Sabtu, 28 September 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Bicycle-cam all the rage now


You have heard of dashboard cameras in cars. Now, it is the turn of the bicycle-cam.

Bikes fitted with video-recording devices are becoming an increasingly common sight on Singapore's roads.

Riders use them to gather evidence if they get into an accident – amid an apparent rise in the number of bicycle-related insurance claims.

Research fellow Dennis Cheong commutes by bike every day from his Toa Payoh home to his office in Buona Vista. 

He started using an old smartphone to record his journeys about six months ago. 

The 44-year-old fixes it to the rear of his bicycle and plans to put another handset on the front.

"This is to collect evidence, in case I need to show proof," he said. 

"If a car honks at me, I can play back the recording to find out why."

However, he said the most important thing was for cyclists to ride defensively, anticipate potential dangers and avoid them.

First Principal Financial chief executive Mohamed Salim has also mounted a portable camera on his bicycle. 

He said he started doing so for "security, in case something happens". 

Several of his cyclist friends have bought cameras for their bikes as well.

Mohamed – who manages BikInsurance, an insurance scheme for cyclists – started using a camera after his son was sideswiped by a car while riding on Nicoll Highway.

The 18-year-old suffered bruises, but the culprit was arrested after a bus driver who saw the accident offered to provide video footage from his vehicle.

Over the past few years, cycling has grown in popularity as a sport and a mode of transport.

At the same time, the number of accident claims involving bicycles appears to be rising. 

Insurer AIG handled 156 cases last year, more than double the 77 it dealt with in 2010.

Fatalities are also up slightly. Sixteen cyclists were killed on the road last year, compared with 15 in 2011.

Simon Wong, director of international sales for GoPro distributor Streamcast Asia, said the number of cameras sold had risen by 300% a year since 2011.

GoPro cameras are used by riders and these can be mounted on the helmet, body or bicycle.

Retiree George Wong, 58, who uses a GoPro occasionally, said: "It's a bit like a black box. 

"If you get out of an accident alive, it corroborates what you say." — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

NIE studying impact of private tution


The National Institute of Education (NIE) has launched three studies to answer key questions about the impact of private tuition here.

At the top of the list is whether tuition really improves students' grades or if it creates an unhealthy reliance which may make them worse.

The studies, which are expected to be completed by the end of next year, will also question if tutors help students understand content or if they merely drill children to be exam-smart.

Dr Shaljan Areepattamannil, who is heading the project, said he and his team will try to measure whether tuition does indeed raise scores in maths and English through the course of a year.

They will also look at tuition's effect on a pupil's motivation and interest in maths and English.

"Even if the study shows that tuition doesn't result in significant gains, parents and students may not be dissuaded. But for policymakers and educators, it may still be good to understand the impact and trends," he said.

At the same time, Dr Woo Huay Lit is heading a study on who the tutors are, and the types and quality of teaching in tuition centres.

Dr Trivina Kang's study, meanwhile, is looking at what parents expect from tuition, and the experiences of students here.

Research dean Lee Wing On said NIE embarked on the studies due to the high prevalence of tuition in Singapore.

He pointed to a study showing that between 1998 and 2008, tuition spending here doubled from S$410mil (RM1.05bil) to more than S$800mil (RM2.05bil).

"Besides the huge amount of money spent by parents, the tuition phenomenon is worth studying because it has repercussions at both the individual and national levels," he said.

"At the individual level, students can develop a strong reliance on their tutors and may pay less attention in class, knowing that their tutors will help them afterwards.

"At the national level, it has a bearing on our attempts to move away from the focus on exams towards a more holistic education.

"Extensive tuition also exacerbates social inequalities, which has become a pressing concern."

Lee, however, noted that tuition is hard to examine. There are many factors affecting academic achievement, and tutors vary in their methods and quality.

"From a research perspective, populations of students who do and do not receive tutoring cannot easily be compared because they are rarely uniform in other characteristics." 

The debate on tuition gained national prominence recently after Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah said in Parliament that "our education system is run on the basis that tuition is not necessary".

Many parents and students, however, insist that tuition is needed to maintain an edge. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Graduates struggle to find jobs


Korea's high educational attainment rate results in an overqualified workforce and shortage of skilled labour.

