Singapore National Day 2016


HAPPY NATIONAL DAY SINGAPORE!

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Another eventful year for Singapore as we cross into 51 years of statehood independence and what a journey it has been for Singapore. Our forefathers have toiled this land to make this country a safe and prosperous one – a place where everyone can live, work and play (Pokemon GO) safely.

I am no doubt happy to be a Singaporean, as much as Singaporeans continue to remain in search for our unique identity. The debate between Singlish and English continues, and what do we make out of the strict ethnicity quota that hasn’t changed much as well as battling the evils of what globalisation has led us to (indiscriminate racism on social media and acts of terrorism through proxy funders).

But beyond the constant search for our Singaporean identity and mine (being of mixed ethnicity can get extremely confusing), the safety and security that this country has provided us all remains at the forefront of envy among others in the world. That is something that we cannot take for granted. We continue to be a place that is safe for our young and old to walk the streets at night compared to most countries regionally, our education system continues to be extremely rigorous in producing scholars and we continue to be a place where everyone can have freedom of worship.

True that there is a lot more that we could work on to become better than what we are today – a better pace of living, better work-life balance and to be a more affordable place to live in with better living wages to enjoy some of the best things in life when we choose to retire.

But as the National Day Parade yesterday has shown, we frequently still do travel back in time to revisit our historical past. We are a country of people that remains sentimental at heart, fillial to our ancestors and elders, and that helps to keep us grounded to who we really are.

Of course, while there were comments about the Badang narrative that was potrayed, I felt that what was more important is that there were those of us who knew the story and were trying to put things right to it. We believe in the right to potray what is truthful. There were contentions about Badang having tattoos, being a bit too muscular and flying at that but none of us were arguing about the legitimacy of his story because we know and we understand that Badang did exist.

So, I am proud and I am happy that Singaporeans were stepping up to defend Badang’s authenticity (looks, storyline, etc) and I wish that more people would step up to talk more about the other stories that we have in Singapore because the Singapore narrative is so much more beyond Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore holds stories to so much more history that if one decides to venture out in search for it, you will be amazed at how much history there is (if you’re really keen on venturing out to these places and learning about them, give this a try Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek).

More than just stories about Singapore, the stories that one can discover will make you realize how connected we are to our closest neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and how much we actually share our history with theirs. It’s a lot like the prequel begins in Indonesia, then the plot thickens in Singapore, with the sequels in Malaysia.

But moving beyond our history and shared history, we need to create new stories, we need to create new heroes or have people stepping forward, we need to create new figures or have figures that we can all stand together behind and support. And I’m not talking about politicians or figures of state, but it’s the story of the everyday Ali, Muthu, Ah Tan or John that we can all connect with – the story of how a young Singaporean saves his country like the story of Hang Nadim, or the story of an immigrant who roots himself in Singapore and puts Singapore on the map like Badang.

We need this to move forward and to do that, we need to stop arguing endlessly over the small things, agree to disagree and start looking at the big picture, of how we are positioned in relation to the world and work together hand in hand, locals and foreigners, putting aside our differences but align our commonalities for what is most important to us all – and if you ask me what that could be, I’m guessing it’s HAPPINESS.

True to the words of Pak Zubir Said when he composed our National Anthem,

‘Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia’

Let us all, Singaporeans head towards happiness

because if we aren’t happy, then really, what do we want?

Eventful March and April


March was a really exciting month and seems like April is going to look like a very long one as well. Every Saturday in March, I saw at the judges table, on invitation from National University of Singapore’s Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Kebangsaan Singapura or better known as NUS PBMUKS, to judge quatrains for a Pesta Pantun competition.

This year was the competitions’ 20th anniversary and aside from the regular local teams/schools that took part to compete, this years’ competition was opened to teams from across the causeway, Malaysia, and what a competition it was.

Competition was tough and clearly, standards in language and delivery were different between the two countries.

Nevertheless, one thing remained in the world of quatrains, ENTERTAINMENT VALUE.

Quatrains, always had one thing that I enjoyed the most, was its’ ability to send out subtle messages in the most entertaining manner. Of course, some messages aren’t so subtle but take pot shots at the other.

These days, not many people speak in quatrains and well, while we may have lost a small part of our daily culture, I am also thankful that we no longer speak in quatrains except on certain occasions or otherwise, it’d be really tiring to get a message across and if you’re someone who is unable to read between the lines, quatrains will leave you lost.

