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Every Child Deserves Best Possible Help In Pre-School: Shanmugam

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – It’s common knowledge that middle-income parents are able to give their children a headstart. But how does Singapore make sure that other children, with fewer advamtages, also get “as best an education as possible even before they get into primary school”?

This was the question that Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam posed on Saturday night, at a National Day celebration dinner in Chong Pang.

“Our primary school system is very good, our secondary school system is very good, our universities are world class.

“I believe that the first six years are also extremely important, and we do a lot on the preschool system – but I personally believe that as a society, we can emphasise (the latter) even more,” he said.

In his speech at the dinner, the minister dwelt on two key fundamentals to Singapore’s success: Meritocracy and equality of opportunity. While these fundamentals do not change, the Government has to constantly re-examine whether its policies are consistent with the fundamentals, he said.

Singling out pre-school education, he said all children deserved it and should get the best possible help in their pre-school years. Every child from every background needs to be helped to achieve their full potential, Mr Shanmugam emphasised.

In an interview with TODAY earlier this week, Mr Shanmugam had also spoken of his “close interest” in pre-school education. In 2005, the Chong Pang PAP Community Foundation kindergarten piloted a programme – based on the Reggiano concept – to promote innovative thinking, curiosity and problem solving skills. He has raised over S$1 million to help subsidise the programme in his constituency.

The National Day celebration dinner on Saturday was attended by some 1,800 residents. Mr Shanmugam gave out bursary awards to 189 primary and secondary school students, in amounts ranging from S$50 to S$350. – CHANNEL NEWSASIA AND TAN WEIZHEN

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NUS Prof In Sex-For-Grades Scandal To Remain In S’pore

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – The National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor embroiled in sex-for-grades allegations appeared in court yesterday afternoon to withdraw his application to leave the country.

Tey Tsun Hang’s lawyer Peter Low told the court that, two nights ago, Tey was informed by the university that, as he had been suspended from active duty, NUS “will not approve his sabbatical leave or leave for academic or other purposes”.

“NUS is (also) not able to support his application to leave jurisdiction to teach at Hong Kong University”, said Mr Low.

Tey was supposed to teach at the Hong Kong University from September to May next year. He had made plans and arrangements for the sabbatical since last May, added Mr Low. In March, the law faculty confirmed that approval had been given for Tey.

Yesterday, Tey read out a statement in Mandarin to reporters before he entered court, saying he would do his utmost to defend against the charges which he strongly believes have no legal basis. He also requested for fair reporting by the media.

Tey, 41, a former district judge, is alleged to have given his former student Darinne Ko Wen Hui better grades between May and July 2010, in return for sex on two occasions.

Besides allegedly receiving a S$740 Mont Blanc pen and tailor-made shirts, Ko also allegedly paid for one of Tey’s bills amounting to almost S$1,300.

Tey’s next court hearing is scheduled for Aug 23. If convicted, he faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to S$100,000.

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Govt To Provide ‘Ladders For Success’

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – Even as he reassured Singaporeans that the young have a good future, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday outlined what the Government will do better to improve opportunities for everyone.

He said the Government will make opportunities more equal at an early stage in life, provide “ladders for success” to Singaporeans after they leave school, and improve the delivery of subsidies to older Singaporeans.

Speaking at his constituency’s National Day Dinner last night at Taman Jurong, Mr Tharman said Singapore’s situation is “not bad” to start with.

Almost eight in 10 Singaporean parents were confident that their children will do better than them when they grow up, he said, citing a recent survey commissioned by The Straits Times and reported on July 21. This is in contrast to a global survey by Pew Research Centre, released on July 12, which found fewer than half of American parents feel the same way, Mr Tharman noted.

In Europe and Japan, the Pew survey found that fewer than half of parents there are confident of their children doing better than themselves when they grow up.

Mr Tharman said that not everyone does well in school, and it was important to help young Singaporeans after they leave school.

“We still have in Singapore too much emphasis on academic credentials,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we provide ladders to success for everyone, including those who do not do well in school. And there’s more work to be done in this regard, by the employers and by all of us as customers and as society.

“We have to pay more respect to blue collar workers, give them pride in their jobs, pay them fairly and help them progress in their careers up to the highest level their skills can take them.”

Mr Tharman cited two employees he met on Thursday at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, who started out as waiters before subsequently upgrading themselves. One of them, Branden Chia, 31, attained his diploma and is now earning nearly three times the S$1,100 he started out with 12 years ago.

Some older Singaporeans have expressed concerns about low pay and healthcare costs, and Mr Tharman said the Government will help via increasing productivity and wages through the tripartite approach, via Workfare, and via the healthcare framework of Medisave, MediShield and Medifund.

“Many of them are still worried about their healthcare costs and we will improve how we deliver our subsidies, how we explain upfront how much they can receive, so they don’t have to worry so much before their treatments,” he said.

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What Was PM Doing At Bishan Park?

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – The Prime Minister recorded his annual National Day Message at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park – which faces his Teck Ghee ward – yesterday morning.

This is the first time that Mr Lee Hsien Loong has recorded his message entirely at an outdoor location. The message will be broadcast on television on the eve of National Day.

