Creativity and Redesigning our Education Systems: Soundbites from Ken Robinson’s TED talk

Quotes from Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk about how schools kill creativity

– one of the most watched TED talks.

“Creativity is as important to Education as literacy.”
“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”

“We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.”

“The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”

“Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”

“I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.”

“If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. It’s a process of academic inflation”

“And the consequence is that many highly-talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

“We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.”

“In fact, creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.”

“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity.”

“Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us.”

“We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.

“And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way — we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it.”


Why Affluent Parents Put So Much Pressure on Their Kids – The Atlantic

One point of view – would agree that it applies to some parents with the big caveat in bold (albeit, of course, with the incredible advantages that come from having highly educated, well-off parents).


On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids [Arizona State professor Suniya Luthar] and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

Family businesses are heritable; education, by contrast, is not. No matter how successful parents are, their kids have to earn their own way in (albeit, of course, with the incredible advantages that come from having highly educated, well-off parents). As sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman put it in an interview with Jessica Grose at Slate, “If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or MBA—you can’t pass those on to your kids.”

Source: Why Affluent Parents Put So Much Pressure on Their Kids – The Atlantic

Ten Things I Want My Gifted Daughter to Know – The Common Mom

Ten things to share with my gifted daughter before she turns 10.

  1. Gifted is just a label. It defines you no more than your eye color does. In the grand scheme of life no one cares about it. It’s what you do and how you treat others that matters.
  2. That gifted label does mean you’ve got potential. Oodles of potential. It doesn’t guarantee anything. So dream BIG. All that potential means you’ve got the stuff to achieve just about anything you want. But only you can realize that potential. I can help you. But the work is hard and you’re the one that has to do it. Dream BIG – the hard work is worth it.
  3. Grades matter – and they don’t. Sorry, life is full of gray areas and ambiguities. Start getting used to it. Grades and test scores are a way of demonstrating what you know. To get where you want to be, wherever that is, you’ll have to show you have the right to be there. Keep the long game in mind and that may mean working for good grades. Or not.
  4. Age doesn’t matter. I know you don’t remember the meltdown you had at age 4 when you discovered that the Monopoly game was for ages 8 and up and that meant you had to stop playing. Such a literal little girl! Age didn’t matter then. It didn’t matter when you skipped a grade. It didn’t matter when you were the youngest in the robotics class. It won’t matter until you want to drive, vote, or have a drink. Until then, forget it.
  5. Friends are important. Make friends with people who fill you with energy and happiness. Spend time with people who challenge you and encourage you to be your best self. Don’t worry about popularity or who’s in the “in” crowd. Popularity doesn’t last, I promise it doesn’t. Good friends are forever.
  6. Be kind. You can always be kind. Even when you don’t want to be (it’s ok, we all feel that way sometimes) just take a deep breath and choose kindness. It’ll pay off in ways you’ll never begin to imagine and you’ll feel better about yourself and the world. Trust me.
  7. Being smart is cool. Seriously, it is so freaking awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you differently or try and make you believe it’s not. If they do, they’re the ones with the problem. Walk away and don’t look back. They’re not worth your time.
  8. Know what else is cool? Confidence. I see it on your face more and more often as you grow up. It makes you more beautiful than you can imagine. Confidence + smarts + kindness = an unbeatable combination. Work it.
  9. Whatever is troubling you probably happened to someone else before. It’s probably happened to me. Maybe your dad. Or your aunt or grandma. Don’t keep it inside, we can and want to help. All burdens become lighter when shared.
  10. You have no bigger supporter than me, except maybe your dad. I’ve fought for you your entire life and will continue to do so – but only when I really need to. That may mean convincing the school librarian that you can check out books beyond your age range (see #4 above) or it may mean that I fight you on screen time.The goal is to teach you how to stand up and advocate for yourself. I want you to find your own voice so you can unabashedly follow your dreams. Your BIG dreams.


Doesn’t matter if you graduate from Harvard or flunk out of high school. I love you.

Doesn’t matter what your dress size is, what color your hair is or what you have pierced. I love you.

Doesn’t matter what you become or what you do. I love you.