Pesta Pantun

Pesta Pantun 2016 judges (seated) with NUS PBMUKS Pesta Pantun Adviser (Standing Left) and NUS PBMUKS President (Standing Right) and Vice President (Standing Centre)

Aside from Pesta Pantun, By Definition Pte Ltd was also busy judging for a Storytelling competition organised by Tiong Bahru Youth Executive Committee (YEC). So, that’s two events in March.

No, I couldn’t do it so got one of the #TeamByDef family members to do it instead!

Story Alive

Hidayah (in hijab) together with the winners and judges from Story Alive!

And just yesterday, in support of a collaborative effort between Chong Pang CC MAEC, Woodlands CC MAEC, and Woodlands Galaxy CC MAEC together with Masjid Darul Makmur and Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, we took up two booths at Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, the last standing kampong mosque in Singapore for a ‘Jom Balik Kampong’ event, selling cold drinks and our traditional games.

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Awesome friends volunteering their time to help out with the booth!

Response from the crowd was very encouraging as we marketed and sold many of our traditional game items, games that we usually conduct in schools. So yes, we are now also plying our wares to ensure that our traditional games can continue to be played even at home.

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A very sporting Grassroots Adviser, Amrin Amin, who decided that he’d give the Tapak Gajah a try in socks, watched on by fellow Grassroots Adviser, Khaw Boon Wan.

So, if you’re looking for traditional games to play at home, look no further.

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Tapak Gajah, Gasing Buluh (Bamboo Spinning Top), Batu Seremban, Yeh Yeh, Gasing and Lagu-Lagu Rakyat book all available for sale at the event and now, will be made available for public sales.

Of course, as these items are personally sourced out, we always keep a limited stock in supply. So, if you’re keen to get your hands on them, drop us an email (info@bydefinition.net) to order and once the games arrive, we’ll let you know!

And finally, I’m really excited for the end of the month.

From Pesta Pantun in Singapore to PISMA, a regional pantun competition in Melaka held over 4 days and yours truly has been invited as one of the judges. All praise to God really for the opportunity. Without Pesta Pantun, I don’t think I would have received the invite at all.

So, I’m really looking forward to the 5 teams from Singapore Polytechnic who will be representing Singapore! That’s happening from 29 April to 2nd May. And yes, I’ll be sourcing out for more traditional games in my travels.

I Have Touched Dogs


Note: The original posting of this was first published on my Facebook. This post here comes with a few additions.

The recent ‘I want to touch a dog’ event in Malaysia has stirred quite an interest with the Malaysian Islamic authorities. Islamic authorities are claiming that such an event was an insult to clerics and were seeking to misguide Malaysian Muslims.

What has long been seen as a taboo topic, suddenly opened and thrown out in the open and has gotten the Islamic community in both Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore split and divided on this discussion. While most of the robust discussions have remained on online platforms, it is clear that we are seeing once again, a rise in the number of Facebook clerics, who make their appearance to share their knowledge of Islam to others.

And there are clerics on both sides, debating the merits of why it was a good and bad event. (I’m curious to hear MUIS position on this) (I came across this link on MUIS website with regards to Guide Dogs but is applicable to all kinds of dogs nonetheless)

But at the end of the day, as a Muslim, I think it is more important to ask of the intention. Even when you commit a crime, in passing judgement, your intention plays a very important role towards how the sentence is passed.

So anyway, Malay-Muslims (have to emphasize on this because I only hear from Malay-Muslims) LOVE to say this, “yang penting nawaitu” (what is most important is the intention) and the organizer’s intention I believe was clear when he mentioned education – to help overcome their fear of dogs and bring Malaysians together to promote tolerance and understanding that goes beyond culture, race or religion’.

Even for myself here in Singapore, it’s been close to 2 years that I’ve had plans to organise a similar event but hasn’t quite had the capacity or time to stretch myself to organise one.

