Archive for July, 2010

Holland Or Netherlands?

I must admit I didn’t pay much attention to those countrys’ names until the recent football World Cup. It was also the first time in my life I bet on football (Singapore Pools) probably influenced by the prediction by that octopus Paul.

My World Cup 2010 bet slip that didn’t win hehe;

Credit : Singapore Pools

I first got startled by the Channel 8 news when it showed “Holland vs xxxxx”, then the next moment it showed “Netherlands vs xxxxx”.  My mind suddenly went ‘blank’ and quickly refleshed my mind to think if they meant the same country like what I’ve learnt in primary school then – Sri Lanka is the new name for Ceylon. I checked with my son who is in Sec.4 now (probably his teacher might have taught him), and he said he was not sure and his teachers have yet to touch on that….(maybe after World Cup final). I’m wondering why from the same source (Channel 8 in this case), 2 different names were used? Is Netherlands the new name for Holland like Sri Lanka?

A check on the 11 July 2010 (just before the World Cup final) Sunday Times;

Credits : Singapore Press Holdings

As you can see, even on the same page – Netherlands and Holland, 2 different names, were used! Now check the Singapore Pools website;

Credit : Singapore Pools

It stated Holland instead of Netherlands, which is the same as my bet slip shown above.

First thing to verify is – Do Holland and Netherlands mean the same country? Second thing – when do we use Holland and when to use Netherlands?

OK, first thing first – very simple : Holland and Netherlands mean the same country. Most of us use Holland to refer to Netherlands as a whole but in actual fact, Holland comprises of North Holland and South Holland which are the 2 of the the 12 provinces in Netherlands. So to be more precise, Netherlands is the country’s name and Holland is the province’s name. Now the name Holland and Netherlands are used interchangeably without one realising they are referring to the same (at least to some people like me). Now after knowing the truth, I would preferred to use Netherlands when I’m referring to the whole country.

So have I forgotten what my teacher taught me? A check with my primary school Geography texbook “New Primary Geography For Singapore” in 1971;

Credit : McGraw Hill Far Eastern Publishers (S) Ltd

Yes I was taught Netherlands at that time but I don’t remember why I wrote the word “Holland” in bracket.

To add to the confusion, Netherlands is usually referred to as “荷兰” (Holland) in Chinese. Very seldom you can hear one said “尼德兰王国” (Netherlands) – and this is very true as I’ve asked my parents and both answered me 荷兰 is the country’s name. But one thing they told me that I’m not aware of is Holland was also known as “低地国” in the past. This simply means “Low Country”, but why? This is because geographically, Netherlands is a low-lying country and thus in Dutch (the language of Netherlands) “Nederland” means “Low Land” literally. So how “low” is it – 27% of it lies below sea level and the average elevation for the whole nation is only 11 meters above sea level.

This is confirmed by my son’s Sec.1 Atlas book;

Credit : Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd 2002

Maybe we should learn from the Netherlands on how to prevent flood and build better drainage system (OK maybe our Marina Barrage pumps already from Netherlands, right?). Flood control and land reclamation have been ongoing in Netherlands and they are among the world’s leading experts in hydraulic engineering.

So “Netherlands” in dutch is “Nederland”. One of the best ways to learn about a country is via stamps. I took a look at my stamps and realised that I only have Nederland stamps and not Holland stamps;

Now where the name “Holland” comes from? The name Holland ultimately stems from the term ‘holt land’ which means ‘wooded land’. Do take note of another incorrect, fake etymology holds that it is derived from ‘hol land’ (‘hollow land’), inspired by the low-lying geography of the region. In the past, two-third of Holland’s land lay below sea level and made up mostly of mud flats and shallows, salt marshes, blackish lakes, and flood banks, and also with patches of “woodland” (“Holt Land”).

The purpose of this post is not to go into detail history of Netherlands but just a very brief explanation why the confusion on the word “Holland” and “Netherlands”. But for those who are keen to read more about Netherlands, here is a very good read “A Brief History of Netherlands“.

From the 10th to 16th century, Holland was a county ruled by the Count of Holland. After independence around circa 1581-1795, Holland became a province of the then Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. By the 17th century, Holland had risen to become a maritime and economic power, dominating the other provinces. Colonies and trading posts were established all over the world.  The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch, was established in 1602, when the States-Generarl of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. This will lead to my next post…a very interesting one…

Thus we can see that the term “Holland” is more popularly used than “Netherlands” because most traders were from the Holland province in the past. Holland was the richest and most powerful province then.

