The Full-Time National Serviceman: Concerns, Challenges And The Way Forward
A Discourse On National Service In Singapore
Since the inception of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and the corresponding introduction of conscription in Singapore, National Servicemen Full-time (NSF) – tasked with important roles and responsibilities – have proven to be important components of the organisation. Therefore, cognisant of their personal sacrifices and assorted contributions in the spirit of national defence, it is therefore imperative for a multitude of communication or feedback methodologies to be consistently administered, so that engagement efforts can yield meaningful discourse or improvements.
Keeping the aforementioned in mind, an online independent survey was designed with the following objectives.
- Emphasise the importance of engaging with our NSFs;
- Facilitate the Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) efforts to gather honest, unaltered perspectives from their NSFs;
- Allow NSF to be cognisant of their rights – without compromising their respective roles, responsibilities or revealing confidential information – to have their views heard and constructively discussed;
- Highlight key concerns suggested by NSFs, and thereafter explore relevant recommendations or solutions;
- Encourage MINDEF to expand the scope and relevance of such surveys, and also recognise the value of increased engagement with NSFs.
Responses were gathered exclusively through Google Documents. The survey ran from September 29, 2011 to October 12, 2011. Throughout these two weeks, the survey attracted a total of 259 responses from NSFs in Singapore. While it was intended for the survey to cover both quantitative and qualitative (through the comments box) aspects equally, less-than-satisfactory design of the questions may have compromised the former. An evaluation of the survey methodology will be expounded in the Limitations section of this discourse-report.
Out of the 259 respondents, 150 are men, 81 Specialists (including trainees), and 28 are Officers (including trainees). In addition, 190 are combat-fit personnel, while 69 are not.
“The relatively low levels of pride could be attributed to the changing mindsets and perceptions held by NSFs, and the result of specific negative experiences during their time in service“. Read the post (here).
- Contemplating The Length Of Service (here).
- NSF Welfare And Benefits (here).
- Leadership Opportunities For Personnel (here).
- Poor Management Of NSFs (here).
- Questioning Effectiveness Of Existing Audit Or Performance Indicators (here).
- Training School Improvements
1. The questions were catered primarily for NSFs in the SAF; therefore, it might not have been entirely applicable for NSFs in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) or the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
2. Quantitative questions could have been structured more professionally; at the moment, highlights of the survey came from the spontaneous open-ended replies provided by the NSFs.
In addition, the comparatively small sample size might not be substantial enough for a comprehensive, quantitative reflection-analysis for the survey.
3. An additional profile question could have been added to differentiate between first-year and second-year NSFs.
4. Given that some of the anecdotal expositions are narrative in nature, the events and people alluded to might be anomalies, and unfair – or inaccurate – general representations (unless the perspectives are consistently echoed). A more in-depth approach with NSFs might yield better observations and results.
1. The question, “what are some concerns that you would like MINDEF to look into”, provided respondents with a laundry list of factors, with no clear purpose. The responses could have been made more significant if respondents were asked to rank the concerns in order of priority.
2. The question, “are existing channels provided by your unit or MINDEF adequate for the articulation of feedback or comments”, might not have been specific or detailed enough. Insufficient explanations were provided on the definitions of what these “existing channels” might consist of.
Online Survey Bias
1. Results might have been affected by online survey bias. In particular, NSFs who deem that there is nothing wrong with the current system (those who are imbued with a greater sense of pride, or believe that existing feedback channels are adequate) would be less likely to participate in the survey.
Recommendations For Survey
1. With regard to the present survey, the SAF and MINDEF can consider expanding the scope of the outreach, after reviewing the existing questions. Questions can be worded more fluently, and the various quantitative aspects can be addressed.
2. Taking into consideration the usefulness of the qualitative responses, the organisations can analyse the validity of these concerns – especially the sentiments that have been repeatedly emphasised by soldiers from different backgrounds – and seek to refine their feedback channels. Poignant points must be given due attention and change should be ushered in if necessary.
Besides the implementation of changes wherever necessary, SAF and MINDEF can contemplate the employment of focus group discussions with NSFs to gather honest feedback about processes.
3. On a broader scale, with the available manpower and resources, SAF and MINDEF can track the progression of different Singaporean men – from varying backgrounds with dissimilar expectations – and get a sense of their perspectives before, during and after NS.
Conducted over a substantial period of time, the study will allow the respective administration to review frameworks more holistically, and address pertinent issues more convincingly.