was in my early 20s, when meeting my idol was more important than my university test. Anyway, I did complete the test, I just left early. Also, I made sure that I did well in other assignments and final examination so that the final mark of the subject was not affected badly.

That was the decision I made. After so many years, no one remember which subject or what mark did I get. But I remember the experience of the long queue and the warm smile from my idol.

Thus, when my student told me, she “sacrificed” the Chinese language CA2 examination to try to complete for an arts project that she cares a lot; I was not shocked at all.

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Will you scold your child for getting this result?

Nonetheless, I would like her to understand some important points in making a decision:

1. One must be ready to take the consequences

She failed her Chinese language CA2 examination. Even if she got 100 marks for her Chinese language SA2 examination, she would still need to face the music as overall she still fails the subject.

2. One must consider the priority

Her other classmates were focusing on the examination rather than the arts project. Different people have different priorities. I will not say that she made a wrong decision, but I want her to consider the following:

(a) What is the percentage of the marks of the arts project go to the final mark of the subject?

(b) Likewise, what is the percentage of the marks of the Chinese language SA2 examination go to the final mark of the subject?

(c) Which subject do you put in more effort? The one that you are weak at or the one that you are good at?

The answers are obvious. We put in priority for higher percentage of the marks that go to the final mark of the subject and put in more effort in the subject that we are weak at. You may have different point of view, which leads us to the third point.

3. Worth it?

In the end, she failed her Chinese language CA2 examination and did not complete the arts project. Also, the arts teacher has decided to extend the due date to one month later. What has she gained?

For my case, I gained the experience that I cherish for the rest of my life, it was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I won’t regret it and I can show my children and grandchildren of my idol’s signature. Most important of all, I did not fail the subject.

For her case, I do think that it is too big a sacrifice. Things have happened, I hope she learn from this incident and make better decision next time.

Lost & Found

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“Owner, I am here!”

What is this? This is a piece of a pair of earrings that was “put” by somebody onto the leaf so that people can see it. When I first saw the earring, I was stunned. However, it is easily understood that it is a lost earring found nearby the plants. It may not be noticed easily, nonetheless it is comparatively easier to be noticed if the earring was on the ground.

You may argue that it is no point putting the earring onto the leaf. It is so small and the person who lost it may just go and buy a new pair of earrings. Yes, you are right. Still, you do not know if the earring has some sentimental value in it.

I have found a lot of kind and honest actions around Singapore, for example, a bunch of keys at the notice board of a MRT station. I have

  • found a hat at a maritime centre and gave it to the front desk
  • found a water bottle at a fast food chain and gave it to the cashier. The water bottle was later put at the tray return table
  • found a student Ez-link card and gave it to the police station.

One of my friends has found a wallet in a bus and gave it to the police station. One of my students has found a magnifying glass at school and gave it to the lost and found section of the school.

No, this post is not about how honest Singaporeans are. I just want to let you know that if you have lost something, go back to where you have been and look around, you may find it still sitting there, waiting for you to take it home. You may need to look around for a convenient place where people can put the thing on.

The first thing that people who have found a lost item is to quickly “get rid” of it, so they most probably would creatively and conveniently put on “something” (a pole, a table, a leaf, etc.) nearby the place. You can try to ask at the front desk and customer service counter too. You may also want to put up a notice to look for your lost item. I have seen a notice at a bus stop, saying that she has lost her phone. The notice was there for a few months, I think the owner never gets her phone back.

I have forgotten my umbrella at one of the eating places at Punggol. I went back to the eating place hours later, when the staffs were cleaning and preparing to call it a day. I asked for my umbrella, a staff showed me my umbrella hanging at the cupboard.

Beware, though, if you have lost the latest version of a smart phone, most probably you won’t get it back.

Creativity for Sales

Singapore is well-known for its education system, especially for Mathematics and Science. Nonetheless, you may have read about critics on lack of creativity at the same time.

During schooling, I memorized English words, Mathematics formula, etc. I thought that was normal. As a student, you do whatever the teacher tells you to do. The teachers nowadays have more tools to help them in teaching, but there is a troubling issue behind. Let’s look at three different aspects below:

1. Composition (作文)

In English language, we have a term called “creative writing”. But for Chinese language, my students have feedback to me that their teachers (from different schools) have a favour towards “happy ending”. If you have a sad ending for your composition, too bad, no matter how well you write, you will not score high.

I always encourage my students to let their imagination runs wild. The students nowadays are exposed to worldwide news and information, why limit their imagination to only “good things”? Writing a composition with a happy ending may help to cultivate an optimistic environment. Nonetheless, when the students grow up, they will find out that this world is realistic, not everything will end happily.

2. Oral (口试)

For Primary school oral, the student is given a picture and he / she needs to say what is in the picture, where is the place and describe the people inside the picture. There is a template, it is good to help the weaker students to memorize and excel in oral. But the whole Singapore is using the same template! Okay, saying the whole Singapore is exaggerating, but different students from different schools have shown me the same template.

If the limitation in composition writing is to cultivate an optimistic environment, what about oral? What type of adults are you looking for? A batch of like-minded students?

3. Mathematics (数学)

I love Mathematics because it is fun. But many students face a problem: The school Mathematics teacher teaches you method A and all other methods are not allowed. This may confuse the students when other methods are introduced to them. Because of limitation on the use of certain method, the “stubborn” student may face problem when they see a different type of question.

To solve a Mathematics problem, the most important part is to understand the question, not to draw a beautiful model. Maybe the emphasis on the model method has been misunderstood by students. Two of my students from different schools, again, can draw beautiful model according to what the teachers have taught. The problem is, they do not understand the question and ask me how to solve. What is the point of drawing a model when you cannot solve the problem?

Furthermore, a different method is helpful in checking the answer. I believe the method introduced at the school is suitable for most students from proven record of the best Mathematics teaching. The question to ask is, how about the minor group who cannot grasp the idea? Shouldn’t the teacher allow some flexibility?

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Sales!

The post is written based on my experience with my students, not from a single student, but from different students from different schools. I am not sure how many people out there realize the underlying problem. I will follow the school template, while at the same time, encourage my students to have some creativity whenever it is possible.