Results so positive, they had to relook NS study

Members of the Singapore Armed Forces during the march pass at the SAF Day Parade at Safti Military Institute on July 1, 2013. The primary mission for National Service is to instil discipline and values among the young, according to a new study on perceptions on the rite of passage.

SINGAPORE - Hearing stories from her two brothers was the closest she got to life in the army.

One was in the navy and the other was a commando.

But being part of the team for a study on Singaporeans' attitudes towards national service (NS) - a 46-year-old institution here - helped bring Institute of Policy Studies' (IPS) associate director Yang Wai Wai closer to Singaporeans' psyche about NS.

She was roped in to join IPS' senior research fellow Leong Chan-Hoong and senior research analyst Henry Ho Mun Wah in the study commissioned by the Committee to Strengthen National Service.

Madam Yang, who is in her 40s, said with a laugh: "I think Chan-Hoong roped me in because I was a woman. I think he kept trying to bounce ideas off me."

From the results of the study, conducted from July to September on 1,251 Singaporeans, both male and female, the trio found a "positive perception and support of NS".

Initially, they were so concerned about the possible scepticism towards the generally positive data that they had to relook their study.

But the "rigorous methodology" that they had adopted, following international standards as much as possible, set them at ease.

One thing which struck Madam Yang was that the younger NSmen - those who have not completed in-camp training - considered NS training to be safe.

Referring to the media spotlight on accidents and deaths of national servicemen, and netizens who were commenting on the online stories, the mother of a 16-year-old son said: "I was so surprised because we've been reading about it so much in the press.

"When we saw that, we were like, 'Oh, wait a minute, we have to go back and check.'"

LOUD MINORITY

Madam Yang added: "Maybe it just goes to show that sometimes, the online presence is the loud minority.

"But at the core, there is this trust in this institution, which is quite heartening for me as a mother," she added.

Another unexpected conclusion for the team was that one in almost 10 women said they were willing to serve the full two years of NS as a volunteer.

While "there is no reason to doubt their sincerity and willingness" given that the answers were strictly voluntary, Madam Yang pointed out: "But it's not possible to determine from the survey findings if they will actually carry out what they said they would do."

Her 13-year-old daughter's intention to serve NS also made her wonder if the women who gave a positive response really understood what NS was all about.

Said Madam Yang: "While my daughter is reading the papers, she will go, 'Of course women should serve NS! We've had talks in school. I'm definitely for it!'

"So I asked if she knew what NS entails, that there would be opportunity cost, and she's like, 'Yeah, sure!'

She added: "I was reflecting on her response. A lot of people would say that... But it's not a holiday camp."

Would you do national service?

MS CHERYL ANN CHONG 17, student at Singapore Polytechnic

Yes, I would. I believe that national service is an excellent platform for people of any gender to go through. I would want to discipline myself and put myself through difficult situations to challenge myself so that I will come out a better person.

 

ARCHARYA 20, intern at Asian Geographic

I would be willing. I think women are equally strong, if not stronger than men. Since we love to harp about equality, I'm sure we can show how tough we are too. Strong is sexy!

 

MS JOANNE CHIM 18, student at Singapore Polytechnic

Yes. I believe NS is something that can give women a chance to get a challenge out of life. But since NS is optional for women, I think we should be able to choose how long we get to serve.

 

MS KHAIRATUL AMIRAH KAHAR 19, Victoria Junior College graduate, waiting to enter university

No, because my time could be better put to use in either education or work.

 

MS EDITH RENEE HO 18, student at Temasek Polytechnic

I wouldn't, if it means women will be tied down with physical tests and trainings.

But if it's compulsory, then I don't mind. But only if the current NS system is revised, like removing reservist training completely.

fjieying@sph.com.sg


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SERVICES