Unhappy Aussie School Kids vs Happy Singaporean School Kids

A beautiful mother of three from the Atlanta sent me a screenshot. It was a chart collated from the results of an international survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) I'll share it with you here.

Numerous discussions can be formed from the results but I will not be sharing my thoughts outside what isn't my business. So that will be narrowed down to Australia and Singapore, of course. Some background about the survey first. Happiness was ranked based on the percentage of students who agreed or disagreed with the statement “I feel happy at school.” Test scores were ranked based on the combined individual rankings of the students’ math, reading, and science scores.

Naturally I rubbed my eyes twice, with my fingers first then concentrated Dettol, when I saw the results: Australian and Singaporean kids are unhappy and sibei happy respectively in schools. So what went wrong here? Wait - I'll explain my reaction. All along I thought kids in Australia enjoy school way more than kids in Singapore do. After all, we all know the situation in the Singapore education system so let's not pretend there is nothing in something. Well, you will understand my point of view if you consider these people around my life:

  • I receive emails from Singaporeans regularly asking me how to get the hell out of Singapore because they didn't want to subject their kids through the education system.
  • The Duchess of the Brook brought her child to Perth and became a 陪读妈妈 in Perth and still reminded me of long-forgotten history how I "helped" her (don't think I did, really) by thanking me profusely with a touching text every end of the year since she arrived.
  • Ninja nurse gave me a resounding, "GOOD" when I asked how was Rei-i coping in school here after her abrupt move.
  • Thusara's charismatic young prince blended in so well in just a year that I spotted him joining in a game of cricket with strangers during an outing.
  • According to Jac, Chloe has been enjoying school. I observed that she speaks with an Aussie accent already. Hopefully she doesn't grow up to join a K-pop singing contest, come third and tell the media, "Though I was born in Singapore, I regard Australia as my home," because some Singaporeans will then blast her for her "fake accent." and disregard everything else she wants to say.   
  • Meefong told me they moved to give their children a holistic education.
  • Cedric, who just came last month or so, took the leap into the unknown for his son.
  • I can go on

So my life was all but a lie? These people must pay!

I've got to calm down. I don't want to walk around the town with a murderous look like I used to in Singapore. Let's give the Singaporean community in Perth the benefit of doubt and re-look into the survey done by OECD. We can't possibly assume validity of a survey just because it was conducted by some AMDK (Ang Mo Dua Ki) I am pretty sure OECD didn't send a team to survey a group of Singaporean students specifically. That would take years to complete the number of countries included in the study. Perhaps the task was delegated to the school staff. First thing first, was the survey sample taken from a particular school or from a number of random schools? For sure, I'd expect a big variance in the results from school to school. What do expect a child to say if he is surrounded by assholes compared to the elite child of the R-school with a future paved out all the way to a seat in the Parliament House?

I wondered what was the method of survey too. Was it a questionnaire or an interview?

I'd imagine a questionnaire survey to go this way in a Singapore school.
Teacher: Class, today we are going to do a survey. Please answer the question truthfully. Pupils who answered "Unhappy" will be interviewed by the school Principal for feedback.
and an interview process in a Singapore school to go this way;
Teacher: Li Chen, are you happy in school?
Li Chen: Uh, yes cher but...
Teacher: Ok thank you Li Chen. *shove* Belerin it's your turn!
Ha. That reminded me of my National Service days. Bear with me as I reminisce old times. During my days was end of "Army Cooks" and the earliest inception of the Singapore Food Industries (SFI) to the cookhouses of the army. I heard standards have since improved by leaps and bounds. That is great for my Singaporean brothers because I can't help but recall how the service folks behind the counter would slam their ladles on my plate with a smirk despite my pleas of, "Yandao, mai zhup tolong tolooooong.... ... (chee bye)"

