Misleading headlines by mainstream media on SUSS Marriage and Baby Bonus Scheme

I really don’t understand how The New Paper (TNP) can title their article “Thumbs up for the SUSS’ marriage and baby bonus offer” when Associate Professor Daniel Goh, a sociologist from NUS, who was interviewed for the article called the offer “a wonderful gesture” although “he does not see the scheme as encouraging marriage and childbirth” given that “marriage and raising a child are immense responsibilities that most people take seriously and a free module is hardly part of the calculations”.

By titling the article in the way that they have, TNP has given the impression that there are no detractors to this Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) scheme.

While Associate Professor Daniel Goh has recognised the well-intentioned sentiments behind the scheme, he has certainly not given it the “thumbs up” given that he does not think that it will be effective. Either TNP does not understand English, or this title is a deliberate attempt to mislead readers.

Is there some kind of concerted effort for the mainstream media outlets to show support for this scheme? I note that the Straits Times coverage is even more one-sided and does not even feature any comments from critics but instead, features comments from two individuals who are in favour.

One issue glaringly obvious in omission is the issue of discrimination. Why has none of the major news outlet tackled this? I can understand rewards such as these being handed out to students who perform well or who cannot afford the courses as these will be related to studying.  By offering free modules only to part-time students who get married or have babies, are they not blatantly prejudicing other part-time students? Surely continued learning is a positive thing for all people. Not just people who get married and have children. Another question that needs to be asked is whether unwed parents will also be given the same privileges? If not, it adds yet another layer of bias as it sends the message that unwed parents wanting to upskill are less important.

Personally, I think that Associate Professor Goh is right. Getting married and having a child are big considerations and free modules will have little or no impact on those decisions. As such, in my opinion, this scheme actually causes more harm than good by enhancing discrimination and prejudices.

The role of the press is in large part to inform its readers objectively. By failing to delve deeper into the prejudices that this scheme can produce and attempting to portray the scheme in a positive light only is irresponsible, disappointing and disingenuous.