I had my first National Day Rally experience last year (here), and it was quite intriguing for a first-timer. Some have sceptically questioned the relevance and value of the Rally, contending that it is wayang (slang: theatre performance, implying that some is superficial and for show) and unnecessary; nevertheless, given the proliferation of national challenges in recent years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is likely to touch on an assortment of new proposals and policy recommendations. I personally think there is no harm listening to the new propositions, before providing subsequent evaluations (some, of course, might think otherwise). The 2012 edition is also slightly different: before PM Lee’s speech, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong and Minister of State Halimah Yacob would be delivering speeches on the challenges facing Singaporeans, as well as the corresponding solutions.
Besides penning down key highlights, I would be supplementing them with perspectives (through the eyes of a young Singaporean), and raising questions on relevant issues. Given that this is my first foray into live blogging, do pardon any shortcomings (and technological limitations). I will also be tweeting (@guanyinmiao), with the hashtag #ndrsg. Photographs will feature too, if possible!
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10.11pm: THAT’S A WRAP. PM Lee finishes up with a review of the individuals and households he had talked about, and a nifty little montage.
Has been a pleasure doing this, for the first time.
10.07pm: Now, we are going to finish up with a customary presentation of Singapore’s landscape and buildings.
9.58pm: The final chapter: Home. Have more babies!
PM Lee shares that perks and financial incentives per se are not the ways forward; work-life balance is absolutely integral, according to many Singaporeans. The government will be looking at different areas and concerns, with details to be released later. Paternity leave will be considered seriously as a viable option.
9.42pm: Potential minefield alert! PM Lee talks about the online and anonymous conflict between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans. Valid propositions though, about vitriolic commentaries and ridiculous assertions. We all know the sites that unnecessarily perpetuate xenophobic sentiments.
Expect angry posts and comments tomorrow though: “Why PM Lee side with foreigners?”
9.38pm: Heart. More measures have been introduced for the elderly, and to help the less-privileged; nonetheless, increased social spending (social welfare) will come at a cost, individuals must be reliant, and there must be mutual responsibility within communities. PM Lee is clearly responding to criticisms articulated by Opposition politicians, and is expecting Singaporeans to take greater ownership (has also been a running theme tonight). This extends to interactions between neighbours and residents.
Social enterprises has been raised as an option for successful Singaporeans to give back to the country.
9.24pm: Preschool education and the anchor operators in the spotlight now, given their importance for young students, socially and academically (good foundations go a very long way). PM Lee believes standards need to be raised – of course, as many have been contending following our dismal performance in that Lien Foundation study – with the institution of a new statutory board. Teacher training will be improved, and new anchor operators would be brought in and enhanced. New centres will also be established to test new pedagogies, and they will be kept affordable for low and middle-income households.
Good moves; let’s see how they develop. Would’ve been nice to see more done for special education.
9.10pm: An hour or so in, PM Lee has not proposed any changes or policy recommendations. We might be in for a long ride, folks.
With that said, PM Lee announces that SIM University and the Singapore Institute of Technology will become our fifth and sixth universities (he reads my mind, haha!) Will this diminish the value of a degree? Maybe, but cold also coerce students to be more adaptive and outstanding.
9:01pm: Hope; Heart; Home. Now the anecdotes and individual cases highlighted make perfect sense. I am impressed; in PM Lee’s words, “our transformation within one generation”. He posits, “we can fix imperfections”.
Hope. He goes on to cover areas of public transportation, healthcare and public housing. Education also features strongly here, and he gives our education institutions their due credit. The point about all schools being good is valid as well.
8.44pm: Singapore’s position has to be perceived vis-à-vis international trends and developments; PM Lee now explaining the proliferation of gadgets and gizmos, and the ubiquity of technological advancements. He links it to the need for progress, and the importance of raising general levels of productivity.
8:25pm: PM Lee’s Mandarin is pretty impressive; nevertheless, these Malay and Mandarin speeches really do function as preambles (reassuring Singaporeans that jobs, housing apartments and education opportunities are in good supply, and that we should be proud of our strengths and progress). The solutions and recommendations will come in the English speech.
One point: his Mandarin speech has been stitched together very nicely, with transitions – from discussions about ageing actively to the importance of biculturalism – done seamlessly. Even the point about immigration and integration – a seemingly prickly subject – was eased it quite nicely.
8:09pm: The decision to constantly feature individuals and personalities is quite a masterstroke; the stories are real, relatable and inspirational. Very engaging. This has been a running theme throughout all the speeches tonight.
Oh, and PM Lee’s Malay – I am told – is impeccable. Good on him.
8:02pm: PM Lee is on stage, the real Rally commences. They even enhanced the backdrop for him.
7:31pm: HALF-TIME REVIEW. Has been a pretty mediocre start. I really don’t see the relevance of the ministerial speeches, especially since I have a predilection for concrete suggestions and recommendations over, say, things about dreams and aspirations (a.k.a. fluff, in my world).
7:20pm: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat acknowledges that more must be invested in pre-schools (again, if PM Lee is going to touch on them specifically, then the purpose of these speeches is…)
Volunteerism, community service and giving back to the society feature very heavily in these speeches; very intriguing to think about these changing paradigms (brings to mind the quote about not asking what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country). Minister Heng also asserts the need to strike equilibrium between change and constancy, and links this to the education system and pragmatism.
7:05pm: Minister of State Halimah Yacob addresses the Malay / Muslim community, and explores the strengths and potential of the community.
I like the fact that she also discussed social mobility (especially in the face of income inequality), and the importance of diversifying definitions of success in education and beyond. However, why use the term “neighbourhood schools”? If we want to move away, shouldn’t we shed these unnecessary labels and stereotypes?
6:50pm: Minister of State Lawrence Wong gets the proverbial ball rolling. He first talks about youths, the pledge, aspirations, and general strengths of our education system. A little too abstract and fluffy for my liking.
And he says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will expound on the specific recommendations for higher education; so, is his preamble and speech genuinely necessary? It was interesting to hear about the brief plans for the new ministry; nevertheless, MOS Wong could have injected a little more oomph and passion, campaigning and EXPLAINING why promoting the arts and culture is so significant in Singapore.
6:36pm: If you really need to know, I have a terrible seat; view is blocked by a team of professional photographers and videographers. BB28, not so lucky it seems.
A gentleman behind me asked the lady seated beside him, “Which area”, to which she replied “West Coast”. Interesting way of introduction / breaking the ice indeed.
6:18pm: As usual, the buffet spread here is really a treat for individuals. Of course, the question is whether all these expense are really necessary (mental note: check the expenditure for the entire event; has to be online).
5.51pm: Entered the University Cultural Centre. The atmosphere here can be a little intimidating, because many of the guests are grassroots representatives (who know each other). Interesting to think about how guests are invited; greater diversity, maybe?