Source: Ten Things I Want My Gifted Daughter to Know – The Common Mom

99 texting acronyms and phrases every parent should know


AITR       Adult in the Room

303          Mom

M/POS    Mom/Parents over shoulder

PIR          Parent in Room

PAL         Parents are Listening

PAW       Parents are Watching

CD9         Parents around/Code 9

PA / PA911    Parent Alert

9                Parent Watching

99             Parent Gone



143          I love you

1432        I love you too

ATM        At The moment

gerd          Abbreviation for ermagerd (Oh my God)

GR8          Great

CMB         Call Me Back

CUNS       See You In School

F2F          Face to Face

FOAF       Friend Of A Friend

FML          F*** My Life

FTW          For The Win

GTG           Got to Go

GTFO       Get the F* Out

HAK        Hugs and Kisses

HMU       Hit Me Up

IKR         I Know, Right?

IDC          I Don’t Care

IDK         I don’t Know

ITA/D     I Totally Agree/Disagree

IRL         In real life

J/K         Just Kidding

KK          Okay

KWIM    Know what I mean?

L&R        Love and respect

mmk       Mmm…okay

MEGO     My Eyes are Glazing Over

MYT        Meet You There

NAGI       Not A Good Idea

NBD        No Big Deal

NGH       Not Gonna Happen

NMP        Not My Problem

NSFW      Not Safe for Work

NSFL       Not Safe for Life

NTIM       Not That It Matters

N00B      Newbie

OATUS   On a totally unrelated subject

O RLY    Oh, really?

P&C         Private and Confidential

PITA        Pain in the A**

REHI       Hi, again

RUOK      Are You OK?

QQ            Crying (often humorously)

SFSG       So Far So Good

SLT         Something Like That

SOL         Sh** Out of Luck

SUP        What’s up?

UOK        Are you okay?

4Q             F*** You

VCDA      Vaya Con Dios, Amigo

VSF         Very Sad Face

WDYM  What Do You Mean?

WFM     Works For Me

WRUD    What Are You Doing?

WTG        Way To Go!

W00T      Hooray!

WTH        What The Hell?

XOXOZZZ Hugs, kisses, sweet dreams

ZOMG       Oh my God

Source: 99 texting acronyms and phrases every parent should know

PM Lee: Every School Is A Good School? Really? (This Will Disgust You)

The Heart Truths

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said at the National Day Rally 2013 that, “every school is a good school”.

However, at the AsiaEducationExpo (AEX) 2013, Vice-Principal of Jurong West Secondary School Pushparani Nadarajah said that, “How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it).

Indeed, is every school a good school, as PM Lee claims? Let me show you some statistics that will shock you.

(This is a shortened summary article of an article that I had published yesterday.)

A quick background: The PAP government has created schemes such as the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), to cater to the “intellectually gifted”. They have also created the Integrated Programmes (IP) for the “academically strong”. The GEP and IP are…

View original post 1,381 more words

MOE Committee of Supply Debate 2015 – Integrated Schools and GEP

Yes I would like to see thse studies too. In fact, I might just do a survey myself (GEP class of 1986). Next year will be 30 years since we entered GEP. I can tell you many of them have left the country. I left too… for 12 years, but I came back 🙂

If I do a survey of my GEP batch, what questions would people be interested in?

Yee Jenn Jong

I delivered the following two speeches during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Education on 6 March 2015.

MOE: Integrated primary – secondary schools

Madam, this is the fourth year that I am speaking on the topic of through-train schools from primary through secondary. If I seem persistent, it is because I truly believe that in a suitably diverse education landscape, Singaporeans should have access to such a publicly-funded education option.

Such through-train schools will not require the pupil to go through the PSLE. It will allow the school to develop holistic education for a longer period with the pupils, allowing time to work on their character and values, as well as other aspects beyond exams. From results seen in other countries and in private schools that offer such a through-train system, academic achievements need not be compromised.

I had previously outlined broad ideas on how we…

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Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-up Volume 12: Giftedness and Gifted Education

Amazing wealth of info!

Gifted Phoenix


Here is a slightly overdue termly round-up of activity on the Gifted Phoenix Twitter feed.

4-Eyes-resized-greenjacketfinalThe sheer volume of activity undertaken over the four month period since my last review – attributable to my efforts to cover domestic education policy alongside global gifted activity – has led me to experiment with separating those two strands.

So this section of Volume 12 is dedicated to giftedness and gifted education over the period February 24 to July 3 2013.

Two further sections are devoted to wider education policy, organised on a thematic basis.

The material is organised into the following categories:

  • Global coverage, including sub-sections for each continent. As ever, this broadly reflects the distribution of activity worldwide, with little happening in Africa and a lot in the US.
  • UK coverage, including a discrete sub-section on Ofsted’s ‘Most Able Students’ survey, published in June 2013.
  • Thematic coverage, containing sub-sections on…

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Gifted Education in Singapore: Part 2

Gifted Phoenix

This is the second of a trilogy of posts about gifted education in Singapore.

