28 Aug 2003
Having recently read an article by a group of academics from England it prompted me to write the following in relation to my current place of employment. The article concerns the march of ‘managerialism’, in places of Higher Education. (Written by Clegg et al and titled: The Emperor’s New Clothes: Globalisation and e learning in Higher Education. British Journal of Sociology in Education, vol.24, no. 1, 2003.)
It addresses the recently perceived demands for e-learning facilities by the ‘market’ of educational customers, formally known as ‘students’. And the demands being placed on academics to fulfill these customer requirements at the demise of pedagogical interests.
It also addressed the all-pervasive notion that the spread of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) as a result of Globalisation is not as deterministic as we are being told. The central tenet of their argument is that the government of many nation states are encouraging the populations of their states to see globalisation as an unstoppable force. Then they use this as evidence that all spheres of the social including education will be closely integrated if not dominated by ICT.
The reason the worlds politicians are demanding that specific educational policies incorporate ICT is that the ‘inevitable’ future will be dominated by the internet and that in order to compete, the future generations of their people will need to be ready to work in that environment. It makes their workers more competitive in the future. Therefore the current educators, lecturers, teachers and tutors must enable the future generations to meet the increased competition that will ensue. This entire argument is built on a grand theory (globalisation) that is attempting to predict the future in the same way as early modernist theorists attempted to do so. The notion that globalisation is the primary cause of social changes effecting the society that we live in is rather narrow sighted.
The current debate around globalisation claims that the State as a force of change is now outmoded, and needs to resign itself to the unstoppable forces of Globalisation, Capitalism and ICT. The claim is that globalisation and the other forces are un-challengable and overwhelming. They argue that they should be challenged. (Clegg et al, 2003)
The locus of efforts needs to be the discourse between ‘Educators’ and ‘Managers’ of educational institutions.
This now brings me to the letter I published recently on this blog with reference to lecturer’s appearance and other issues.
The management of the educational establishment tries to get the lectures to take it seriously as a ‘customer’ complaint. And as every good businessman knows, ‘the customer is always right’. The crux of the matter is that we are not business people and the customer is actually a student and IS WRONG.
Yes, every one is free to express their opinion and yes it will be heard and listened to. But it may not and does not have to be acted upon. The student is sitting in the room because the student doesn’t know and assumes that the lecturer does. Treating the student as a customer instantly undermines the roles associated with the individuals in the context of a ‘learning environment’.
The orientation of the current educational establishment that I work in is openly ‘customer centric’ and the market. This produces managers who apply ‘an atomistic and mechanistic understanding of knowledge and learning’. With the introduction of the government backed SQC awards the ISO9001 educational establishments are attempting to further bureaucratically control and regulate knowledge. (Brian Salter and Ted Tapper, 2000)
There are various responses open to educators in light of this onslaught. Some lecturers openly support and promote the advancement of ‘managerialism’, others appear to comply but actually do not and are happy to maintain the status quo. The last response is ‘rejection’. Out and out rejection is very muted.
The ‘rejectionist approach’ is dominated by the central idea that education does not have to focus on producing the future oppressed, dominated and exploited workers. They argue that attention should be removed from the relationship between the student and new technology and back to the relationship between student and teacher. The negotiations between educators and managers have to allow for the position that e learning not be used at all. That technology be used only when it is appropriate to do so in relation to the concrete situation of the student. When is it appropriate to use e learning and when is it not?
Their conclusion sounds remarkably familiar; that genuinely innovative development may be found when driven by pedagogic (education autonomous from other social institutions), democratic and critical concerns. Academics can avoid becoming complacent by reminding people of the pitfalls of declaring something as inevitable. Technology dominating all spheres of human life merely requires our complacency.
22 Aug 2003
The reason that alludes so many is quite simple. Singabloodypore may regard itself as an advanced or developed country but this view is not held by other nations. Singapore likes to see itself ranked amongst the worlds most developed nations such as the US. But there is one stark contrast that Singaporeans have been unable to voice for the last 38 years.
