Singapore ministers are urging the Ministry of Education (MOE) to ensure that all students are given a fair chance at a good education, regardless of their background.
During a parliamentary session yesterday, several ministers shared ideas on how to keep education on a “level playing field” and prevent non-affluent students from losing out.
Member of parliament (MP) Ang Wei Neng quoted a former school principal who said that examinations like the Primary School Leaving Education (PSLE) are no longer the level playing fields they once were.
This is because wealthier families can now give their children an edge through tuition and enrichment.
"The concern is that the haves, with their connections and advantages, get more and more economic, social and cultural capital, while the have-nots struggle to even get a leg in the game even if they work hard from the start," Ang said.
To even the playing field, he suggested having principals of "non-elite" primary schools nominate one deserving student each to enter a top secondary school, reported the Straits Times.
This student should have the intellect, temperament and potential to go to a top school, he said, adding that he or she may also come from a disadvantaged background.
Such students could also receive additional financial help and mentorship, Ang said.
Further to Ang’s point, minister Masagos Zulkifli said MOE must continue to provide the best teachers and educational resources to “heartland schools” – or “non-elite” schools.
He added that Singapore’s education policies must also “enable every Singaporean to pursue their aspirations and realise their potential, regardless of their family background – including those with special needs”.
Only by investing in quality education will Singapore be able to ensure a “fair and good start to our children’s journey, whatever their background”, he said.
Shift focus to student’s values
Another recurring idea shared by MPs is to focus on students’ values as they progress in their education.
MP Cheryl Chan, for one, suggested de-emphasising academic excellence as a standard school admission criterion.
A student's performance in the school's values-in-action program should also be considered, she said. The program is aimed at helping students develop into socially-responsible individuals.
Recognising a student's contribution to the community could help reduce emphasis on the socio-economic background, Chan added.
Another MP, Henry Kwek, also suggested tapping on the values-in-action program to encourage collaboration between students of “elite” and “non-elite” schools.
This, he hopes, will help Singaporeans forge friendships across social divides.