The Bold Initiative : Education

poor rich students

By: B Goode

The recent announcement by the Education Minister to loosen, just a little mind you, our seemingly oppressive exam-centred educational regime has been well received by most. Although it had been argued by some that it was a direct result of complaints by the new citizens and potential new migrants that their children couldn’t cope, it shouldn’t matter. Singaporean children would benefit too.

But was it a bold move? Nah. Safe, yes. Populist, yes. But bold? Hell to the NO.

So what would be considered as bold?

  1. Removing the ability for schools to pick and choose students.

Schools such as Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong JC, Nanyang Primary etc have the monopoly of good students. RI will not accept students unless their PSLE results are over the moon. Same goes with Hwa Chong JC that will only accept top GCE `O’ students. Primary schools such as Nanyang Primary due to some convoluted entry requirements have the choice of crazy rich kids to choose from.

These schools, mind you, are not private schools. They are government funded and yet for years they are allowed to hoard the best of the best. It goes without saying that if you have the best students, your results will be the best. Consequently, it will attract more best students, best teachers and the cycle continues. But what about those students who are slow-learners? They will inevitably be grouped together in neighbourhood schools and become mediocre together.

The argument for this is that good students if grouped together will be able to draw upon each others’ strength and so they will not be dragged down by the slower pace of learning of the not so clever students. Also, the school could devise programs that suit the high intellectual capacity of these students.

But the downside to that is that you will inculcate a sense of self-entitlement and breeds elitism further down the road.

Removing this ability for schools to cherry-pick, will allow the students to mingle, learn from another, draw upon the strengths of the brighter students and be taught by the best teachers who have made the schools to have the best results in the first place. This is called leveling the playing field.

For parents who want to send their children to mix with those of their own `kind’, they can always send them to private schools.

  1. Kindergartens in government schools

Officially and legally, education starts when a child reaches 6 years old. But the thing is this. By the time a child enters primary one, most will already be `educated’. At least in basic math and languages. This is thanks to them being in kindergartens from the age of four (K1 and K2). But for a few children, because of their families’ financial status or for some other reasons, they are not able to attend kindergartens. Thus, when they do finally enter primary school, they will already be at a disadvantage. It is like they are being penalized for their facts of life.

Why don’t all children be made to attend government kindergartens from the age of four? Meaning, formal education officially starts at four? Primary School premises can be used for that purpose. Of curse there’s then an issue of what to do with the private kindergartens such as those run by the PAP and mosques that make tons of money. Well, their software such as teachers and programs could be inducted into the government kindergartens or the government could contract their services.

Again, this is called leveling the playing field.

  1. Free Primary Education

Singapore is highly dependent on its people. It is the only resource that we have. Yet, the people have to pay for primary education. Why are poorer countries such as India and Sri Lanka could provide free primary education to their people (including books and uniforms) but not a crazy-rich country like Singapore? Yet, we complained about the Oxfam report…

At the end of the day, education is a very important tool for the well-being of a country. It is also a very important tool to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Yet, there exist within the system policies that seem to perpetuate the great class divide.

As I’ve mentioned. It is all about leveling the playing field. But most importantly, no one should be penalized for their facts of life.

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