Government communication efforts perform three basic functions – maintaining an informed citizenry, advocating policies and engaging the citizens. In Singapore, these functions are effectuated by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).
MCI leverages on both traditional and social media to explain issues and policy decisions to the people. One example is the recent dialect drama ‘Eat Already?' aired on Channel 8. Targeted at senior citizens, this drama aimed at communicating Government messages and information to seniors in a vernacular with which they are familiar – Hokkien. The programme highlights specific issues relevant to Singapore's seniors such as healthy eating, active ageing and lifelong learning. It also offers practical tips on managing diabetes and dementia, and where to learn new skills.
Part of the team that saw this programme to fruition was MCI Information Service Scholar Pauline Leong, who at that time was in the Content Development Department. "It was a particularly memorable episode for me – we worked with producers, pored over scripts, went down for photoshoots and witnessed events behind the scenes. We had to strike a balance between being detailed and being simple enough for people to understand. I'm glad we managed to get the message out in the best way possible," she shares.
Pauline explains that Information Service scholars are rotated to various departments throughout their time at MCI. "The six-year bond may seem daunting when you're 18, but MCI's rotational exercise keeps things exciting and ensures you are not limited to one portfolio for six years," she quips. Today, after about a year in the Content Development Department, Pauline is taking on her second portfolio in the Media Analytics & Operations Department where her main role is centered on media engagement.
The Sociology and International Relations graduate from Tufts University also underwent an internship at MOH while she was an undergraduate. Recalling her experiences in media monitoring, Pauline explains, "My internship was undoubtedly a hectic time. It was the year that dengue was on the rise, the first time PSI levels hit 400, and also when MOH organised the SARS 10th year anniversary event. But while it was hectic, it also gave me the opportunity to gain relevant skills."
Pauline also had the chance to spend a decent amount of time travelling, work on student publications, help Latin American immigrants learn English at a centre near her school, and complete a one-year exchange programme in Chile.
Leong Shiyi, Pauline
MCI Information Service Scholar
Assistant Manager (Media Analytics & Operations), Media Division
Primed for an Engaging Career
Apart from the Information Service Scholarship, MCI also offers the Information Service (Translation) Scholarship for those with a keen interest in translation. Public Policy and Global Affairs undergraduate Jeremiah Peter is benefitting from this scholarship. He brings us back to the time he discovered his interest in translation, sharing, "As a kid, I had a peculiar habit of translating the English subtitles on Bollywood Hindi films to Tamil dialogue. My family would not bother hiding their irritation!" Jeremiah tells us with a laugh. "I also loved watching the news on Channel NewsAsia and took up Mass Communications in Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) following my interest in the media. When I learnt about the translation scholarship offered by MCI, I jumped at the chance to apply for it."
His time at NP certainly prepared him for MCI's work in communicating policies and understanding ground sentiments. He went through his polytechnic internship at radio station 93.8 Live, just about the time the Ministry of National Development (MND) engaged the station to conduct a series of programmes as part of Our Singapore Conversations. Jeremiah shares, "I remember going to the HDB hub with my recording device to gather opinions about policies such as the subletting policy. I had to explain seemingly complex policies to people as an 18-year-old! My media training at NP coupled with the knowledge I'm gaining now in policy implementation puts me in a good position to contribute to MCI after I graduate."
In fact, the affable individual also shares that the translation scholarship has connected him to the Indian community more closely than ever before. He joined Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Tamil literary society after securing his scholarship in a bid to hone his skills in translation. He tells us, "I see my skills already being put to good use – people give us quotes in English which I have to translate to Tamil. I'm glad I have made decisions to seek out unique opportunities during my scholarship journey."
Jeremiah Joel Peter
MCI Information Service (Translation) Scholar
Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy & Global Affairs student at Nanyang Technological University
Opportunities for Learning
Looking ahead, Pauline and Jeremiah have much more to look forward to. After completing a year in the Media Operations Department, Pauline will spend two years in another Ministry where she will engage in corporate communications.
As for Jeremiah, he looks forward to participating in a Tamil speech and debate competition in Chennai this December. He is also considering doing a Summer Programme at Tel Aviv University in Israel, where modules in Middle East and Israel studies are interchangeable with his current ones at NTU. Beyond that, Jeremiah looks forward to his internship at MCI to try his hand at translations work.
Addressing students who are considering a scholarship with MCI, Pauline shares, "Always be receptive and interested to learn. It is also important to be yourself – everyone is different and one should not think of fitting into a particular mould. After all, the Ministry needs different viewpoints to keep its work diverse and interesting!"