Part 1 reviewed the historical background: the gradual expansion and refinement of provision for highly able learners in this small South-East Asian educational powerhouse. It also examined the Singapore Government’s rationale for investing so heavily in their development.

This second part explores how pupils are identified and selected into the primary Gifted Education Programme (GEP), and to what extent coaching plays a part in this process.

But the bulk of the post is dedicated to a blow-by-blow description of the various strands of gifted education available to learners in the country’s primary and secondary schools.

It concludes with a section about professional development for educators working with gifted learners in Singapore.

As with Part 1, my primary source has been the Ministry of Education’s gifted education pages, but I have supplemented this with all other…

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Gifted Education in Singapore: Part 1

Fascinating – this is the most info I’ve come across about the GEP in the last 30 years.

Gifted Phoenix


This post on gifted education in Singapore is the next in an unofficial series featuring the Asian Tiger Economies that head the 2009 PISA rankings – and are amongst the ‘high-performing jurisdictions’ examined during England’s current National Curriculum Review.

It builds on a March 2011 post in my ‘Behind the Gifted News’ series which asked whether England would copy Singapore’s Integrated Programme. (More later about how the Integrated Programme fits within wider gifted education provision.)

Previous reviews have addressed gifted education in Hong Kong and South Korea. Now it is time to turn our attention to one of the educational powerhouses of South East Asia. For Singapore finished 5th in the PISA 2009 league table for reading, 4th for science and 2nd for mathematics.

My analysis of high achievers’ performance in PISA shows that, in 2009, the percentage of Singaporean students achieving levels…

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Let's Make Magic

Let’s Make Magic!

My Whimsical Dreams for Singapore’s Future

Over the last 50 years, Singapore’s growth can only be described as monumental. In the 1960s, we had the same GDP as Nigeria. Today, Singapore has the 3rd highest GDP per capita in the world, overtaking the G10 nations and the other East Asian Tigers.

Source: The Economist, March 2015

In particular, a marked acceleration in growth that can be seen from 2000. This magical growth was not by luck, it was the result of a deliberate, orchestrated, series of national masterplans.

In the 1980s, our government pushed the use of technology, by

  • Computerising the civil service
  • Connecting the government systems to private sector through electronic data interchange network
  • Moving all government services online, accelerating adoption of the internet

Strategic sector picking has moved us up the innovation ladder at supersonic speed. As an economist by training, every bone in my body shudders when I think about interventionist industrial policies. However, it seems to have worked for Singapore. Small country, maybe. Luck, possibly? I was recently looking for “infographics on education technology” when I came across this cute infographic.


nfographic IN2015

What’s remarkable (why I’m even bothering to make a remark about it), is the note at the bottom — “Possible Learner’s world in 2015”. This infographic was not drawn in 2015 but in 2006.

The infrastructure and the education initiatives from this 10 year IT and Innovation masterplan were so visionary, so forward looking, I could not believe my eyes. Mind-blowing amounts of investments were made to ensure that our education system and infrastructure can support the digital age our children are growing up in.

Creating the infrastructure and providing access to abundant capital has been key to our success. It has created a networked nation and a talented workforce. This year, Singapore topped the global OECD PISA rankings for Math and Science for the first time, overtaking Shanghai. What’s known as “Singapore Math” is widely adopted across the US as well as in the UK. Our Math is 2 years ahead of the US.

We have had it good for the last 50 years, But we’ve been told what to do for the last 50 years. Be productive. Be smart. And by most part, we have followed. Like paid advertising, the voice of the government has been shouting so loud, it cannot be heard anymore.

We’ve been bribed and spoilt with monetary incentives (utility bill gifts, tax rebates) that we don’t feel or appreciate it. And that’s the problem with focusing on money to make people happy.

So what then for the next 50 years? I often hear that our challenges are productivity, population and identity.

But let me suggest we reverse this and start with identity, because I think that is the hardest, but most critical, and must be addressed first.

For the next 50 years: Focus on our Core

We need to define our identity, our core values, our culture: When defining a nation’s identity, what do we want to be known for? What are the 3 words that we say when people ask us what it means to be Singaporean? What are our core values? We need to define our core values for our children, our future, so that they can have a strong sense of what it means to be Singaporean.

Should national values be closer to human or corporate values? When I die, I do not want to be remembered as smart (ok maybe a little), productive, or efficient, or rational or kiasu. I want to be remembered as kind and generous and HAPPY and making the people around me happy.

