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News Reports

Paralysed by more than the PM

I wonder if DPM Tharman was surprised that his speech made page 1 of ST today. And if he did, did he think the reader would get beyond the first par.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday that more must be done to level opportunities for young children in Singapore.

Or what this minister thought:

Education MInister Heng Swee Keat yesterday reminded aspiring teachers to uphold their roles as models of good behaviour.

And this  minister too…

Labour chief Lim Swee Say yesterday warned that economic  restructuring will get more painful for both companies and workers – given that Singapore does not have the luxury of an unlimited pool of manpower.

I have written a couple of posts in the past about journalists being paralysed by the PM. It seems other ministers have the same effect too.

Well, I read each article beyond the first par, persevering to the end. That’s because I am an information junkie and old habits die hard. I am interested in journalism. And I am a masochist.

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In any case, I read each to the end wondering whether there was anything new at all. I mean, if DPM says more must be done, then I suppose there will be news on WHAT was going to be done. No, nothing.  Instead, exhortations that the culture of communities and schools must be “geared” to do so. Oh, and he is referring to pre-primary and primary school children. I guess this is what I am supposed to read into this mass of words: That we can expect some changes here? But what? He didn’t say. And the media didn’t find out.

It looks like his speech was reported fairly fully, with two sets of anecdotes. One phrase was used – about giving even those who left school a “ladder” to success. Nice word I thought.

But his speech, or the report of his speech, was hardly engaging. I know that messages need to be reiterated but there are plenty of ways to make the messages less of a yawn. I mean OF COURSE, more must be done to level opportunities for young children…

So what’s the story? Really got no news? If so, how about…

NO society has all its children starting out from the same line, but it can intervene early, while they are in pre-primary and primary school, to pick up and push on those who are falling behind their peers. Grumblings about how  early education benefits the better-off families has reached the G, with DPM Tharman calling for “early intervention” “upstream, not downstream”, to level opportunities for every child. He said the culture of schools and communities should be geared to do so, but left out mention of whether the G would take the lead.

And what about that lecture to aspiring teachers? Frankly, I have read this before. Ministers have said this at functions that involve educators. So it’s like a repeat lecture for remedial students…But I guess it has to be said given that there seems to be no let-up of scandals  involving teachers. Rather than focus on the lecture, can’t we turn the spotlight on these aspiring teachers? What do they say about going into a profession that is so tarred? Don’t they get ribbed? Are there some things they would be careful about doing/not doing once they get posted to schools?

As for that “warning” to companies and workers that there will be  a tough journey ahead because we don’t have enough workers. Okay. So? Now how?  Read on and Lim Swee Say says some sectors will hurt more than others in the restructuring exercise, he named the hotel sector. Wouldn’t it be better to get him to elaborate on this point so that the message can get more specific? And hotel workers can start “bracing themselves” instead of just “raising their eyebrows” at what he said?

It’s funny that you have reports of three ministers talking TO people (through the media), but later in ST’s insight pages, you have a report on three ministers talking WITH people (without the media). Nicely written report too. Time for the media to take a  hard look at the role it plays in the public ENGAGEMENT exercise, no?

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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