September 4, 2007

Singapore Malays/Muslims Financially Better Off

The Singapore government has released a report showing that the Malay/Muslim community here is improving in a number of key areas, especially with regard to personal finances and education. Some of the specific achievements mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech at Mendaki's 25th Anniversary Dinner include:

  • The percentage of school enrollment is almost 100%, the number of school dropouts has come down steadily, and educational outcomes have improved significantly. For example, in 1980 only one in six Malay students achieved five "O" level passes at the GCE "O" examinations. Today more than 60% do so, a fourfold increase. In the "Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study" (TIMMS), which compares achievements in Mathematics and Science among students of different countries, Malay students rank well above the international average.

  • More than 80% of Malay students now make it to post-secondary education, into the ITEs, polytechnics and pre-university centers. The community is on track to achieve its target of 90% entering post-secondary institutions by 2010. The percentage entering tertiary institutions – the polytechnics and universities – has also increased sharply from 1.3% in 1980 to 34% in 2005. More are making it to the universities – 5%, a ten-fold increase in 25 years. And in universities, more students are in professional and technical disciplines like Accounting, Engineering and Life Sciences.

  • There is a growing middle-class with increasing purchasing power. Malay/Muslims are holding higher-skilled and better-paying jobs. Incomes have correspondingly increased.

  • More Malay/Muslim households have upgraded to better housing. The vast majority (93%) own their own homes. The proportion living in HDB 4-room or larger flats and private properties have increased by more than 6 times (from 11% in 1980 to 71% in 2005). There has also been a steady increase in ownership of consumer durables, including cars, air-conditioners, PCs and handphones.

    While the Prime Minister noted the declining usage of drugs among Malays, he noted several concerns among social issues, including:

  • Dysfunctional families - This problem manifests itself in many ways: the rising divorce rates, the growing number of single parent households, and the unacceptably high number of teenage births and early marriages.

    I have been searching for a copy of the report online, but have not been able to find it just yet. In the meantime, here is a recent Channel News Asia report on the subject:

    More Malay/Muslim households financially better off: new report
    May Wong, Channel NewsAsia
    September 3, 2007

    SINGAPORE: Malay/Muslim households are now much better off financially compared to 25 years ago, with more owning luxury items such as cars, according to a new report tracking the progress of the Malay community since 1980.

    The 40-page study also showed a steady rise in the number of single-parent households.

    Out of every 1,000 Malay households, 70 were headed by single parents in 2005, compared to 47 in 1980.

    Number of births by single Malay women also increased from 5.9 to 9.3 per 10,000 female residents in 2005.

    For some Malays, education is the key to a better future.

    Irwan Shah, 27, graduated with first class honors in education about three months ago, and is now working as a teacher.

    He is an example of how the Malay/Muslim community has progressed.

    Irwan's parents are firm believers in the importance of education. And from all that he has received, Irwan is now going to pay it forward.

    “Currently I teach. So I hope that I can teach them, not just through academics but through other areas as well, like values, especially behavior and character. Without good character, it's no use to be an intellect,” he said.

    "I was glad that I was given the opportunity by Mendaki. When I was young, I had the tuition scheme. It started when I was in primary three, all the way till I was in (secondary) four. Then even when I entered polytechnic, I didn't come from a well-to-do family, they helped me by paying for my tuition fees."

    The report also showed that Malay/Muslims in the workforce have better education today compared to 25 years ago.

    In 1980, 19 per cent of Malay/Muslim workers have a secondary or higher education qualification. But in 2005, the number jumped to 70 per cent.

    The number of Malay/Muslims holding managerial or professional jobs also grew from seven per cent in 1980 to 21 per cent in 2005.

    Despite better education and better jobs, the community still faces social challenges such as dysfunctional families, increasing divorce rates and teenage pregnancies.

    Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said, "We've recognized this problem for a long time, since 2002. We've been evaluating the data. And therefore we've started a couple of programs dealing with teenagers and youths at risk. What we'll do now is to put all of these together on the drawing board and see whether there are gaps and if those gaps are critical and strategic to the community. We'd probably have to move our resources there.”

    He believed if the community puts in the same amount of efforts in tackling these issues as it does in overcoming the drug problems and education challenges, it will succeed.
    -- Channel News Asia

    dramamama said...

    Salam, JD:

    I didn't quite glow from pride from this news. I am actually quite tired of Malays being singled out for all these social problems - if it's not drugs, its teenagers gone wayward, and teenage pregnancies and abortions and dysfunctional families and - you get the picture.

    No matter how much progress has been made, the Malays will always be reminded of other problems that it has. But which race does not have those social problems?

    And I thought Dr Yaacob's comments on how the Malay organisations not equipped to handle these issues was like a slap on the face of those organisations' leaders, no?

    JDsg said...

    Wa 'alaikum salaam.

    Yes, I understand what you're saying. On the one hand, any speech by the PM will be newsworthy, even if it is for an organization's dinner; on the other hand, of course every community within a society has the same or similar problems. It's sort of like the recent incident of the NSman who went AWOL with his rifle and ammo, and was captured on Orchard Road. I hear of too many crimes committed by Malays, and was rather relieved to see that this guy was Chinese. (The "at least it's not one of us" sort of feeling.)

    But the speech also covered another topic I had discussed personally with a friend, that being whether there is a "quota" on the number of Malays entering into the universities. I found the thought odd and difficult to believe; however, if there is such a quota, then at least the numbers are going up, which is always a step in the right direction.

    I suspect that I'm a little more sensitive to these types of progress reports than most people. On various Internet forums, I've heard non-Muslims all too often castigate the ummah for various "failings," whether it's in terms of wealth, education, scientific knowledge, patents, and so forth. Of course, none of those will necessarily guarantee one a place in jannah, but I'd rather spread good news than bad.

    I don't recall seeing Dr. Yaacob's comments, so I won't comment on that right now.

    Anonymous said...

    Are the Singaporean "GCE O examinations" in anyway similar to the pre-GCSE British school-leaving examinations?

    (I know that Singapore is strongly British-influenced in other respects too - it's one of the few countries outside the British Isles to use the same electric plugs and sockets as Britain).

    JDsg said...

    Are the Singaporean "GCE O examinations" in anyway similar to the pre-GCSE British school-leaving examinations?

    I believe they are. The school I'm teaching at currently uses a British curriculum for A- and O-levels. Our tests come from EdExcel. The government schools here may be using the Cambridge tests; I'm not certain, although I think that's the case.

    (I know that Singapore is strongly British-influenced in other respects too - it's one of the few countries outside the British Isles to use the same electric plugs and sockets as Britain).

    I couldn't say about the electrical plugs and sockets, but there are quite a few British influences here, yes. (Up in Malaysia, too.) For me, as an American, it's been amusing to see all these Chinese, Malays and Indians act as wannabe Brits. :) You'd be surprised at the number of S'poreans who wear the English national football jersey here.

    Anonymous said...

    I couldn't say about the electrical plugs and sockets, but there are quite a few British influences here, yes. (Up in Malaysia, too.)

    Current British plugs are about 50mm square and 20mm thick, with three pins of rectangular cross-section - live in the bottom right, neutral in the bottom left and earth at the top. The earth pin is longer than the others (to push away the shutters on the other two pins) and the plug is internally fused. Does this sound familiar to you?

    Before the mid-1950s, Britain used unfused plugs with three round pins - I believe this plug design is still used in India...