The event would have the following objectives:

  1. To educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike on what sertu is and how one performs the sertu (I’m sure many of us wouldn’t know how to because we believe it’s better to avoid than to go through the hassle)
  2. Muslims to get over their unfounded fear of dogs (Muslim parents here have a habit of saying that it’s Haram to touch a dog)
  3. To clear misconceptions and to educate Muslims and non-Muslims on Islam’s relationship with dogs

I, for one, grew up never being scared of dogs and wouldn’t keep my distance from them. I was raised in a family that loved animals and I also knew that our family leftover food were being fed to the dogs at my dad’s workplace because he would often collect the bones of the chicken we ate and leftover rice to be packed and given to the dogs every single morning when he went to work. (May God bless my dad for his loving soul)

While we won’t be keeping dogs at home because we may need to sertu the whole house, this doesn’t mean that we cannot learn to love these animals the same as how we love cats or hamsters or birds or rabbits. And while I’ve been told that there is no need for such an event because Muslims could always go to an animal shelter to show love and care as well as to touch the dogs, how many Muslims would actually bother to go to an animal shelter to visit much less volunteer and volunteer specifically to care for the dogs?

We just happen to live amongst people who keep dogs as pets and the likelihood of us meeting a dog daily is much higher than the chances of us going to the animal shelter to care for the dogs there.

If sertu is our concern, then all we need is just soil. If soil is a concern, then buy the sertu soap (can support a fellow brother’s business also).

While we continue to debate this issue in Singapore, I believe that my other Muslim friends in the Arabian peninsular and in Indonesia are probably puzzled because they have dogs living in their household and have been living with them for a very long time.

Yes, we can argue and debate based on mazhab but none of the mazhabs ever said that touching a dog is haram. I just have the opinion that I will do what I feel is just and right in how I deal with people and animals because at the end of the day, what really matter is, as how everyone puts it, “nawaitu” (intention).

Just like how when my students like to ask me if I’m Malay or Chinese, Muslim or Christian and all I’ll tell them is that I am of the human race and it doesn’t matter what religion I belong to because what matters more is whether or not I am a good person and whether or not I am a good teacher.

As for me, ‘I have touched dogs’.

Sermons – Keeping it Lighthearted


As a Muslim living in Singapore, I grew up attending secular school on the weekdays and madrasahs on my weekends or in the afternoons after secular school ends. And every Friday, like every other Muslim globally, I go to the masjid for my Friday prayers.

Friday prayers for me, have always been some sort of a holiday. When I was younger, Friday prayers meant leaving school earlier and coming back to school slightly later. When I began working, Friday prayers meant shorter working hours on Fridays, which transitioned perfectly into the weekend.

Friday prayers, is also significant for the poor because it is considered as their day of celebration. A day where the congregation will donate to those who beg outside the masjid. In this day and age, even in Singapore, we still have people who beg and while I question the legitimacy of some of those who beg because I have seen them use a mobile phone, speak impeccable English and travel in a car to beg, I’ll save that for another day.

Friday prayers is also not considered to be complete if one does not arrive early or in time to listen to the sermon. The sermon, is considered to be part of Friday prayers and no one is allowed to talk during this period of time. You are expected to listen to the stories and advise given by the Imam.

In Singapore, our sermons are written and prepared by Office of Mufti. All sermons across all masjids in Singapore will speak to you of the same story and same message, except for one masjid which is owned by the Johor Sultanate.

In the years that I’ve travelled and attended Friday prayers in the different masjids across different countries, I discovered that between the different countries, sermons or Friday prayers were conducted differently. In Brunei, before the commencement of Friday prayers or even the call for prayers, a tahfiz would be reciting verses of the Quran welcoming the congregation. In Malaysia, when the names of Prophet Muhammad’s sahabahs are called, the congregation do not echo praises for them. In Indonesia, it’s a bit different as well.

And across these Southeast Asian nations, the sermons were always delivered the same way, one where the tone was always serious and I thought that this was the standard way of how sermons were delivered globally until I went to the US. I was living in Irvine and there were only two places I go for my prayers, one was at the Islamic Center of Irvine and another was at the University of California, Irvine itself, where prayers were held in a space shared by all the other religious groups.

In both locations, the sermons were delivered differently.

The Islamic Center of Irvine delivered its sermon much like how it is in Singapore but with personal stories. Given the fact they are not subjected to the same standards of Singapore masjids, minus the personal stories, the atmosphere was pretty much the same although the people in attendance were attired differently and had a different take on sermons.

People were more comfortably dressed in whatever and however they want to worship God – in bermudas which covered below their knees and even in basketball jerseys (sleeveless).

