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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        2  June  2011

Singapore test for maids is challenging

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Five out of 50 passed the recent test for Singapore maids.

That was the l result yesterday when the latest batch of newly arrived maids took the Foreign Domestic Worker Entry Test.

They must pass the test before they can work here, and are given three tries, failing which they must leave Singapore. But they can come back to retake the test.

Last Saturday, an Indonesian maid, who was said to be depressed after failing the test three times, tried to hang herself.

Every weekday, about 80 maids take the test at the Mountbatten office of Grace Management, which has been contracted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to administer the tests.

The test was introduced in 2005 by MOM to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of maidsin Singapore. In 2009, the questions were revised following an MOM review.

Maids have 30 minutes to answer 40 multiple choice questions in English. The questions test their understanding of English as well as in areas like household chores, budgeting and childcare.

At the centre yesterday, the mix of Indonesian, Filipino and Myanmar maids looked nervous while waiting for their results. Some were already crying while others clutched well-thumbed folders containing sheets of sample questions and answers that they had studied.

The results were out within half an hour and, according to the agents there, all except five maids failed. It was the second or third attempt for most.

MOM has said the passing rate for the test has consistently been 95 per cent. But agents said that based on what they have observed, the rate is much lower.

'Each day, at least half will fail,' said an agent who was at the centre. 'Some are taking the test for the 20th time. They will just keep trying because the cost is too much for them to give up.'

Filipino and Sri Lankan maids are repatriated if they fail and have to face the disappointment of families, who often have to sell their cattle or homes to pay for them to come here.

Most Indonesian maids are sent to Batam to be retrained before they take the ferry back - often at their own expense - to try again. Almost all owe at least $1,000 to their agents back home.

Myanmar maid Bawk Nu, 23, was one of the few who cleared the test yesterday. It was her first attempt. 'I was not confident of passing, I was so scared,' she said in a mix of English and Mandarin. 'I'm very happy I can be a maid now.'

Twenty employment agencies interviewed said the passing rates ranged from 60 percent for Myanmar and Indonesian maids to 90 percent for Filipinos.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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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.

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