Can you spot those assholes?
So I would be left with a PLATEFUL of tri-gravy consisting of loh zhup, kali zhup and transparent vegetable ooze swirling like a whirlpool on top of the badly prepared ingredients they called food. They reckoned since we chao recruits can camo our faces with crayons, that was their style to conceal their inferior products. Seperately, for someone who had 8 years of FnB experience in my pocket, they couldn't fool my eyes. I could trace the process whereby the steamed fish on Mondays would be converted to hard fried fish (shrunk in size because of the loss of moisture) on Wednesdays and curry fish (even smaller and harder) on Fridays. Now to the main point. Every now and then there would be a "survey day" for the SFI. Everyone who took a meal was supposed to take a plastic coin (probably recycled from their after-hours Mahjong games) and slot it into one of the options provided by rectangular steel box. The three options were "Good", "Satisfactory" and "Shitty" or "Spastic Food" or whatever it should be, my memory fails me.

On the first "Election Day", I slotted a coin into the last option like a boss. I was startled when a booming voice came, "Why you put that!" I looked up and saw a pair of bulging eyes starting at me. Seeing that he was a non-SAF staff, I replied, "Lousy what," and walked off, observing that pair of eyes still staring at me from the side of my eye. Make a smart guess how the guy behind me would have voted. Interestingly, on the second voting session a few good weeks (or months?) later, there was a Warrant (Messing?) Officer standing behind the steel poll box. I placed my coin in "Satisfactory." That was as far as I could push my conscience, in view of a smooth booking out process at the end of the week. So much for surveying. Why did they even bother? SFI would still win the tender even if they serve nuclear waste. It didn't help matters when I observed most of my platoon mates voting "Satisfactory". When I asked them what they thought of the food, nothing good came out of their mouths. If our soldiers did not even have the balls to voice out, how do you expect our school children to give a non-socially correct answer? If you think about it, these children are a reflection of ourselves. We were trained to be conformists right from the start. If you want to know the extent of our poison, just look at how Singaporeans sneered and jeered at the singing red haired girl who voiced her opinions. We are so deep into it that we do not even allow the others to be different just because we will not be.

You may want to accuse me for trying too hard to force my own beliefs here. I'll put things clear. There is absolutely no way children in Singapore are happier than the children in Australia in schools. There is no doubt about it at all, unless there is a significant difference in the definition of happiness on both sides. You have to observe both sides (not rely on hearsay) to understand why people like us (with the privilege to compare) will not give a moment of hesitation if we are asked the same questions. Or better, ask the young people who really mattered - the Singaporean kids who have been there, done that on both sides - to compare. I'll wager my last banana what their answers will be. Don't be tempted to take it up if you can't afford to lose yours.

No doubt, our MCYS would be happy to get hold of the OECD results. The media would gladly spread the love via their propaganda towers and my people will gulp it down. Yum, yum. We are too busy to stop for a second to think. When it comes to happiness, do we really need a survey? If we cannot even tell the difference between happiness and pain, it is no wonder our kids are jumping off buildings.


  1. brudder... I don't know what cookhouse you went to in NS... but Stagmont camp and Maju Camp cookhouses were pretty good leh.

    But Nee Soon camp cookhouse during recruit daze... that's where I would send POWs to extract information from them. Gitmo's waterboarding would seem like Swenson's ice cream after being force-fed SBMT concerntina wire noodles.

    1. I agree. During my reservist many years later, I saw a lot of improvement in that aspect. No more zhup slamming antics at least.

    2. If you are really really old like me you would have called it SBMT (although it is Nee Soon Camp but it includes a few secret secret units that you may have discovered on your recce in the area). May I assume you were the BTS generation?

      Imagine me watching an old Engrish movie The Virgin Soldiers (1969) when I saw the 2 cookhouses of SBMT and the NSO and officer mess in their original full glory even after 30 years since it was built in 1939.

      And I can't remember which other buildings are haunted other than 1 Bravo, 2 Jaguar, 2 Phantom plus the walking ghost of the medical centre (can hear walking along the corridor but never ever see the person).

      And of course you knew that the Japanese used the SBMT camp for many many things during the war.....