But the sermons at the University of California, Irvine, were the ones that I enjoyed the most because they were lighthearted and were filled with personal stories of the Imams, who were mostly students. The student-led or alumni-led congregation resonated deeply with me on Islamic issues without forgetting the lessons of Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) life. Congregation were tickled at times by the stories that were shared and it made Islam as a religion seem friendlier compared to how it was always perceived as.

Most recently, I attended a Thanksgiving Mass at a Catholic Church here in Singapore. I thought that it was similar to my experience at the University of California, Irvine. The Bishop was sharing the stories from the Gospel and also included his own personal stories at the same time. This made the sermon extremely lighthearted and connected deeply with the congregation, myself included.

The messages delivered were by all coincidence, my personal reflections through my “Before I go to bed tonight”, but most importantly, the messages and the way the sermon was delivered was in-touch with personal and recent events that everyone could relate to.

I couldn’t help but feel that this was the missing piece in the way our sermons were being delivered in our masjids. The way our sermons are delivered gives the impression that much should be focused on death and life after death when instead, we should perhaps try to give better focus on how a Muslim should live our lives, without losing focus on what comes in death and life after death.

Or maybe our sermons already do so but as how I was once told, “It’s the messenger, not the message”.

Surely, it would be awesome if we could experience how Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) delivered his sermons and how he gave advise to people. Though we read and we know how he did it, never having experienced it, we wouldn’t know how it feels.

Haze? Show Must Go On!


Haze has taken its first casualty in Indonesia and at this time that I’m blogging, PSI stands at 400!

It’s the average over 3 hours. So, chances are, the actual reading could be much much higher, possibly 500?

Anyways, a lot of people in Singapore are asking for Ministry of Manpower to issue a STOP WORK order for the health and safety of all Singaporeans.

No doubt, it is hazardous BUT there are many implications attached to issuing such an order because when issued, it must be adhered to and will affect MANY THINGS.

  1. Because you can now go home, you think you can go home or go catch a movie? People working in Cinemas also get to go home lah. So does all the other restaurants and shops. That means, all shopping centres must close.
  2. If you happen to fall ill or there’s a crime, no Emergency Services (Police, Ambulance) will be attending because they are also entitled to go home. Not fair right if you get to go home because you were pushing for a STOP WORK order and they don’t get to go home? Clinics and Hospitals must also close. Patients hang out on their own lor.
  3. Closure of airport. Seletar Airport has already closed. If STOP WORK order is issued, Changi Airport must also cease operations. Hazardous mah!
  4. Aiya, basically, whole country must shut down.
  5. NEA also must stop working. CNA also stop working. So, the only shows you get to watch are those that have been scheduled. If nothing is scheduled, nothing to watch on tv lor.
  6. Hopefully your mobile phones and internet can still work then cause even they have to go home.

Billions of dollars will be lost when this STOP WORK order is issued.


So, let’s all work on managing this haze by keeping ourselves fit and healthy.

  1. Wear a Mask, preferably N95. Singa-sports Academy has some stock of masks for sale. It’s not N95 though.
  2. Stay Indoors.
  3. Eat and Drink Healthy! I’m doing this by ensuring I have my stock of raw honey. $15 per bottle (530grams), $40 for 3 bottles. Islandwide Delivery (Singapore). Limited supply.
Limited Supply of Raw Honey

Limited Supply of Raw Honey

Why Honey?

  1. “And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought” [Al-Quran 16:68-69]
  2. It’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties can help improve digestive system and help you stay healthy and fight disease.
  3. Its use for centuries is as a treatment for sore throats and coughs, and according to recent research, may in fact be as effective as many common cough medicines.
  4. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, honey not only soothes throats but can also kill certain bacteria that causes the infection.
  5. Honey mixed with cinnamon has been shown to revitalize the arteries and veins of the heart and reduce cholesterol in the blood by up to 10%. When taken on a regular basis, this honey-cinnamon mixture may reduce the risk of heart attacks and stop another from occurring in people who have already suffered one.
  6. The anti-inflammatory properties of raw honey will soothe lungs and the irritated airway.

Haze You Ever Wondered?


Before the haze episodes began slightly more than a decade ago, the weather never changed. Forests were still being burned to cultivate the land for the new season of crop cultivation, but it was never a problem to Singaporeans or Malaysians because it was small scale.