How do we do this? I can only offer the lessons I’ve learnt from the leaders who have done it.

Learn from Apple:

“Apple was at best a benevolent autocracy.
When Steve Jobs had an “Ah-Ha” moment, we ALL had an “Ah-Ha” moment.
We had top down “Ah-Ha-ness” — Guy Kawasaki

Sounding familiar?

Like Apple, great countries can empower people to be creative and productive. We don’t have to fight the government to be creative and productive.

I think we are nearly there. We have the most innovative government in the world. Yes, our government makes mistakes, and they change their minds, but that’s the art of innovation. To constantly mistakes and constantly change your mind.

Learn from Starbucks: Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s CEO wanted to create a company that would be known as much for its value, its principles, and itsculture as it would the quality of coffee. He talks about how Starbucks maintains a balance between profitabilityshareholder value and heart. He decided not to franchise Starbucks as it would not maintain the culture and values of the company — “it’s just access to cheap capital.”

When a shareholder disagreed on Starbuck’s support of gay marriage, arguing that it would hurt its share price, Howard Schultz replied that he had delivered 38% shareholder returns. As the leader of his people, he would embrace diversity. For those that are not happy — “short Starbuck’s stocks and buy something else”.

In a time where there is fracturing of trust, if we can show that we, as a nation, can respect our people as human beings, not as paychecks or line items on a balance sheet, this will build national identity and loyalty.

Learn from Zappos: Who would have thought it would be possible to build a billion dollar business around buying shoes online? Tony Hsieh had one singular objective — to make his customers and employees happy. And he believed that if he could achieve that, he would attract the right customers, the loyal customers, the money would follow. Tony would not use monetary incentives to win customers, he would rather invest in their loyalty.

Learn from Wharton: It’s not just online shoes, Wharton’s Business School’s research has also shown that companies with happy employees outperform the stock market year on year. In fact, Wharton recently appointed a Happiness Officer. His job? To make students happy. He reminds them that their problems (not dissimilar to ours) are champagne problems. The result, a happy experience at Wharton. And with happier, more loyal students, Dean Kembrel Jones has increased alumni donations by more than 50%.

Deam Kimbeal

Photographer: Steve Boyle for Bloomberg Businessweek

And as a reminder to all Singaporeans of what I believe our national identity stands for, this is the national pledge that we’ve said every morning when we were growing up in school. And note the order in which the goals are stated (and it’s not alphabetical):

We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people.Regardless of race, language, or religion, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progressfor our nation.

Embed our Identity with Education

So what do we teach? It’s not all Math and Science. Yes, we must still top the OECD PISA rankings. And yes we must learn technology, which has worked for us in the past. But, technology is just an enabler. Essential, but just an enabler. And technology is open source and just a swipe and a remix away.

If you only teach coding, you will create a nation of robots.

We need to teach creative confidence. And we can cultivate a community with creative class.

“Creativity is not magic. Creativity is for everyone” — Austin Kleon

Write: We need to up our written and spoken skills. Tim Ferriss talks about how one of the few unifying factors that all the best entrepreneurs have is that they are all good communicators. And they only get better with practice. But unless you video yourself every time you speak, it’s hard to review yourself speaking. That’s why writing is so important. Writing and speaking are not our strengths. And it cannot be mastered with technology. It has to be practised. Swipe, reflect, write.

“Writing is thought captured and crystallised.” — Tim Ferriss

Design: Typography should be a compulsory component of education, as must graphic design. Steve Jobs spoke about how it was only after he dropped out of college and took a typography class (that has no practical value) that made Apple design so successful. An appreciation of beauty and elegance and form and factor must be taught because that cannot be mastered with technology.

Music: Let’s not forget music. Music is vibrations. And the human body is 70% water. That’s why music affects us so much. Hackathons should be done with music and remember, there is a beat to which your copy is read. But great music is not made with technology.

Art: But most of all we need to learn art. And what is art?

Art is the work of a human being, acting like a human being and connecting with someone they care about. Art is using your judgement not following a manual. Art is being real and present and generous with people in your community, that is unpredictable. And what makes it art is that you are doing it for the first time and you’re giving it away, with generosity. — Seth Godin

Let’s Learn to Give

The only to teach the art of giving is to show by example.Education

Give Singaporeans the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for 2–4 years (work exchange, accommodation, moving expenses, tax equalisation paid for by the government). Singaporeans don’t know how good they have it because they have never lived overseas.

