In TODAYOnline report, “Workers’ Party’s third rally as it happened” http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/workers-partys-third-rally-it-happened, I was quoted as saying “If elite students become leaders in society, how will they empathise with the lower-income, other races?”.
The text is placed in quotes, which imply that I said those exact words. I had said, “If they move on to become leaders in our country, how do they empathise with the people at the lower rungs of society or with people of other races? “.
Who are the ‘They’ that I referred to in the speech? They are students in top schools referred to in the Straits Times report/poll on 19 November 2012: http://news.asiaone.com/print/News/Latest%2BNews/Edvantage/Story/A1Story20121117-384060.html. My speech specifically mentioned ST report. The report had said:
“Of the 100 students ST polled, 61 had no close friends in the Normal stream.
Their schools have only Express or Special streams and they have few opportunities to mix with peers outside school.
Just over half of them had no close friends living in three-room or smaller flats. And 45 had no close friends of a different race.
Here, there was a stark difference between the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, which have few non-Chinese students, and the non-SAP ones.
Some 82 per cent of the Nanyang and Hwa Chong students had no close friends of other races, compared to 12 per cent for the other three schools.
The 39 with close friends in the Normal stream met them in primary school or through activities such as sports, in church or tuition centres. But some said that even in primary school, they tended to mix with friends like themselves due to the upper primary streaming of pupils by academic ability.”
TODAYOnline’s quote may give readers the impression that I object to ‘elite students’ becoming leaders in Singapore. I was expressing concern that students in top schools who do not have close friends of lower income or of difference academic abilities or of different races will find it hard to empathise with others. Another ST report on 17 Nov 2012, “PSLE the cause of lacking student diversity” http://www.asiaone.com/print/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20121117-384073.html, had also referred to these same data. In it, it cited DPM Tharman as being concerned too with the lack of diversity of students in schools. The article pointed to PSLE and the secondary school admission system as the root cause of this lack of diversity in schools.
I would like to see an education system where there can be more diversity of students. I feel the school admission system based almost entirely on PSLE T-Score should be critically re-examined. The system can be adjusted to allow students of a greater variety of academic background and social status to mix together. Unfortunately, the system has progressively moved towards separating schools by the academic abilities of students they enrol, which has led to this lack of diversity of students.
For the record, I will say that there is nothing wrong with students of top schools becoming leaders of the country. In all likelihood, many of them will become our future leaders. Hence, it is more important that we expose them to the realities of society in their formative years.
(this letter was sent to Todayonline on 24 Jan 2013. The video of my speech is at http://www.todayonline.com/videos/yee-jenn-jong-speaks-workers-party-rally-punggol-east-election-jan-23-2013. The part about students of top school is from 6 m 58 secs. Text of my speech is at https://yeejj.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/yjj-pe-2nd-speech/ )