Later in the day, Mr Lee posted a picture on his Facebook wall with an update: “Snapped at Bishan-AMK Park this morning. An impromptu audience watching me record my National Day Message.”

Within hours, Mr Lee’s post attracted more than 1,500 “likes” and more than 70 comments. Joni Chua, one of those who commented, wrote: “Cool. Going closer to the ground is a good approach in engaging the people. Like the idea. Look forward to the ND (National Day) msg.”

Catch the Prime Minister’s National Day message on Channel NewsAsia on Aug 8 at 6.45pm.

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NTUC Wants More Workplace Support For Breastfeeding Mums

5 Aug

SINGAPORE- The labour movement’s U Family unit has called on more employers to support back-to-work breastfeeding mothers through providing flexible lactation breaks, and for office building owners to provide functional nursing and family corners.

According to a U Family Survey on Breastfeeding conducted in April of 1,318 married women, 98 per cent were aware of the health benefits to mothers and babies if babies are breastfed for a minimum of six months.

Yet, 30 per cent of mothers said they weaned off breastfeeding before their babies turned six months old when they returned to work.

Close to 50 per cent who did not breastfeed, or planned not to breastfeed for at least six months, felt that there was a lack of support at the workplace – such as lactation breaks and functional lactation corners. Half said employer support at the workplace was “most important” for them to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.

Some challenges cited included inconvenience, a non-conducive office environment, disruption to work, lack of time to express milk during office hours and lack of support from employers and co-workers.

Many believe it is the basic right of a female employee and breastfeeding mothers to be given lactation support by the company: 798 respondents said they would approach their supervisor or HR representative to ask for support.

If their employer still did not provide support for breastfeeding after they had requested for it, nearly half (48 per cent) respondents admitted they would stop breastfeeding or cut down on their pumping sessions altogether.

As for the type of help they prefer, 44 per cent wanted lactation support such as functional lactation corners, lactation breaks and storage facilities. And 23 per cent wanted the option of flexible work arrangements, while 21 per cent hoped for employers to be more understanding and accommodating.

Based on the survey findings, U Family urged employers and managers to work out a flexible arrangement with breastfeeding mothers, so that they can take 20 to 30 minutes – beyond their regular meal breaks – to prepare and express their breast milk.

The union also pointed that there is no requirement for building owners to provide family or nursing corners in office buildings, including those in the Central Business District. It is not uncommon for nursing mothers to pump their breast milk in toilets and utility rooms.

The union called on owners of office buildings and public areas with a considerable workforce size and financial resources, to consider building baby-friendly infrastructure — like a safe, clean and private area equipped with storage facilities for mothers.

One supportive employer cited was Sembcorp Industries, which not only provides hospital grade lactation pumps but also a steriliser and refrigerator in its nursing room – even though a vast majority of employees at its Jurong Island office are male. Such facilities are offered at Sembcorp’s corporate headquarters as well.

On Saturday, more than 3,000 parents and babies thronged the National Trades Union Congress’ third Baby’s Day Out bash – an annual networking event for parents – at The Lawn@Marina Bay .

They set the record of Singapore’s largest national flag made up of more than 1,000 milk bottles, in a show of support for baby-friendly practices at the workplace.

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Two Men Jailed For Sex With Underage Prostitutes

4 Aug

SINGAPORE – Two men were jailed today for having sex with underage Vietnamese prostitutes.

Fifty four-year-old Wee Lian Kee, a subcontractor, was jailed nine weeks for paying a girl, who was then 16 years old, for sex.

Forty six-year-old Yee Yew Seng was jailed three months and one week for having paid sex with a girl, who was then 17 years old. Yee, a former storeman, was also found guilty of a second charge of theft.

He stole various electronic items, including fans and cordless jug, from a store at Shunli Industrial Complex in May this year.

Wee and Yee are part of the six men who were previously charged with paying for sex with Vietnamese girls, aged between 16 and 17, in July last year.

Court documents revealed that both men met the Vietnamese girls on separate occasions in Geylang.

When they asked about the girls’ ages, they were told that the girls were of age. However, the court heard that the men did not verify the ages.

Both men later paid them between S$180 and S$200 for their sexual services at nearby hotels.

Previously in mitigation, Wee’s lawyer had said that his client was “careless” in trusting the girl’s claim of her age. Wee, a father-of-three, was also said to be “shocked and frightened”.

Also pleading for leniency, Yee’s lawyer told the court today that Yee was remorseful.

For having paid sex with underage girls, both men could be jailed up to seven years and fined. CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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Heineken Agrees Deal To Take Control Of APB

4 Aug

LONDON – Global brewer Heineken announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire its stakes in Asia Pacific Breweries at S$50 per share.

It agreed to a US$4 billion-plus (S$5-billion plus) deal today to take control of Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) by agreeing to buy a stake in the Singapore-based brewer from partner Fraser and Neave (F&N).

Heineken had given F&N a deadline of Friday to agree to a sale, and a deal has been agreed in principle and has gone to the F&N board for rubber stamping, sources said. REUTERS

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