If you want to be politically correct, you’d say that everyone is created equal. But the fact is, that is not the case. You tell someone born without legs that he is equal to Usain Bolt and he will accuse you of being patronising and condescending. A child born in the slums of India is already less-advantaged then Prince George. The term `everyone is created equal’ belongs to politics and religion. It has no basis in genetics or social science.
The same goes for education. Not everyone is born with the propensity for academia or with the privileges for study. That is why students taking the same test, score differently. And there are people who are born in circumstances where education is a luxury to be forfeited for the sake of a daily meal.
Realising this fact, good governments everywhere will try to ensure that even if we are not created equal, we will be given equal opportunities to excel. This is called `levelling the playing field’.
The latest program introduced by the Singapore government to achieve this objective is `ASPIRE’ – The Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review. It basically has three broad themes:
– Better choices: Helping students make better education and career choices;
– Deeper skills: Helping polytechnic and ITE students grow the skills they need;
– More pathways: Building more paths that will allow polytechnic and ITE graduates to progress in their careers.
Despite this, there are some detractors who think that ASPIRE means the government is no longer putting an emphasis on getting a degree. How this assumption comes about is truly baffling. Because ASPIRE is not a zero-sum game. It is at worst, a social engineering to ensure that those who are left behind in terms of education will be given the opportunities to excel. Social engineering it may be, but if it is able to bring out the best in everyone, then so be it.