Recently there have been discussions or even debates going on the topic of equality and wealth disparity in Singapore.
There is one article that argues that our education policies posed more of a problem rather than a solution to resolve wealth disparity in our post-industrial economy. This argument challenges what most Singaporeans hold in the definition and our perception of Meritocracy.
It makes one wonder if meritocracy has become a new ‘taboo’ word, especially when it is to relate to education?
From most of the articles that we read, it falls under 2 significant camps:
1. Meritocracy works well to bring about social mobility
Meritocracy is good and working in Singapore. One article wrote about a study by the Ministry of Finance indicates that Singapore has the highest percentage of children born to parents in the bottom 20 per cent of income making it to the top 20 per cent, compared to other developed economies. It was believed that this success is largely due to Singapore’s quality public education system that champions meritocracy which provides low-income families with access to quality education. This allows everyone to have a fair chance to compete on an equal with the high-income household based on merits.
2. Meritocracy work against about social mobility.
In this camp, they believe that meritocracy in our education system coupled with wealth inequality is the source, and actually worsen the gap between the rich and the poor. An article shared that developed countries like the UK, US and Singapore, their economic growth were largely derived from the application of capital and skills rather than labor. This has resulted in higher returns and higher wages for the professionals as compared to blue-collar workers.
<Source - Commentary: Can education fix inequality in Singapore? If not, what can? CNA, 02 Jun 2018>
Therefore, the definition of success is narrowed to getting good grades in one’s studies that lead to a university education, and eventually a ‘good’ job that pays well.
To ensure their own children is able to thrive in the system, higher-income families are able to and more willing to invest more of their resources (time and money) in private tuition for academic subjects and extracurricular enrichment activities. Parents from these families usually work as professionals in jobs that have well-defined working hours and employee perks that will benefit the family. With the intention and means to invest in their children education, it could enhance their children school performance and the chances of getting into "better" schools and universities. Which at the end of the day, their children are able to attain the "entry-ticket" with good credentials that employers value, and therefore reward with "better jobs" and higher salaries.
Whereas on the other hand, the lower income family cannot afford to have such extra tuition and enrichment classes, which already placed them in a disadvantaged position. Besides, in general, most of the parents from lower-income families work in jobs that have longer and/or irregular working hours which make it harder for parents to spend quality time with their children to coach and guide them in their school work.
Our view on this is that education is still important and relevant as a fundamental building block of society. Every child, regardless of social economic class, should not be deprived of receiving a quality education.
However, to address on the 'quality' of education received by higher & lower-income family, especially in the context of private tuition and enrichment classes, I suppose more can be done by both the parents and business owner. One example is that parents can be selective in what courses and the enrichment centre they enrol their children in. It doesn't always equate the more expensive option will be the better ones. On the other hand, for the business owners, we should try to put in our best value when educating our next generation. We can work with the community to see how we can we better help the lower-income family too, to extend quality private enrichment/classes to everyone.
We felt that some students do need the extra boost from having extra help to help them to leap forward in greater confidence. And we believe that quality private education shouldn't be just limited to a "privilege" group.
Education Made Right