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydANJ5qLHG4 what do you think of this? 100% truth?

    1. Nix

      Let me intro you to the world of pushup bras and sports bra.....

      Sorry I cannot tahan her after 120 seconds

    2. Oh...uncle don't like hot young things eh?

    3. Yes she is young.

      Can't say she is hot

      And certainly prefer her not talking

      My mantra is that people should not have to keep talking to know they are breathing. Mobile smartphone may be the ultimate work of the devil........... in the hands of those without a pure heart.... (sorry but I do get emotional when I am seating next to some ABC who saw fit to talk on the phone in the airplane until the stewardess have to ask her to switch off the phone for the second time)

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    1. Hey hey bro

      Have guessed you come from an elite school, just like my neurotic couple friends at the blog next door. It was the way you all write, very satki, in contrast to my sub standard english but what do you expect from a poly-kia?

      I was suggesting in jest that the survey was rigged. In all seriousness I think they did the survey to their best effort to ensure maximum validity. But the sample group selected might have misrepresented the whole student population, as we can see it, by a mile.

    2. Sorry but in my time "Red Leaf" pens are branded pens

      Try no name pen with no see through body to tell you when the ink is running out. Actually had to rely on Dad to kapo some from his office :)

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. BMW?

      I take Mercs or Volvo every time whenever I go back.

      Some I have a choice: can be with TIBS or SBS

      I also often travel by Rolls-Royce

      (airplane engine)

  4. If I ask 100 people if they are happy and almost 80 say they are happy, then I will think they are a happy crowd (I can't even tell you if I can say I am happy 80% of the time)

    If I ask another group of 100 people if they are happy and almost 88 say yes, then I will think that they are also another happy crowd albeit with more happy people than the first group.


    Nix, your grand uncle Ah Kow XYZ (me) see bey woo eng this weekend and so decide to investigate from the horse's mouth: PISA website http://www.oecd.org/pisa/home/ looking at 2012 result since SG for so many years of PISA existance since 2003 never participate in the research program (and it is very strange since we all know how SG government love to compare SG with the rest of the OECD world)

    There are many interesting findings but for the benefit of the readers I will only highlight the social "how I feel" side of the study

    For the following questions the results of the PISA are:

    I feeling like an outsider at school A 85.2% S 83.7% disagree
    I make friends easily at school A 85.5%, S 88.4% agree
    I feel like I belong at school A 78.1%, 83.8% agree **
    I feel awkward and out of place in my school A 84.9%, S 83.3% disagree
    Other students seemed to like me A 91.5%, S 86.4% agree **
    I feeling lonely at school A 88.3%, S 84.4% disagree
    I feel happy at school A 79.7%, S 87.9% agree **
    Things are ideal in my school A 69.1%, S 75.2% agree **
    I am satisfied with my school A 78.9%, S 81.0% agree

    Trying hard at school will help me get a good job A 94.7%, 87.7% agree **
    Trying hard at school will help me get into a good college A 96.5%, S 97.0% agree
    I enjoy receiving good grades A 97.4%, S 98.1% agree
    Trying hard at school is important A 95.6%, S 97.1% agree

    School has done little to prepare me for adult life when I leave school A 75.2%, S 64.4% disagree **
    School has been a waste of time A 89.8%, S 89.4% disagree
    School has helped give me confidence to make decisions A 83.2%, S 84.8% agree
    School has taught me things which could be useful in a job A 90.1%, S 87.9% agree

    A = Australia, S = Singapore
    All students are 15 years old when questionnaire are completed
    ** denotes difference of at least 5%

    There are more students in SG who agree they are happy at school than in AU
    There are more students in SG who agree things are ideal in their school than in AU
    There are less students in SG who agree other students seemed to like me than in AU
    There are less students in SG who agree they feel like they belong at school than in AU
    There are less students in SG who agree trying hard at school will help them get a good job than in AU
    There are less students in SG who agree school has done little to prepare them for adult life when they leave school than in AU

    The rest has very little difference.

