SINGAPORE: Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat on Wednesday (May 16) highlighted the lack of diversity at some local schools as one issue that needs to be addressed while tackling social inequality.
Speaking during the third day of parliamentary debates on the President’s Address, the Workers' Party MP said this is important, with education being seen as a key enabler of social mobility in Singapore.
While the Ministry of Education has put in place measures, they may be insufficient, he added.
For instance, the promotion of interaction among students of all backgrounds through initiatives such as applied learning seem to have yielded results that are “rather fleeting in nature and confined to small groups of students each time”.
Such interactions that are "rather piecemeal in nature ... would not even put a dent to the class divide issue", he said.
Parents who can afford to enrol their children in expensive tuition and enrichment classes, in the hope of improving their children’s grades, will also continue to do so.
“This will perpetuate the message that if you have the money, your child will stand a better chance of getting good grades. The lack of diversity in our schools will only grow.”
On this note, Mr Png reiterated a suggestion he made in 2016 - for students whose PSLE results put them in the top tier of their primary schools to be granted a place in the secondary schools of their choice.
Describing it as a “fundamental change” to the Secondary 1 posting exercise, he said this will “ensure a good mix and spread of students from all primary schools going into the popular secondary schools”.
This will also introduce diversity into the “so-called elite schools” and prevent elitism.
Mr Png stressed that his proposal is still based on meritocracy “but at the local level”.
“They’ve certainly earned their place in direct admission to a school of their choice by finishing top in their respective primary schools.”
Referring to President Halimah Yacob’s calls for bold changes and inequality to be tackled “vigorously”, Mr Png also asked if the Education Minister would do “something bold in the area of equitable funding” for local schools.
“All schools are created not equal because the funding per school is different to begin with,” he said.
Mr Png reasoned that based on funding per student, popular schools with more students “will always have more funds by default”, while “shrinking neighbourhood schools will always struggle” to fund its extra enrichment programmes.
He said it is also a known fact that popular schools find it easier to raise additional funds from their “well-connected alumni”.
“Does the minister not agree that it makes a world of difference when smaller neighbourhood schools are resourced with the same amount of funding as the popular schools?” Mr Png asked. “Is the minister willing to do something bold in the area of equitable funding for all schools?”