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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  June 2011

Singapore reviewing foreign maids exam

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The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is conducting a full review of the written English proficiency test for foreign domestic workers (FDW).

It says the review has been under way since it received feedback on the matter over the past several months.

The test is under the spotlight following the death of a 26-year-old Indonesian who hanged herself after failing it three times in as many days.

Currently, would-be maids have to pass the test within three days of their arrival.

They are sent back home if they fail but are free to come back to Singapore to re-take the test.

The problem is that those sent home often have to worry about debts incurred with recruitment agencies, and without a job, they cannot pay up.

Singapore is the only country in Asia-Pacific where the test is compulsory.

On her Facebook page, MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, Denise Phua, said she had written an appeal to Manpower Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and he "promptly responded that he has already asked for a full review".

MediaCorp received a copy of Ms Phua's email to the minister.

In it, she wrote about how the current test was "borne out of good intent but the implementation needs fine tuning."

"It seems to be testing their English proficiency rather than their knowledge of their main duties as FDW. Good for MOM to revisit the competencies required of an FDW, knowing that not all employers themselves are proficient in English," wrote Ms Phua.

Ms Phua added the test should be revised to look at overall competencies of foreign domestic workers to do their jobs properly, for example, in looking after the elderly, disabled or children, and not just language proficiency.

"To be honest, had my domestic helpers who are outstanding, taken the test, I am not certain if they can do well or pass. These ladies should not have to incur loans, coming to look for work in vain. They should not have to suffer the stress and fear of 'exams'," wrote Ms Phua.

In a reply to MediaCorp, the MOM says it is reviewing the effectiveness of the test to ensure it remains relevant. This includes studying if the test should be completely abolished.

However, industry players are calling for the test to be abolished.

K. Jayaprema, president of the Association of Employment Agencies, said: "Many years ago when we used to have domestic helpers coming in, we used to have girls from Indonesia, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka.....

"Employers never really had a problem with communication. What happened was that when the girls came in, they seemed to settle in with the homes and they picked up the languages of the homes that they were working in.

"....English proficiency, I would say does not really play a very important role. It's the skills of the helper that every employer out there is interested in."

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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