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Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014

Speak up and be heard

The Straits Times | Eve Yap | Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014

IT auditor Kamal Kamari encourages his children Nadra (centre) and Khaizuran to discuss current affairs at home.

After the missing MH370 tragedy occurred, IT auditor Kamal Kamari, 40, got each of his four children, aged 11 to 16, to "give a theory based on facts" on what happened to the Malaysia Airlines flight.

Says his 41-year-old civil servant wife, Liza: "They speak their minds. We don't judge."

Their eldest son Khaizuran Kamal, 16, a St Joseph's Institution student, says attending speech and drama workshops when he was seven to 12 years old made him "comfortable in speaking up". He asked to stop the classes when he felt "I could take it on my own".

Discussing hot topics of the day among themselves in the family is vital and something the parents started when the children were in primary school. Being able to do so will impact the way they handle themselves in the boardroom in the future, says their dad.

He explains: "The top honcho of a corporation is usually a foreigner, not a Singaporean, because Singaporeans are not able to sell ideas to top management. So they are seen as not having the competence or inept.

"We have the brains but not the mouth."

He is clearly of the same opinion as Member of Parliament Hri Kumar Nair, who said in a Facebook post earlier this month that teenagers here are good at problem-solving but are "often let down by their standard of spoken English and a lack of confidence to persuade or articulate their views on their feet".

Most Singaporeans SundayLife! spoke to agree with the politician, who expressed the view following the release of the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment, in which local students emerged No. 1 worldwide in problem-solving.

But parents, students and educators are divided on whether the reticence stems from a lack of confidence or is a cultural or character trait.

Former drama teacher Joanne Poon, 39, recalls having to "incentivise the expression of views" for a theatre module class she was lecturing at the National Institute of Education in the late 2000s.

It was only after she assigned it 20 per cent of marks that some very shy students "offered their views non-stop".

Adds Ms Poon, now a housewife: "It could be a fear of being mocked or being seen as unintelligent. And they are unsure if their different views will cause them to be excluded from a social circle."

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