    Back in my time at school (and even in university) I would be happy to get 80% for all my subject (except in Maths since I am really really good at it)

    If 4 out of 5 people I meet in SG say they are happy with their life I would think I am having a dream since I never think that many SG are happy with their life the way they complain about every thing.

    And yet some idiot called Jake at http://www.buzzfeed.com/jakel11/where-in-the-world-you-can-find-the-best-schools-and-the-hap considers 80% happy response rate (like Australia) as UNHAPPY

    I would suggest everyone who knows everyone start posting the FACTS on his webpages via the above link

    1. BTW

      even though Uncle Ah Kow XYZ (me) has ROD long time ago before some of you are born (and seriously this bit is true) I have an opportunity to experience Reservist life (NS life for most of you) but imagine my shock sitting in a hired bus to go recce (where is the 3 -tonner from the MT line), visiting BMTC holiday resort at Tekong and experiencing the quality of the food at the cookhouse, not having to pick out small stones from the rice (seriously) is a nice change, and I do vote "happy" on voting day they since the SFI supervisor invariably learn that if he supply us with a nice Ice Cream with our lunch on voting day we will always kuai kuai happy to comply (cheaper for him to spend extra money on ice cream than writing report to his superiors explaining why so many unhappy place)

    2. Uncle Ah Kow,

      Yes, the Ice Cream works and I agree it was a cool trick.

    3. Thank you for the hard work sir. That was amazing digging into the data mines. Now how about advising pissed poor peasants like me how to get richer :D

    4. Take 1 thousand dollars, invest in the stock market using the super-duper method of "binary system" (just click on any ads with a popup screen you will learn more). When the trend is going up when you buy the stock, then you hold the stock until you make money. If the trend is going down before you buy the stock, then don't buy the stock.

      Shure teo wan. Dat's what the ang mo man saz on the pop up screen.

    5. In my dreams when I take the imaginary money from my imaginary bank after I win my imaginary millions jackpot

      Back in the early 1990s people can make easy money by applying for IPOs and paper stocks (with dividends by paper records) but late 1990s onwards too many junk stocks (with electronic dividend) and mickey mouse companies as well as too many people who can apply and deal with stocks thanks to the DBS/POSB atm application so much harder to piah more cash.

  5. My take on the survey is that Asian kids are world class at lying.

    Take a look at the survey again and relate it to the news reports you read about the rates of child suicides in Asian countries.

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    1. Thanx

      For all of the rest of you out there:

      if living in Singapore for more than 20 year haven't teach anything, let me say what I myself learn from Singapore:

      Never trust anything blindly, just because someone publish it (even if that someone is the SG government)
      Just because the picture look nice doesn't mean it is all true
      When something doesn't sound right, don't just anyhow say "it's not true", stand up and do something about it.

  7. surveys will always be surveys... statistical data relies heavily on the sampling and at best, it just depends on how "much" of the sampling data was (actually) used.

  8. There is a saying. There are 5 million people in Singapore with one opinion. There are 5 million people in Israel with 5million opinion. Something like that. Would you be surprised if you ask a couple of Singaporeans, kids or otherwise, if they are happy, majority will respond with the same it's all good, mate. The Aussie kids would be more likely to be able to speak their mind and tell you school is great or shit.

  9. Interesting saying since when Israel had 5 million people in the 1990s, Singapore only have 2.5 million (now 8 million and 5 million respectively).
    I do agree though that a 15 year old Aussie is more likely to speak their mind than a 15 year old SG

  10. hmmm the army food is getting very bad. so bad that only the pre-pack food is edible. such as pao and bread. other than that. its very unhealthy. The SFI food is also the same company who provide food to your SQ flights. yes. it taste bad bad bad and bad. superoily and salty, and too sweet for other food.

    so bad that for the 2 years my brother was in NS, he ORD 2 years ago, he insist mom to pack dinner, if not pack a weekend worth of confectionary bread and cake & dutch lady UHT milk pack to his locker.

    [end of OT]

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