Noble intentions, questionable steps, who gains?

Can convicts be lawmakers? How do you provide adequate childcare facilities without a correct estimate of demand? And is teaching girls to cook chickens the way to educate them? Here are excerpts from views in Asia News Network papers on these issues:

Convicts for political jobs?

Pandaya The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

Lawmakers stirred up a fresh political commotion after they floated the idea of allowing criminals placed on probation to run for regional elections.

Proponents argue that people on probation should fully retain their political rights because a verdict that allows the accused to remain in the community is not final in nature until they have completed their probation or been sent to jail for a repeat offence.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) begs to differ, believing that probation is a guilty verdict. However, if lawmakers agree to alter the law, the KPU has no power to stop it.

There is no doubt that the plan to allow crooks on probation to try their luck in local contests for power is a regression in the development of democracy. (In) last year's regional elections, some candidates hooked up in legal wrangles were allowed to run and, oddly, some triumphed.

Political parties have yet to make their members' ethical track records a prerequisite for candidacy. This has given politics a bad name.

Putting more kids in nursery school

Editorial The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

It is indispensable to correctly grasp childcare needs in order to realise an important policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration - reducing to zero the number of children on waiting lists for admission to nursery schools. Even if parents want to send their children to nursery schools, the children are not admitted as the number of schools is insufficient.

The number of such children as of April this year increased for the second straight year to 23,553. The total capacity of nursery schools and other facilities to accept children grew by 95,000 from a year earlier. But when the capacity expands, the number of parents who want to work and leave their children at daycare facilities also increases. The preparation of facilities to accept children actually cannot catch up with the growing demand for childcare, especially in urban areas.

It was also found that there were 67,354 "children hidden from waiting lists" who were not included in the tally.

The government plans to increase the capacity of childcare services by 500,000 places through the end of fiscal year 2017.

Can the plan lead to the solution of the problem of children on waiting lists? The government should re-examine the plan from such a perspective. Calculation methods to determine the number of children on waiting lists have been criticised for not corresponding to reality.

Teaching girls kitchen skills?

Sehar Tariq Dawn, Pakistan

The Punjab government wants to provide girls in school with "four chickens, a cock and a cage" to teach them about kitchen skills, nutrition and raising poultry.

In an age when other countries are preparing their female workforce to operate at the frontiers of science and technology, Pakistan wanting to teach its girls how to get the chicken karhai (a local dish) just right does sound absurd.

But in a country where 25 million children are out of school, of which 55 per cent are girls, and almost 40 per cent of children who are under five are stunted and underweight, mocking and dismissing programmes that could encourage school attendance is a luxury available to only those who have never known hunger or illiteracy.

Given the poor quality of Pakistani education and the impoverished nutritional status of our children, it is unlikely that our population will be able to meet the demands of a rapidly modernising economy and be competitive in global labour markets.

This is a future we should be very afraid of; if we fear this future even in the slightest, then we should bring to our policymaking a thoughtfulness that it is currently devoid of. Many children, particularly girls, have dropped out of school because the government has not been able to provide basic education facilities, such as walls for safety and security, clean toilets and drinking water, in existing schools.

Civil society activists should put some thoughtfulness into their support or opposition of public policy schemes. While we should continue to fight against the sexism embedded in our society, we should let a few girls have some chickens. We should do whatever we need to get girls into school and then keep them there for as long as possible.

•The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner ANN, a grouping of 21 newspapers. For more, see

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Noble intentions, questionable steps, who gains?'. Print Edition | Subscribe