SEOUL: Having completed a bachelor's degree in business administration and psychology at a prestigious university and several internships in Korea and overseas, Ahn Ye-chan believed his future should be secure.

But the 27-year-old graduate's confidence is quickly fading in the face of a tight job market, which has forced him to lower his expectations.

At a recent job fair, he could not find one position that could fulfill his dream of working in international business.

"There are few entry-level positions available for foreign companies here. Now I am broadening my options and also trying to apply to some major domestic companies," he told The Korea Herald.

Ahn is the victim of a protracted slowdown, an industrial structure in which growth yields fewer jobs than before, and a disproportionally large number of university graduates in comparison to the new jobs available.

Amid a sluggish economy and lingering uncertainties, major companies are cutting down on spending and recruitment of new entry-level employees.

A survey of 916 companies by online job search site Incruit found that the entry-level openings at big firms are down 17.5% on-year.

A recent government report estimated that the nation's 30 largest public companies would hire about 1,200 new employees later this year, down 26% from 1,641 a year ago.

The dismal job market is likely to have the most serious impact on new graduates, like Ahn, who want a job straight out of college.

"I already feel a lot of pressure about getting a job soon and I don't want to fall behind," he said.

According to data by the Education Ministry, of 555,142 students who completed college and graduate school in August 2012 and in February this year, only 59.3% landed a job immediately after graduation, slightly fewer than the 59.5% the previous year.

The figures did not include graduates who work part-time at their colleges and pursue postgraduate degrees.

Some schools even reportedly use fake employment numbers for the annual assessment by the Education Ministry.

The ministry currently assesses the nation's 337 tertiary educational institutions each year.

And colleges ranked in the bottom 15% of the assessment are not able to receive financial support from the ministry the following year.

"One of the crucial assessment criteria is employment of graduates. To survive the assessment, some schools make drastic moves," a university worker said.

"The employment rate is a highly sensitive issue for all colleges here."

The government keeps adding jobs, but data show they tend to be low-paying, part-time or both. Still, many college graduates hold out for a job in state-run companies or government offices.

Last month, more than 126,000 people took a test for 1,400 entry-level positions at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, registering a record of 87.1 applicants for every vacancy.

"People say it's a miracle to pass the test in a first go. I expect it will take one or two years at least to pass the test. But I want to keep pursuing the job because it is stable and comes with social security and a retirement pension," a 25-year-old applicant told The Korea Herald.

Instead of looking for jobs, Park Tae-hoon, 25, a senior in Chinese language, launched his own business earlier this year.

"It seemed quite difficult to find a position that matches my major, so I decided to start my own business," he said.

He rented office space for free with support from the Seoul city government and managed to launch a news search website. But starting up isn't easy, he has found.

"The problem is not that I'm not making any money at the moment, but convincing people who think I started this because I couldn't find a job," he admitted.

The Education Ministry plans to strengthen entrepreneurship education for college students like Park and expand start-up infrastructure at universities.

For this, the ministry aims to raise the number of colleges offering entrepreneurship classes from the current 133 schools to 217 by 2017.

But critics still remain sceptical as young Koreans often avoid starting-up companies due to the high risks and negative social perception.

"(Compared to previous years) students are less interested in starting up a business as they don't like risk, and even if they show interest in a start-up, their family and friends try to dissuade them," said Chung Dae-yong, a professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at Soongsil University.

More than 65% of college graduates want a job at a major firm or state-run company, while only 2.3% of students said they wanted to work in small or medium-sized business after their graduation this year, according to a study by researcher Oh Ho-young of the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training.

"Many graduates opt to remain unemployed rather than working at small businesses, as major companies consider applicants' foreign language skills and their academic backgrounds over work experience," he noted in the study.

Oh also pointed out that the rise in the youth unemployment rate is in line with the country's increasing college attainment rate.

Nearly 71%, or 446,474, high school graduates went on to college this year, the highest proportion among advanced countries.

Yet only 50% of college graduates were employed full-time in 2013, creating problems such as an overqualified workforce, shortages of skilled labour and mismatches between job seekers and businesses.

"Too many students now go to college, and their expectation for future jobs is higher than ever. We need to tackle this structural problem, encourage students and create more jobs that don't need a college degree," he added.


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