Sunday 27 July 2014

How to help more NSmen pass IPPT: Learn from CPF

Dear Chief of Army,


I mean, good morning, sir!

Or good afternoon, sir!

I don’t know what time you’re reading this, sir!

You don’t know me. I “retired” from national service eight years ago after turning 40.

I just want to write you about the new Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) format you unveiled last week.

As you may know, the response has been mixed. I, too, am not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, as a former NSman, I feel cheated. Why didn’t you all introduce this “simpler” IPPT format earlier?

Like maybe 30 years ago, before I enlisted.

You know how much I suffered as a recruit because of the chin-ups?

I can still remember the rusty chin-up bar outside our barrack on Pulau Tekong.

And when I say “rusty”, I don’t mean like a nice even coat of rust.

I’m talking about gnarly barnacle-like growths of rust that cut into the palms of your hands as you gripped the bar to pull yourself up.

So the number of chin-ups you could do was determined not so much by your upper body strength but by how long you can endure the pain caused by the hand-eating rust barnacles.

And now you’re dropping chin-ups from the IPPT, along with the broad jump and the shuttle run.

Is that fair? Shouldn’t the younger generation suffer like we did?

On the other hand, as a father of a teenage boy who will be enlisting in a couple of years, I’m relieved he won’t have to suffer like I did.

And I want to thank you for that.

You’ve said that the main aim for the change in the IPPT was “to have a simpler format” that NSmen “can train for”.

What I take that to mean is that you’re sick of so many NSmen failing their IPPT.

(And NSmen are also sick of having to go for remedial training after failing their IPPT.)

The hope is that the new format will reduce the number. I have a suggestion to help reduce the number even further.

One problem many NSmen have with the IPPT is that the older they get, the harder it is to pass.

You have compensated for this by lowering the passing criteria for older NSmen.

But that may not be enough.

My suggestion is to make the IPPT like the Central Provident Fund.

No, I don’t mean organise a forum on the IPPT where the finance minister is interrogated by a blogger who is being sued for defamation by the prime minister.

And I also don’t mean make the IPPT scoring system so complex and difficult to understand like the CPF because you’ve already done that.

Kidding! The new IPPT scoring system is much easier to figure out than the CPF – but that’s what I want to change.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the new system, to pass the IPPT, you need a total of at least 51 points with at least one point from each of the three IPPT stations.

The maximum points you can get is 50 points from the 2.4km run and 25 points each from push-ups and sit-ups, making it a total of 100 points.

When you’re young, you’re likely to exceed 51 points easily.

But as you grow older, the points get harder to come by.

So my idea is that when you’re in your 20s, you can set aside a percentage of your excess IPPT points in what I shall call the Central Points Fund.

The purpose is to save these points to help you pass your IPPT in your old age.

And when I say old age, I mean after you hit 30.

So when you’re 30 years old, you can withdraw from the Central Points Fund – but only if you have reached the Minimum Sum to be set by a secret IPPT committee.

This will incentivise you to earn more IPPT points when you are in your 20s to ensure that you will reach the Minimum Sum (which will be raised every few years to keep up with inflation).

Of course, you don’t have to withdraw from your Central Points Fund after hitting 30 if you don’t need to.

In fact, you’re encouraged to leave your IPPT points in the Central Points Fund so that they can earn interest, which is pegged to the prevailing market rate.

This will also prevent you from squandering your points on gambling and a second family in Batam.

But rest assured that these are your IPPT points. The Government can’t take them away and invest them in another army in another country.

And when you die, you can even leave the points to your sons to help them pass their IPPT during their NS. (If you have only daughters, too bad. Maybe they’ll sign on.)

The only thing you can’t do with your IPPT points is use them to pay for a flat or pay medical bills. Okay, two things.

But what is important is that with this Central Points Fund scheme, I believe we can further reduce the number of NSmen failing their IPPT, especially the older ones.

Thank you, sir, for considering this humble suggestion I have offered.

It’s the least I can do after you’ve saved my son from the hand-eating chin-up bar.

Yours sincerely,
S M Ong

- Published in The New Paper, 27 July 2014

EARLIER: 2.4 to become 3.2? I couldn’t even run 1.5km