30 May 2019
It has been said that the easiest way to close the achievement gap in the Singapore education system is to prevent top students from advancing, such as by banning tuition and enrichment classes, and redistributing resources from popular to less popular schools.
This “beggar-thy-neighbour” approach is wrong-headed and simplistic. Capping achievements and limiting opportunities runs against a very fundamental philosophy of our education system — the realization of the fullest potential of every student.
Instead, the Ministry of Education has tried to “lift the bottom”. Some success has been achieved over the years. For example, a good proportion — about 7.5 per cent — of students who live in one to three-room HDB flats emerge as top PSLE performers every year.
There are also many students with non-academic strengths and talents. We should continue to strive to help them develop their strengths to the fullest. Indeed, MOE’s resourcing of schools reflect this approach. MOE also regularly rotates and ensures that our good performing teachers and principals are well spread across different types of schools.
Additionally, what we used to regard as opportunities only available to students from more affluent backgrounds are now broadly accessible. For example, most schools now organise overseas learning experiences. Schools are also offering a wider variety of CCAs.