The Straits Times (ST) recently had an article reporting that some legislation about pre-schools will be tabled this year. The article pointed out that the legislation had been delayed. It speculated that the delay was due to the “contentious” nature of the law. It’s an absolutely rubbish article.
Because it is completely biased. The article only looks at the impact of the regulations and legislation on private operators. But what is the real intent of the legislation? Is it to make things easier for the private operators in the sector? No. Certainly not. The legislation is first and foremost to safeguard the interests of children. It is meant to improve the quality of care and education of the pre-school sector.
That being the case, why didn’t the article ask any parents for their views of the regulations? Why didn’t the reporter find out if parents think the legislation make sense? Why weren’t any parents asked if they think that the legislation would improve the quality of care and education for their children? Why only focus on the fact that some private operators may find complying with the legislation onerous?
This is shoddy journalism. It’s like having an article on laws curbing air pollution from factories near Shanghai. And the reporter only spoke to and reported the views of factory owners without asking what the citizens of Shanghai felt about the law. Then saying that that law is contentious because factory owners have voiced concerns is stupid.
But that’s exactly what ST did. The laws are contentious simply because some private operators said so. But exactly which parts of the legislation are contentious? Didn’t say. Contentious in what ways? Nothing. It’s as if the person writing the article didn’t read the proposed legislation, didn’t bother to ask more questions, didn’t take the effort to think who else would be affected and then speak to those people.
That’s why, after reading the article, I hope that the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) didn’t delay tabling the legislation just because some private operators in the childcare and early childhood education sector aren’t able to meet the regulations. If they are confident that whatever they’re proposing is necessary to safeguard the welfare and interests of the children, then they shouldn’t delay just because of what the private operators say.
As for the private operators, if they think that some of the regulations are unnecessary, they should argue their case cogently. Bring up evidence to show that, even without those regulations, the interests and welfare of the children won’t be compromised. Otherwise, don’t just whine. Think of ways to be more productive so as to comply with the new laws without adding administrative overheads. But that requires creativity and intelligence. Things which perhaps the private operators don’t have.
It’s reading articles like this that constantly remind me that we lack the institutions to encourage critical thinking in Singapore. And this makes poor public discourse and ultimately makes us less able to contribute meaningfully to policy making. Not good.
Let’s hope we’ll see improvements in this area in the new year.
[Featured image: Minister Tan Chuan-Jin visiting pre-school. Photo by Imelda Saad via CNA]