  • We complain about SMRT: You can use your smartphone in the SMRT! Try doing that on the Tube in London.
  • We complain about CPF: CPF pays higher than market interest rates. Singaporeans save 40% due to CPF. Try choosing a 401K (pension) plan in the US.
  • Singaporeans don’t understand the elegance of our one-click e-Gov tax filing system. Try filing taxes in the US/UK. That is if you can even get through the 30 minute queue on the phone line with the HMRC (taxes).
  • Singaporeans who are not frequent business travellers, do not appreciate how amazing and efficient our airport is.
  • Try changing the type of car registration plate you have with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the UK.
  • Try getting a passport for your kids. We get reminded when our passports expire and can apply via post.

Theses are not things that can be told or taught to Singaporeans. We have to be pushed away to live it and learn it.

It’s a paradox, but the best companies don’t try to force their customers to their product — they’re willing to push them away, if it improves the quality of the customer experience. I’ve lived in Tokyo, London, New York. And that has only made me appreciate my country even more. And I came back.

Give Unconditional Bond-free Scholarships for Singaporeans with Talent: Let’s give free education for Singaporeans. Unconditionally. Not just those that get into Ivy League or Oxbridge Universities but to whoever gets into the best Universities around the world for any kind of talent. And let them choose what they do with it. They can make mistakes, they should make mistakes, but it is ok, because we have taught them to learn from it. With the right values, identity and loyalty, the ones who take it, whether they return or not, they will find a way to pay it back. It’s a waste if our students don’t go to these universities because they can’t afford it. And it is worst if people don’t have kids because of it.

Give all Singaporean Children Free Holidays on their Birthdays: Let them experience the opera in Vienna, and eat pasta the Puglia, and ski in Tahoe, go sailing in the Mediterranean. Take them t0 Machu Picchu, to Alaska, to Galapagos. First Class on Singapore Airlines. Why? Because we’re Singaporean!

But Protect Our Identity

But before we give, we must protect our identity, which belongs to us, born and bred Singaporeans.

Don’t inflate the cost of failure: Our education system has evolved and has gotten better. But as we keep our standards high and as we beat the world rankings in math, science and technology, let us also take the focus away from grades and IQ and celebrate talent and encourage our children to try everything and to pursue their passions. We can work a 4-hour workweek and have time for everything else because of technology.

Don’t give away cheap money: When we show venture capitalists cheap money but penalise local founders with $1,000 salary, we’re signalling that we trust outsiders more than we trust ourselves. Yes — make capital abundant but make them pay for it, with a minimum 44% guaranteed return. We’re already giving them access to our best infrastructure and our best talent. Attract the right VCs, and they will come. The ones that come to make meaning not money, the ones that will teach our youth the entrepreneurial skills we need.

Trust is scarce. When we try to encourage productivity and innovation with grants, but hide what is eligible in a spreadsheet that is easily unhidden by anyone with basic excel skills, we are signalling that we do not trust Singaporeans. And naturally, we will attract abuse. Sadly, the people who need it, will not benefit from it.

If we do not address this, then we are doomed to become a nation of followers, run by foreign talent.

“There is a difference between effectiveness and efficiency.” — Tim Ferriss

We are far too evolved to be efficient. We have already leapfrogged the cheap labour curve with technology. Let’s be effective! But effective means action. And we need passion for action. If all we are, is competent and obedient, then there is no future for us. We must protect our identity, and know what we stand for. And entrenched in our values, we must give, openly.

Finally, don’t let the bozos get you down. We are already the most innovative, richest, smartest country in the world. We have everything. Let’s just give. And the rest, the economy, the productivity, the population will follow.

We are Disneyland, without the death sentence. And why do I know this? Simple!



I believe in magic!


  1. Today is a magical day.
  2. If I were a real writer (or if I had swiped more consistently), I would give full attribution to all the sources. But if I didn’t post this because it wasn’t fully attributed, then I’d be a fool.
  3. “Auspicium Melioris Ævi” — Hope for a better age
  4. Last night at midnight, I got an alert from my trusted Evernote to post aDisney inspired quote. Search twitter hashtag #debbiediscovers #disney60
  5. A wealth of research on Why Happiness Matters can be found in World Happiness Report 2015 reflecting new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criteria for government policy. The report is published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). It is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Director of the SDSN, and Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.
  6. My parting KISS: Keep It Simple, Singapore
  7. This post is written for the biggest influencers in my life, to Bain, for teaching me that there is nothing wrong with being passionate, and for teaching me the meaning of True North and most of all, my undying gratitude, to my parents, who have taught me the beauty of the unconditional gift.