How many times have we heard our parents tell us to mind our table manners? Not to play with our food? And not to talk when our mouths are full?

We may have taken these evergreen rules from parent to child passed down many generations for granted…but they truly form the core of what we call dining etiquette.

Welcome to today's training on social and dining etiquette for the graduating students of Sembawang Secondary School. It's been a long journey of ten years of studies for students. As they approach graduation, each will have his or her own aspiration. While some choose to pursue further studies, others may choose to find a job for gainful employment.

Regardless of which path they take, both social etiquette and dining etiquette skills are essential for success in life.

Social etiquette is how you behave in front of others in a social setting. It ranges from your speech patterns to where you place your hands and how you stand. A good posture, smiley face and positive eye contact are key ingredients to social etiquette. Let's admit it – if you don't like the way someone stands or dresses, would you even bother to engage in small talk with him or her? Chances are you will not even bat a second eyelid.

Dining etiquette is how you behave in a dining setting. It can be a restaurant or a café. It is governed by the rules of how to order your food, how to eat your food with finesse, which silverware to use and how to engage in conversations with others seated around the same table. If you ask me, I'll say it's a tripartite relationship between food, utensils and conversation. You as the diner has to be in control of all three elements.

Together with my team of image consultants, we first impressed upon the students the importance of practising good social etiquette at home, at school and in society at all. Using various teaching aids such as role plays, videos and sharings from our own life experience; we brought the students through an interesting yet fun session in the morning.

Then as lunch time approached, we moved class by class to Northpoint Shopping Centre. No, we are not here to shop but to dine in style at Breeks Café.

Having booked the entire café for the dining etiquette portion, the students were treated to a three course meal. First up was the soup of the day – mushroom soup. If you recall, we must always spoon away from us. Yes, that's the proper way to drink your soup.

After the appetizer was the entrée, or commonly known as the main course. We have the students an option - breaded chicken or fish and chips. Judging from the response, breaded chicken proved to win the popular vote. For the entrée, the test was to use both knife and fork skillfully so as to navigate through the meat on the plate. So remember to hold the meat down with your fork in your left hand, while you cut the meat into smaller pieces using the knife on your right. When you cut, it's always in one particular direction - downwards to be precise.

And what's a hearty meal without some dessert? Bring in the brownie with the ice cream topping!

You may not realise it but in the company of good friends and interesting conversations, time flies swiftly…But for the students of Sembawang Secondary School, I'm 100% positive today's social and dining etiquette workshop will hold many memories for each and every one of them in the years to come.


To broaden the quality of school education and allow students to look forward to more opportunities for experiential, practice-oriented learning, an increasing number of schools have started to introduce elective modules. As its name suggests, an elective module is a specially designed programme to help students discover their interests and talents, and make learning more engaging.

Many a times, what we learn from the textbooks cannot measure up to what actually happens in the real world. Welcome to the real world! The real world out there is where our skills are tested and where we gather new knowledge.

Forget about the route learning and focus on the practice-oriented learning. There's a saying from Xunzi, one of the greatest Confucian scholars of early years that went "What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand." Indeed this is true.

Simply by doing something, we are able to register that motion in our minds. Never underestimate the power of the subconscious. It's just like building muscles. The more you work out, the stronger our muscles become.

I'm happy to share that yet another school has embraced health and fitness as one of the elective modules for their students.

For the students of Marsiling Secondary School, they are the second batch to go through this programme which I first piloted for West Spring Secondary School. And you can be sure more secondary schools will be joining them very soon.

Through the health and fitness elective module, or some call it lifeskills elective module, I aimed to give my students a firm foundation of what staying healthy. The term 'healthy' means different things to different people. Yet we all agree that being healthy includes being free from diseases, staying fit and eating well. There is no running away from exercise and nutrition. These are the twin cores that supports a good health and fitness programme.

Throughout the 5 week lifeskills programme, the Marsiling Secondary School students were inducted into different exercises that they would find useful to achieve the aim of staying healthy. These ranged from bodyweight exercises to resistance band workouts to gym work.

With a mixed gender group, it was obvious that looking good was no longer just the prerogative of the guys. Many people have the conception that only guys workout or exercise because they want to look buffed and macho. Dispel this notion as more girls (especially of similar age) are beginning to pump iron, work out and undertake physical activities of all nature. Kudos to them as it's always good to start young.

A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Only when we are fit and in good shape do we feel confident and have the bandwidth to handle the challenges in life.

Viva la Vida!


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