Fast forward to today.

Corporatization of the forests in Indonesia has occurred and is being managed by Singapore and Malaysian enterprises.

With corporatization, also means, large amounts of land purchased to meet the demands of the consumers (You and Me). Businesses exist because consumers exist.

To ensure profits remain healthy, overheads must be kept low.

So, here’s what led to the haze.

Consumers (You and Me) consume plenty of such products which require natural resources, in this case, Palm Oil.

Therefore, businesses adopt expansionary measures, and in order to keep cost low for consumers, they move operations to countries where resources (human and natural) are cheap. And to continuously ensure overheads are kept low, companies must only adopt the cheapest methods available to produce for the consumers. In this case, it’s the slash and burn method of forests to cultivate the land, and since they own large amounts of land, there’s more burning that occurs.

Unfortunately, because of wind conditions, the haze travels to affect nearby countries, who are also probably the main consumers of the end product.

To prevent the haze from occurring, companies must increase sale prices so that they have more money to invest in better equipment to avoid using traditional methods of crop/land cultivation. But when that happens, consumers aren’t willing to buy and will switch brands because the item has gotten too expensive.

The solution to this can be overcomed.

It is simple.

Consumers must cut down on their consumerist attitude. Driving down the demand, will drive down the supply. When there’s less supply, there’s less need to burn so much crops which leads to lesser or no haze at all.

In the meantime, just “Keep Calm and Carry On”

Now, this doesn’t just apply to this haze. It applies across all sectors of what you consume in excess.

It’s not companies greed but consumers greed which leads to a lot of issues.

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Living Your Dreams


Whenever you read about someone saying that you can and you should live your dreams, do you feel motivated by their story or do you just put it aside?

If you have always pushed aside such stories, then this is not for you to read.

For those who are still reading, you probably feel the same way I feel whenever I read about such stories.

I get inspired and motivated to live my dreams and like me, you probably begin to craft out some master plan of yours and then start sharing it with others, beginning within your loved ones.

And then, what happens?

1 – Your loved ones are the first ones to discourage you.

2 – Your loved ones begin pouring out their support for you.

I often receive the first one and have always received the first one. It’s discouraging but I wouldn’t blame my loved ones. They came from a poor family and lived a different dream (Dad was an orphan and as an adopted boy, had moved to Singapore to work and support his adopted family back home in Indonesia as a 13yr old till he cut ties with them. Mom was raised in a typical traditional Asian Malay family).

The first time my dreams hit a road block was when I was 10 years old when I asked my parents to send me to the Manchester United Youth Academy.

The second time was when I told my parents I wanted to start my own business after National Service.

The third was when I asked my parents if I could take a loan to go to flying school.

But through all these discouragements, thank god for me, I braved myself to ask my dad the one big question, “WHY?”

WHY discourage than to encourage?

I got my answer and it was a very simple answer. And the answer had nothing to do with stability, it had everything to do with ME as a person.

PERSEVERANCE, HUNGER & DETERMINATION.

That’s all he made clear to me and from then on, there was no turning back.

I haven’t looked back since and although I’m nowhere near from my dream of being a Millionaire Philanthropist Businessman, at least I know I’ve moved further away from where I would have still been if I hadn’t taken the big step.

The future is uncertain but something is for certain; Following what God has asked of his subjects and following Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnahs in conducting myself.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Albert Einstein, “Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds”

Not saying that everyone who doesn’t have great ideas is mediocre.

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By Definition Kuala Lumpur


I probably just had the best weekend of my business life.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I travelled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia early Saturday morning to catch the 0550hrs flight for a By Definition business meeting and I was back in Singapore early Monday morning at 0200hrs and then back at work by 0830hrs and I haven’t slept since till now.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

It’s crazy and it’s awesome because I did it with a friend of mine who wanted to tag along and I met up with my business associate in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. AND my business associate is someone whom I’ve NEVER MET before in real life.

In all instances, one could probably call it a Blind Date.

I’ve been on MANY blind dates throughout my life but this one’s even more exciting because I was travelling abroad and suddenly the journey I went on makes it seem that running a business both in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur at the same time IS POSSIBLE!

