On July 11, the motion ‘education of the future’ was debated in parliament. Central to the discussion was the paradox of meritocracy and inequality. This refers to how our meritocratic system of standardised examinations has ironically seemed to lead to unfairness. The hosts of tuition and extra-curricular activities that well-off families can place their children in give these children an unfair advantage in exams such as the PSLE. Some of the suggestions to remedy this problem include the scrapping of the PSLE, banning tuition or enrichment classes and implementing quotas in top schools.
Removing the PSLE is out of the question, according to Education Minister Mr Ong Ye Kung, instead, Singapore should strive to uplift the bottom and not cap the top. After all, no matter the system, the privileged will always have the resources to find a way.
One way MOE tries to bridge the gap is through providing additional resources to students who need extra help. Around $24,000 is spent on students in specialised schools, followed by students in the Normal (Technical) and Normal (Academic) streams. Additionally, programs such as the Junior Sports Academy help to encourage non-academic skills, where talented Primary 4 and 5 pupils get training in various sports.
However, continuous effort needs to be made to ensure that education is inclusive and remains accessible to everyone. This also means cultivating an education system that provides ample opportunities to students with disabilities. Some suggest that the P1 registration exercise also needs to be revamped to create an equal platform for all students. We need an education system that accounts for every child regardless of their speed and level of development, and to add to this herculean task, it needs to also encourage social mobility and interaction.