July 02, 2010


Recently I asked an acquaintance, a regular at Cantonese opera shows, why he didn't take up singing. He was frank. 'How to learn? I don't recognize words' he said in Cantonese. It means he is illiterate.

Initially I was a bit surprised because he was not that old. Then I thought there could be a number of people like him. I guess it was about 45 years ago when he was of school-going age. Education was not compulsory then. Some parents did not send their children to school. Some had no money; a few thought it was not necessary for their children, especially girls, to have an education. But I believe many of these children later attended some adult classes. And those who managed to go to university were a fortunate lot.

That means there is still a group of older Singaporeans who could not read. So, teaching them to go online would be quite difficult. And I suppose certain upgrading programmes for workers would also not benefit them.

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