But I’ll leave you in suspense with the outcome and plans for the future in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

For now, I’ll just tell you that I had a really awesome time skate scooting around in Kuala Lumpur!

Skate Scoot with me?

Skate Scoot with me?

If you’d like to be kept up to date with what’s happening, do ‘Like’ By Definition Pte Ltd on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @ByDefinitionSG and on Instagram @ByDefinition.

Seems like, I really could have a @ByDefinitionMY account soon! 

Teaching Across the Border


A few days ago (two days ago to be exact), my company, By Definition Pte Ltd had conducted a programme outside of Singapore. It was the first time that we have received such an invitation to run a programme that we normally conduct in Singapore, outside of the country.

Milestone for progress indeed for a company that only just recently turned 2 years old.

I’m not going to talk about how I think we can call ourselves, “Best in Singapore and JB!”, a line made famous by the comedic character, Phua Chu Kang but rather, I want to share the experience of teaching in a school in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Having studied and taught in Singapore schools all my life, this was a new experience for me and my company, By Definition Pte Ltd.

We received the request and invitation about a month ago through a fellow batchmate of mine from the Ship for South East Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP) which I had been a Participating Youth in 2007 (This is why everyone should participate in an exchange programme!).

I didn’t have to think much and definitely would have taken up the invitation. It was an offer not to be missed!

Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tanjung Datuk Pengerang, Johor

Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tanjung Datuk Pengerang, Johor

The school was Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tanjung Datuk Pengerang Johor Bahru (Tanjung Datuk National Secondary School, Johor Bahru).

First thing I did was to research on how to get to that school.

The fastest way to get there is to travel by either:

  1. Bum Boat from Changi Village or
  2. Ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

BUT the bum boat will only leave if the maximum capacity of 12 passengers if filled up or as and when the boat pilot wants to leave. If there’s less than 12 passengers and you want to go, you’d have to pay for the remaining empty seats.

SO, that’s a NO-NO! Each person will cost you about $11. Cheap when you travel alone, but expensive when you have to pay for another 11 empty seats. 

Travel time is about 45mins – 1.5hrs by sea but it takes you directly to the Pengerang harbour, which is just minutes away from the school.

If you decide to take the ferry instead, there’s only TWO timings at which the ferry departs; 10:30hrs and 18:00hrs. 

My class is at 16:00hrs and I had a class earlier in the morning before that so there’s absolutely no way I could have gotten on the ferry.

Last thing for me to do is I could either ride my bike in and get myself lost and stranded for hours or call a cab OR if you were from SSEAYP, call your friend to help, which is why I’m ever so thankful I have met so many friends from this exchange programme.

The journey from the Malaysian Customs to the school via the fastest route takes you through 2 tolls and covers a distance of about 120-130km. Total time travelled is about 1.5hrs on a beautiful empty road.

I dare not think about how long it would have taken if there was heavy traffic.

Alternatively, one could also travel by bus to Kota Tinggi before switching to another bus to take you to Pengerang. The whole time travelled would take you about 4-5hrs.

So, let’s skip the journey and get to the class.

I was conducting a session to prepare the Debate team, Drama team and Public Speaker for a competition that they were taking part in, in ENGLISH! I thought I was going to teach them in Malay actually!

Teaching Malaysian Students!

Teaching Malaysian Students!

My friend cautioned and told me that I shouldn’t be too strict with them or they will be scared of me. I’m hardly scary and I’m hardly strict. Anyone who has seen me teach would probably say I’m very patient and extremely lenient, but I get the job done, and I get it done with happy faces (this is also probably why I was invited to give a talk on “Engaging Your Child, Successfully!” by a school that I taught at)

The students at this school were VERY DIFFERENT from students I’ve taught and classmates I grew up with in Secondary School.

They were extremely OBEDIENT, COOPERATIVE and PARTICIPATIVE and they were also pretty much very very silent. Didn’t talk that much and for any teacher teaching them, I think you’d probably agree to say that this is YOUR DREAM CLASS compared to the classes you teach in Singapore whereby your students will probably be talking so much, you end up trying to discipline them more than trying to teach. (Of course there are exceptions! Some teachers love noisy classes. I like it somewhat!)

The condition of the school is also very different from the schools we see in Singapore.

Buildings don’t look like it’s been maintained and the facilities would be best described as below-standard and probably wouldn’t pass the mark in Singapore BUT even with such amenities and facilities, this school was awarded ‘Best Secondary School outside of Johor Bahru town’!

