Back to School

It is never too late to hit the books again, as four public officers tell Challenge. Armed with new skills, these motivated individuals have become better and more efficient at what they do.
“Learning is not a product of schooling, but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” - Albert Einstein

The Enforcer

Lim Chin Tiong

Ten foreign workers are living under the same roof in a small, filthy flat. An eyewitness lodges a complaint and Mr Lim Chin Tiong, 37, a Housing Enforcement Inspector with MOM appears at their doorstep to investigate. When he is done, he heads back to his office to churn out a report and takes necessary action to resolve the matter speedily.

But his day does not end there. Mr Lim is also pursuing a part-time Diploma course in Administration and Management at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

“I feel there’re many more skills I can pick up to expand my horizons”, said Mr Lim, who has a GCE A-Level certificate. “The government is also constantly emphasising the importance of lifelong learning.” So when the opportunity arose, he signed up for the Diploma course with his bosses’ blessings, becoming part of the pioneer batch of MOM staff to do so.

It is a fine balance between work, studies and family for Mr Lim. Sometimes, he even finds himself devoting longer hours to his school assignments than playing with his daughter. Fortunately, he is blessed with an understanding wife and colleagues. He has also been able to tap on flexible working arrangements at MOM to cope.

Mr Lim said, “I don’t want to be left behind in this ever-changing and dynamic society. As such, I would need to make sacrifices to keep up.”

Well said for a man whose mantra is that the “40s is the new 20s”.

The Science Student

Ong Bee Choo

Mdm Ong Bee Choo, 37, aspires to call herself an O-Level holder one day. She has taken the first step by pursuing courses recommended by her employer, Casuarina Primary School. She also recently completed the Workforce Development Agency Career Readiness Certificate at Civil Service College during the school holidays.

“During the course, I learnt about time management, problem solving, customer management, and computing skills. It has helped me become more confident and I am given more responsibilities now,” said Mdm Ong.

Before, Mdm Ong used to do stock check and data entry by hand. After attending the course, she is now able complete her work with Excel.

The Science Lab Assistant certainly enjoys her work. She sees it as an opportunity to learn something new every day. “When I am in doubt about how or what apparatus to set up, I turn to books or surf the Internet to help me. I also approach my HOD (Head of Department), Miss Joyce Soon, and she will show me how to do it.”

What keeps Mdm Ong staying positive? “I believe in the Chinese saying, 活到 老学到老(lifelong learning). For me, I will want to learn as much as I can. I can’t live my life with just a PSLE certificate to my name,” she said.

The Transformer

Jagdish Kaur

Mrs Jagdish Kaur, an Assistant Executive in the Transformation Department (PSD), found it hard to pick up her books and retrain her mind after nearly 20 years of having left school. Being a wife, mother, employee – and now a student in HR management – has been a challenging feat.

“I have to balance all aspects of my life – work, home and studies – and sometimes the stress really gets to me,” said Mrs Kaur, who is in her late 30s.

“I have to fetch my kids from school and then rush them home before going back to SIM (Singapore Institute of Management) for my discussions or lectures. I have to ensure that everything is sorted out before I can make time for my studies.”

Her husband has been Mrs Kaur’s pillar of strength. Fondly known as the “Iron Man” (as ironing is what he does best), he helps pick up the slack at home. Mrs Kaur said: “PSD has a culture that promotes upgrading and learning for all staff. I’m grateful that I’m given the opportunity to embark on my studies through PSD’s scholarship.”

The new skills from school have given Mrs Kaur a leg-up at work. “I can understand and appreciate HR principles and terms better than before,” she explained. With a supportive family and employer, it is little wonder Mrs Kaur is scoring A’s and B’s at school.

The Web Whiz

Pang Poh Thiam

Ever heard of someone who likes studying because it is a challenge? Mr Pang Poh Thiam, 33, a MICA Information Officer currently posted to the Prime Minister’s Office, is one such individual. Despite already possessing a Bachelor of Arts degree, Mr Pang went on to pursue a post-graduate diploma and, subsequently, a Masters degree in Mass Communications, sponsored by MICA.

“I like to feel challenged mentally,” he said. “Studying does that for me, especially after working for a long time, you start to get into a routine. In order to break out of that, I choose to study.”

Mr Pang has also picked up specialised communication skills that have helped him to plan and carry out public campaigns better.

What about those who feel that they are “too old” to study, because they are afraid of failure? According to Mr Pang, “failing is better than not even trying”.

“When you try, whether or not you make it, you know that you took the first step. There is also a learning lesson in that , ” said the officer, who credits his colleagues and supervisors for encouraging him to keep on learning.

    May 12, 2010
    Gurprit Kaur
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