To put it in the most simplistic manner I can, I will have to use an analogy. So please read on. Do you remember when you were a child of 8 or 9 years of age? You would run around creating mayhem and carnage with your other 8 and 9-year-old friends. You may not be able to remember the fact that there was always this little kid of maybe 4 or 5 years of age who also tried to run around with you. They were smaller, younger and insignificant. Insignificant simply because the bigger kids saw them as different. Saw them as immature. Yes his or her parents may have had the same wealth and same car as your parents but they were the ‘new rich’. They had the money but not the cultural outlook that you and your other friends had.
Singapore may have a level of economic development that equals and may even surpass some Western countries but in terms of political or cultural development it is an underdeveloped, undemocratic third world oligarchy.
An oligarchy is a state ruled by a self-perpetuating elite.
The day the Senior Minister’s son sits in parliament as Prime Minister will confirm this. ‘The best man for the job’ will read the blurb. How would the population of Singapore know? A new leader will be thrust upon the people of Singapore after an ‘oligarchic’ election.
The US and Britain, although they claim to be the father’s of democracy, also have their levels of oligarchic rule. The major difference is that they have in place mechanisms to ensure that the rulers can be removed. Singapore does not. It is this lack of the possibility of the removal of the Peoples Action Party that keeps Singapore out of the bigger boy’s gang.
Merely replacing one eugenically engineered PAP clone for another is insufficient.
The possibility that the PAP be defeated in a general election is tantamount in ensuring that Singaporeans dictate their own future. A future that is uncertain and full of risk will require a people that are actively engaged and empowered to make real decisions.
The current Prime Minister, Mr. Goh, alluded to this issue in his recent National Day rally speech when he tried to rally the Singaporean people out of the gloom. His attempt reads as a call to adhere to the economic burden being forced upon Singaporeans, not by the government but by the current economic situation. Singaporeans can change to meet the changing environment or perish. The choices, he claims, for Singaporeans are limited and it is the economy and not the current government that is forcing the Singaporean hand. It IS the current PAP government that is forcing the people of Singapore to adhere to the demands of advanced capitalism. There are other choices that PM Goh did not outline.
The wages of Singaporeans most be more flexible simply because Singaporeans are now competing with countries such as India and China where wages are a lot lower. If the wages are too high then investors will be put off. Therefore wages most and will come down.
There is another solution.
Campaign for the wages in India and China to be increased to above the poverty line. Join others battling against the G7 and the International Monetary Found. Globalisation is putting wage earner against wage earner. Multi-national corporations are shifting the arena of competition from amongst themselves to the wage earners. The risks of advanced capitalism are being fostered on to the shoulders of the poor. And that includes the wage earners of Singapore. The PAP has abandoned the workers to the multi-national corporations. And removed their human right of freedom of speech.
Shame on you and me, who see and do nothing.
20 Aug 2003
During the recent National Day rally speech by Goh a few points came to mind. The first thing that struck me as odd was that the Rally of a particular political party is heralded as the nation’s speech. Surely it should be classified as the Peoples Action Party Rally. This then led to further ideas. In particular, that the PAP has assigned itself as 'Singapore', and as 'the' Singaporean Government, past present and future. Now the electoral system maybe gerrymandered in such away as to ensure this, and the national media structured and controlled in such away as to ensure this, as well as housing development board upgrades and the judiciary, trade unions and academia aligned closely to the PAP. What startles me is the audacity of any Political Party in any country to so self assuredly state that they no longer internally elect the next leader of the party but the next Prime Minister. They state it loudly and clearly with no possibility of rebuttal or counter claim. However the ability to predict the future of the Singaporean economy and future mindset of Singaporeans eludes them and I know why.
14 Aug 2003
A debate infers that there is at least two sides to the arguement or discourse that is taking place. In Singapore there is no debate. It is merely a matter of everyone abidding by the dictate of the overly paid government dupes. The opposing argument is unheard, and not because of censorship, but because its arguments is not explicit, but rather the argument is the mode of communication. Globalisation.
The use of ideological discourse is so common and engrained that people are currently unable to spot it. A prime minister that talks of past, present and future in almost every speech is trying to foster a sense of continuation of a particular cultural outlook that he senses may no longer be viable. It is no longer viable because Singapore and Singaporeans are no longer at the helm of the ship. Globalisation is now a ubiquitous force, in all spheres of culture and social institutions, from family to the work place. The leaders of Singapore are debating with an opposing ideology that is unvoiced.
