Paralysed by more than the PM

In News Reports, Politics, Writing on August 4, 2012 at 1:09 am

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.

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?

  1. That was another excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a wonderful day!

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  2. This is what is termed “motherhood statements”. They sound really nice and bombastic but on further scrutiny – basically mean nothing…It’s so tiring to hear these statements coming out from ministers and the establishment that many people including myself have totally tuned out.

    Kudos to you for boldly bringing this up.

  3. Singapore newspapers report ministers’ speeches just like the Indian newspapers do — blandly. I used to love reading what George Yeo and Lee Kuan Yew said. They could be so interesting. Tharman, PM Lee and several others also can be interesting. I have watched videos of PM Lee, President Tony Tan and DPM Tharman speaking abroad or being interviewed by the foreign media — and they are really good.

  4. I wonder if the government is vague so that problems in the future can’t be pointed back to them specifically.

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