What my father wrote;

“Beggars must not be choosers” or “Beggars cannot be choosers”

Secondary School Education Over Time

Most of you must be wondering why I’ve not been posting for a long time…about 1 month plus. I’ve been very very busy studying my son’s textbooks, papers and ‘googling’ online. He did badly in his Combined Humanities subject in his Prelim 1 Exam recently. His Combined Humanities subjects consist of Social Studies and History. Whenever I asked him to tell me about each chapter that he had read, he can briefly tell me about it but I don’t understand why he did badly then. Exam phobia? But he did fairly well for the other subjects. So what goes wrong? I spent over a month during the June school holidays to find out why. Read on to find out …

I was from the Class of 1978 in Victoria School. What I meant was I completed Sec. 4 in 1978. 32 years now, my son is from the Class of 2010 of the same school (though the school is now at Siglap Link). Let’s see how Secondary School education had changed over 32 years.

I was in the Afternoon Session (12.30pm to 5pm, don’t really remember the actual time) from Sec.1 to Sec.3 and Morning Session (7.30pm to 12.00pm, sorry don’t really remember) for those from Sec.4 to Pre.U 2. I had my  lunch daily at home since school time was fixed then and Saturday was usually for ECA (now CCA). We didn’t have those additional or make-up classes and it was rather straight forward then. Now my son’s timetable is not fixed daily as they are now Full-Day session. Most of the days, my son end his lesson around 2.15pm and on Thursday will be 1.40pm and Friday 1.05pm. Saturday is CCA if you have any. Sometimes those subject teachers would extend the lessons or have makeup lessons immediately after 2.15pm thus the students went on without lunch…

As there are no more Pre-U classes now, the school can have full-day session. When I was in secondary school, I only remember Catholic JC, Hwa Chong JC and National JC, then later SAJC. There were not many JCs then as most schools have Pre-U classes. A few months back I went for my son’s Sec.4 Meet-the-Parents session and the Principal briefed us on how the school prepared the students for their GCE ‘O’ level exam. In one of the slides, it showed that there are now 17 JCs! Of course the number of Polytechnics have also increased as compared to 2 (Singapore Poly and Ngee An Poly) only then.

The interesting point is that we used to have Pre-U classes in our Secondary School then and later JCs started to emerge. Then Pre-U classes disappeared when JCs took over. Now more and more Secondary Schools wanted to have Integrated Programs so that their best students can proceed straight into their affilated JC after their Sec.4 without taking the GCE ‘O’ Level exam, though the affilated JC is not in the same school compound. To me it’s like going to Pre-U in another building without taking the ‘O’ level.

Back to the Meet-The-Parents session, the Principal went on to tell us about the expected L1R5 to go into VJC, etc. My goodness, my time was much simpler and straight forward – the lesser points the better (Of course English and MT included).

My Sec.4 school results (There isn’t L1R5 during my time);

Now, if one will to choose JC, then the R5 must include Combined Humanities. So for those who wish to go JCs, they must do well in Combined Humanities. When I looked at the number of subjects he is taking for his ‘O’ Level – 8 compared to mine 7 only. Of course during my time when we mentioned we got 7 ‘O’ level credits, and it’s like big deal. Now some students are even taking 9 subjects with all As!

Now, my son’s Prelim 1 results (see the L1R5);

When we were in Sec.3 then, we were streamed into Science, Technical or Art Class. The better students usually will choose to go Science class and they would study Pure Science like Biology, Physics and Chemistry and also Additional Maths. As I was not keen to go to Pre-U then because of General Paper, I choose to go to Technical Stream. I took Science which comprised of Physics, Chemistry and Biology 3-in-1 textbook (General Science) in lower secondary and Physical Science (Physic and Chemistry only) in upper secondary.

My General Science Sec.1 textbook in 1975;

Credit : McGraw-Hill FEP (S) Ltd

My son also took the same 3-in-1 Science in lower secondary though the textbook was Science Adventure but Pure Science for upper secondary. Though each Biology, Physics and Chemistry textbook can be used for 2 years (sec.3 and 4), it also means that each textbook is very thick and the students have to carry them all in their school bag if they have all the 3 subjects on the same day.

My son’s Sec.1 Science Adventure textbook;

Credit : Marshall Cavendish

It was easy to understand then when I looked at my Sec.1 Science textbook contents – simply divided into Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

The contents of my Sec.1 Science textbook;

Above 2 Credits : McGraw-Hill FEP (S) Ltd

While my son’s Sec.1 Science textbook contents are divided into 5 main themes (similar to their Primary School Science) – Measurement, Diversity, Models & Systems, Energy and Interaction. What I understand Measurement, Energy and Interaction are basically Physics, Diversity is Chemistry and Models and Systems are Biology.