This opposing ideology is at the core of the forces that are effecting Singapore. These forces are present in all forms of external media that are permitted into the country, to silence the oppositonal ideology would mean closing the internet down and banning the sale of all literature and media from outside. Singapore is caught in a bind, or rather 'check mate'.
Cracking down on the internet, will undermine their position as the economic hub, simply because that economic hub is dependent on the internet. So they must seek out other ways of ensuring that the unvoiced remains as such.
A possible return to the methods of the 1960's may be immenant. However, Singapore is no longer the same country and the old methods are not applicable to a global age, dominated by global communication. A lot has changed in 40 years. Some idealists believe that the internet can be a force for the spread of democracy, I am ONE.
13 Aug 2003
Workers KNOW their pay packets will shrink
Singaporean workers are bracing themselves for changes in their pay packets, as the government takes increasingly painful measures to help the economy. These measures only appear to be painful to the lower paid workers while those in government continue to earn salaries that are in excess of their American counterparts.Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (one of those earning excessive wages)warned that wage reforms were necessary in order for the city state to fend off fierce competition from emerging economies.
"Wage restructuring is painful medicine, but it will make our economy healthier and fitter," said Mr Lee said. Scepticism prevails that the government has now been shown to be purely reliant on the American economy. A recent free trade deal with the US, will many feel, led to increased competition within the domestic market.
But he denied the widely-held belief that wage reforms would mean smaller pay packets. Since when did your boss introduce a pay change that insured that you would earn more money?
"Wage restructuring does not mean an across the board wage cut... it means linking workers' pay more closely with their performance, making it depend less on seniority," he explained. It will not be a pay cut accross the board, merely a pay cut for those at the the lower end of the scale. If all pay in Singapore was linked to performance then the Members of Parliment would owe the people money. The role of the Members of Parliament in Singapore is that of the nodding dog in the back seat of a ford escort. Question time resembles that of a 'love-in', but without the mind altering substances.
Singapore is losing ground as a manufacturing hub, as India and China emerge as the new Asian hotspots for foreign investment. It is reported that Singapore is itself investing heavily in China, thereby fueling the overseas competition.
And the economy, once one of the region's richest, has suffered a series of setbacks.
The recent Sars epidemic caused the economy to contract by 4.2% between April and June, following a severe recession in 2001. So tackle the cause of the SARS outbreak rather than the effect.
And unemployment is stubbornly high at 4.5% and expected to rise further still. This figure is highly dubious. Recently two academics were lambasted for stating that the new jobs that were being created were being given to foreigners. They were forced to remove this claim a few days after it had been published.
The statement about wage reforms came at a speech to celebrate the state's 38th birthday.
In a televised speech, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced the government was further slashing its economic growth forecast this year to between zero and 1%.
But he also promised that things would pick-up next year. Promising you the earth and unable to deliver the goods. Only if the American economy picks up next year.
"We have lowered taxes and fees, and will continue to do so to meet the competition... if we make these adjustments, we will have a clear start when business conditions pick up," he said. They may have lowered the business tax and fees, but these reductions have not been placed on the shoulders of those top earners who can afford the increase. The government has consistently increased Goods Services Tax and allowed state afiliated transport operators to increase prices for the last two years, which affects those least able to cope.
"We will not just cope, we will soar again," he vowed. I am quite sure that he hasn't been eating maggie mee for the last 12 months.
12 Aug 2003
In Singapore the locals seem very keen to generate their own excitement around events that other countries tend to avoid. Or are they possibly trying to emulate that other nationalistic and patriotic country, known as the U. S. of A.
The speeches and images concentrated on the recent out-break of SARS and how Singapore has vanquished this un-seeable and deadly enemy.
For 38 years now the PAP has been trying engender a sense of Singaporean-ness within its loyal subjects. National identity is not something that is fixed and rigid but is fluid and changing so I imagine these national day parades will continue into the unforeseeable future. This attempt at creating a sense of nationalism is in direct contradiction to the more powerful social force of globalisation that has been shaping the Singaporean psyche for the last 20 years. American created pulp bombards Singaporeans. Pulp that is apolitical in nature, yet the underlying themes of shows such as 'Friends' have been quietly chipping away at prejudices and stereotypes in Singapore.
