Thursday 31 May 2012

2012 Pre-U Seminar: Unemployment, recession top concerns of students

53% of 500 teens at Pre-U Seminar cite them as their biggest worries
By Matthias Chew & Stacey Chia, The Straits Times, 30 May 2012

BREAD-AND-BUTTER issues were topmost on the minds of participants at this year's Pre-University Seminar yesterday.

More than half - 53 per cent - of the 500 teenage students attending this year's edition of the annual event cited fears of unemployment and a potential economic recession as their biggest worries, trumping concerns over, for example, war and climate change.

The 53 per cent figure emerged at the close of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's three-hour keynote address to them, during which technology figured hugely.

In a departure from a traditional speech, he turned his talk into a lively interactive session by inviting his young, tech-savvy audience to respond to questions he lobbed at them.

As he made his points, he asked them about their aspirations and what they thought about Singapore's future, and they responded using their smartphones; the results of each poll flashed in real time on the screen behind him.

The students, hailing from polytechnics, junior colleges, Millennia Institute and Integrated Programme schools, will spend the next three days meeting political, community and industry leaders to discuss issues key to the future of Singapore.

Organised by the Ministry of Education and Millennia Institute, the seminar opened on Monday and is held at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Among the questions the students were asked by Mr Teo were: 'What are the ideal attributes you want to see in Singapore?', 'Where you would like to live?' and 'Are you optimistic about Singapore's future?'

Over 62 per cent of the students said they were optimistic about their future; 52 per cent said they were optimistic about their future here.

Mr Teo also flashed the responses that their peers had given to questions asked on social networking site Facebook in the run-up to the seminar.

Speaking to reporters later, he said he asked the questions on optimism because he wanted them to 'discover for themselves that life is not an escalator; you actually have to work to make your country better, you have to work hard to make your life better'.

When it was the students' turn to quiz him, they did not hold back.

In a session that overran its allotted time by an hour, they asked him questions that went beyond immediate material concerns to issues such as that of developing a sense of belonging to Singapore, the income divide and press freedom.

Mr Teo said he was happy with how the session went, and that he had seen the students' 'heart for Singapore'.

He added: 'Ultimately, if our young people have a well-founded optimism in our future, that bodes well for us.'

St Andrew's Junior College student Wong Cheng Yin, 17, felt the dialogue was an eye-opener.

She said: 'Today, I learnt that it's OK to be different. What the DPM was trying to say was it's OK to think different, dream different.'

DPM Teo answers...
DEPUTY Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean shared his insight with students on a wide range of topics, including the following:

Press freedom:

'Look at what's happening in the United Kingdom, in the United States, over in their press. It's controlled in a different way, with vested interests, interest groups and so on. They are not objective and they are not non-partisan.

'What we want to have in Singapore is a responsible media and a responsible media space where... we can have a reasonable discussion among Singaporeans, with each other, and come to a good outcome.'

On pursuing one's dreams:

'Listen to what your parents have to say, take it seriously, weigh it, but also understand that you should also be prepared to pursue your passions if you want to.'

On building a sense of identity with Singapore:

'When you do something to help build a place, you have a sense of ownership over it. If you're given something, you value it less than if you've built it.

'I think the whole process of building something is an important part of a sense of belonging.'

On whether city-states decline:

'Is it preordained that we will succeed? The answer is no. Is it preordained that a city-state must decline? I think the answer is also no. But whether it declines or remains a shining star really depends on you and what you decide to do with it.'

On Singaporeans who can adapt to being anywhere in the world:

'One of the dilemmas we have is that making you world-ready has also made you world-mobile. In fact, you can go and find your future anywhere in the world.

'But we also don't want to do the opposite - which is to limit the way you are educated so you can't go anywhere.

'I think that, in the end, what we do want to do is... continue to strive to make Singapore as vibrant and attractive a place for Singaporeans.'

Witty teens
By Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2012

THEY may be too young to vote, but teens this week showed that they knew a thing or two about politics.

When Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean asked students at a pre-university seminar at Nanyang Technological University what they would pledge to do better, some proved they were quite up to date with the latest events.

Their pledges, entered via their mobile phones and flashed in real time on a large screen, got a few chuckles.

One cheeky teen, recalling defeated Hougang candidate Desmond Choo's welfare programme, declared: 'I will fight to eat Hougang Teochew porridge!'

Another quoted Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing's maiden political speech last year, and jokingly implored fellow students to 'Put your hands up! Kee chiu kee chiu! (raise your hands) For Singapore!'

But the one that drew the loudest cheers was a simple, chest-thumping declaration: 'I'll fight for true democracy in Singapore!'

After fielding tricky queries from combative teens, Mr Teo gave a wry smile as he quipped: 'When I was 18, I disagreed with everybody and everything.'

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