My son’s Sec.1 Science textbook contents;

Above 2 Credits : Marshall Cavendish

But look how detail they go into for Sec.1 Biology now – Cells – Structure, Function and Organisation, Photosynthesis, Respiration, etc…

They are taught how do plant cells differ from animal cells in Sec.1 now;

Credit :  Marshall Cavendish

I must admit what I had learnt in Sec.1 Science then was rather brief compared to now. For example what I had studied in Sec.1 Science – Biology was taught in my Pri.5 daughter Science – Cycles….

My Sec.1 Science – Biology topic on Fertilisation in 1975;

Credit : McGraw-Hill FEP (S) Ltd

My Pri.5 daugther Science – Cycles topic on Fertilisation in 2010;

Credit : Marshall Cavendish

So what is left to be taught in Sec.1 now except to dwell deeper into cells, haha. In fact I don’t quite understand why some schools only allow their Sec.3 and 4 to take only Pure Biology, Physics and Chemistry as individual subjects. The contents taught now are like what were taught in Pre-U then.

So what subjects did I took in lower secondary in 1975 and 1976? English, Literature, History, Geography, E.Maths, General Science, Chinese, Art and Technical Drawing (Art and Technical Drawing non exam.) were taught in sec.1 and 2 but National Language (Malay) was only taught in sec.1. Luckily I did rather well in sec.2, I was posted to 3T1 in sec.3 and the 7 subjects were English, E.Maths, A.Maths, Physical Science, Chinese, Technical Drawing and Basic Electricity / Electronics.

What my son took in sec.1 and 2 : English, Chinese, Maths, Science, Geography, History, Literature, Design & Technology, Home Economics, Visual Arts, Civics and Moral Education, Physical Education and Project Work. 13 subjects and all are examinabled. Though the subject name Design & Technology sounds good but my son can’t even do a simply Isometric or Orthographic Drawing after 2 years. As for Home Economics, I really doubt his teacher can cook better than me…hm…..or even thread a needle faster than me…What surprises me was they even have to study the theory of Physical Education. As for Project Work, as usual, they were not taught how to use the computer softwares but were expected to know by themselves (eg. Video Editing software like Adobe Premiere, etc.).

Another interesting subject to highlight the differences is History. I only managed to find my Sec.1 History textbook (New Secondary Histories), so I can’t compared the Sec.2 to 4. We started learning from the Early Man (Prehistoric Man) to History on Mesopotamia (Is it Middle East, not sure), Egypt, India, China, Phoenicians and Jews, Greece, Rome. The Rise of Christianity, Buddhism and early India empires, Chinese Empires, Prehistoric SEA, Early Kindoms of SEA and the Byzantine Empire. Well, look like quite a lot to study right?

Here is my Sec.1 History textbook;

Credit : Longman Malaysia Sdn. Berhad

My son Sec.1 History textbook;

Credit : Marshall Cavendish

And what was taught in his Sec.1 History then : Reconstructing the Past; Civilisations, Kingdoms and Empires – India, China, SEA; Government and Society – India, China, SEA, Organisation of Society like India Caste System and China Class System; Culture – India (Hinduism and Buddhism), China (Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Religion in China), SEA (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam), Scientific and Artistic Achievements – India, China, SEA; Contact and Interaction – India, China, SEA; Threats and Responses – India, China, SEA, External Threats. Basically the History of India, China and SEA are taught under different topics (units) now in my son’s History textbook. I find it rather complicated in this manner.

So in upper secondary sec.3 and 4, he took English, Chinese, A.Maths, E.Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Combined Humanities (all 8 subjects). But his Combined Humanities consists of both Social Studies and History which can be considered 2 different sub-subjects too. But this time the 3 Pure Science subjects are too much for me to coach him except the topics on Electricity in Physics.

As for Combined Humanities, it is even worst. Understanding the subjects but unable to write in the required format for SBQ (Source Based Questions) and SEQ (Structured Essay Questions) can guarantee you to fail like my son. Now I understand why my son didn’t do well for this Combined Humanities subject only as it’s really not an easy task to answer the SBQ in the required format using the skills like Inference, Inference with Purpose, Reliability, Comparison, etc…and also the SEQ.

Now you understand why I’m MIA (Missing In Action) for 1 month plus….and I’ve yet to start reading the History textbook. And now when I take a peep at my own ‘O’ level cert., I realised my L1R5 is not too good either. I only managed a L1R5 of 16;

Well my L1R5 is no good too, I shouldn’t expect too much from my son, right?

What my father wrote;

“It never rains but it pours.”


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July 2010