The Singaporean approach to globalisation seems rather chaotic and schizophrenic. They wish to remain as the middleman in business affairs. They continually strive to be the 'gate-way to the East'. But this is also undermining any ideas or values that may have been unique to Singapore and Singaporeans. Globalisation is for a large part accepted for its economic influence. What with the recent signing of a free trade agreement with America. That globalisation is also affecting Singaporeans aspirations are just recently beginning to be accepted. The Prime Minister saying that 'Gays' could hold a high position, (as if there are not gay individuals within parliament) within the government, seemed to cement the acceptance of globalisation altering the inhabitant’s expectations.
One unwelcome aspect (for the PAP), however that may be gaining ground are calls for freedom of speech and the right of individuals to criticise the government. A recently published article by two economists was quickly lambasted by the government. The two economists claimed that a disproportionate percentage of new jobs were being given to foreigners rather than Singaporeans. With the reaction of a hungry lion, the PAP released their statistics that showed that the situation was the reverse. And the two economists had to withdraw their claims. A process we are not privy to.
My point is that any first year research student can tell you that regarding statistics as 'fact' is a grave error of judgement. Especially OFFICIAL STATISTICS. When confronted by any form of statistic, the first thing you do is look at who commissioned them. Thereby illuminating any BIAS, or political agenda. Official statistics are not unbiased but on many instances are the products of propaganda or ideological lies.
SARS was a very nice distraction from the economic position of many Singaporeans. Images of George Bush and Iraq spring to mind. Are they possibly trying to emulate that other nationalistic and patriotic country's attempt at distracting their inhabitants from the growing inequality between those at the top end of the pay scale and those at the lower end?, known as the U. S. of A.Or is the USA trying to emulate this despotic regime?
I may not agree with a call for communism but the following member of the Italian parliament and European Member of Parliament seems to be in agreement with me in terms of a democratic movement within the workplace. Fausto Bertinotti is a member of the Italian Refounded Communist Party, but lets not hold that against his opinion and call for social democracy in this dollar controlled era.
Fausto is calling for a global call for democratization of work. Personally I feel that the only place I can have influence over is the organisation of which I am an integeral part.
Fausto is calling for a global call for democratization of work. Personally I feel that the only place I can have influence over is the organisation of which I am an integeral part.
5 Aug 2003
Subject: Lecturers who need grooming
Dear Mr Vice President
I am right now a part-time student studying in (Name Removed). I have been to the (removed) for a month now and my impression of the school is fairly good. I met great lecturers, both looks (not great but pleasant enough) as well as class professionalism. One is very interesting and motivating, one not too bad and the other two very boring. So long as they don't put us off in any way, we will continue to go for as many boring classes as well. Granted that we should be there to learn but it is also very true that we feel motivated when we see pleasant lecturers. Lecturers who look and smell unpleasant will put us off!
Some lecturers could be nice in the heart but certainly the smell together with the look that we see in them will also have effect on our desire to learn. When lecturers belge in a class, it can be totally disgusting especially when the lecturer is standing just next to us. Some lecturers have bad body odour which need some corrections, especially those overweight, including those not so overweight. I have seen about 5 or 6 fat lecturers although some are not my lecturers. One is a woman. They lack exercise. It is good for both their health and looks to go to (removed) down in (removed), 5 minutes from the (removed).
I read in the newspaper recently about staff development for the lecturers in this (removed). They should go for grooming classes. Pardon me for being so direct in my comments but it is my true feelings about the (removed). I hope the management will take care of the lecturers' health. The lecutrers (sic) will also project a better image of the school if they look good themselves. Realistically and true to my heart, I look forward to go to a class with a lecturer who is both pleasant to look at and great at lecturing. I truthfully admit that I have at least one at the moment. I hope to see more of them.
I thank you for listening to my true and direct feelings. Please do not take offence at my comments. I truthfully appreciate your attention to my mail. Thank you for your precious time.
Oh i appreciate this feedback...Management then demands that we take this b.s. seriously...
My response to all... see previosly submitted article below...