It’s not the condition of the school and equipments that matter but the quality of the students that was developed and I would attribute the success of the school to the entire environment.

  1. Student:Teacher ratio per class (It was definitely less than 30!)
  2. Relaxed atmosphere (good view facing the sea)
  3. Natural environment surroundings (loads of trees)

I’m sure there’d be more things to attribute to like the type of occupation the parents are in. Either children of Towkays or Fishermen meaning that the students are able to relate what they learn in school in the textbooks to real life. 

What's not to love?

What’s not to love?

These are all important towards the development of a student because the personal experiences one is more often than not, the teacher. 

At the end of the day, I’m just glad that I was given this opportunity to teach outside of Singapore and I definitely look forward to more of such invitations.

Perhaps friends from Brunei, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Japan would like to extend an invitation to By Definition or Singa-sports Academy to conduct a programme in your school?

Let me know!

Judging Cakap Petah 2013


Today, is another great day!

I was judging at National University of Singapore’s (NUS), Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Kebangsaan Singapura (PBMUKS) ‘Cakap Petah’ competition together with Haryani Othman (local celebrity) and Guy Ghazali (lawyer).

‘Cakap Petah’ competition is a Public Speaking competition with a unique format.

Students are first given a theme to talk about for 3 minutes. This is given prior to the competition and students are given a week to prepare for this, after their workshop (which I had conducted).

A week before competition

A week before competition

The theme for this year was ‘C.I.T.A’, Capai Impian Tinggi Angkasa. A literal translation in English would be ‘Reach For Your Dreams As High As Outerspace’. Sounds quite fun to have it translated, literally.

Having completed their 3 minutes speech, participants are then asked to select a card which includes a Proverb or ‘Peribahasa’. They are then given a minute to think through about the meaning and how it relates to their dreams before coming back out again to deliver their 1 minute speech.

So, having said that, there were 9 schools competing this morning.

It was very exciting to watch the students take to the stage to deliver their 3 minute speech. There were a few really outstanding orators and there were also a few who were extremely nervous. Well, that would be expected, especially if it was your first time on stage delivering a speech and facing a large audience.

I remember the first time I stepped up on stage to perform was when I was in K2 taking on the role of ‘The Big Bad Wolf’. The next time I got up on stage was to sing a Mandarin song with the rest of my classmates in Primary 2. I remember these events very clearly as they are memorable to me.

My mom had sewn my Big Bad Wolf costume from scratch, complete with the tail. Thank god for having a mom who’s a seamstress!

And how could anyone forget singing a Mandarin song on stage?

BUT the first time I faced the audience for the first time in my life to orate as an individual, was when I was in Primary 4 in a story-telling competition.

I remember I told the story of Rabbit and the Hare and had came in first place. How I had rehearsed almost every single night to memorize the story and also how to move about to bring my story to life, just like how some of the participants this morning had done so.

WHICH IS WHY, I AM EXTREMELY PROUD OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!

The competition only allowed 3 winners and had there been another option, I would have wanted to give prizes for a few categories:

  • Most Props
  • Best-Dressed
  • Most Entertaining
  • Most Nervous
  • Most Awkward
  • Most Demure
  • Most Convicing

I could have easily given away those titles to every single one of them.

You don’t need to win an overall championship trophy, you just need to win something and it’s all in the name of fun and building up their self-confidence.

Perhaps, the organisers for the next ‘Cakap Petah’ might want to consider giving more prizes and changing the format to make it less stressful for the participants, we could have more entertainment prizes to be given away.

At the end of the day, I’m just passionate about kids and as how I teach in class, I like to be encouraging and motivating, and will try to find as many ways as possible to ensure everyone feels important and valued.

They just need that morale boost to know they have what it takes to do well in life 🙂

On a side-note, if your school/organisation is looking for Developmental/Cultural Programmes, you can contact me directly, abdillah@bydefinition.net. My company, By Definition Pte Ltd, conducts Developmental and Malay Cultural programmes to schools.

And if you are interested in something more Academic or Sports, do contact me at abdillah@singa-sports.com. My other company, Singa-sports Academy conducts Academic and Sports Mentoring programme. We have also been featured in BeritaonSuria and Berita Harian.