Seek out balanced mix of students at Raffles schools

The current campus of Raffles Girls School at Anderson Road.
The current campus of Raffles Girls School at Anderson Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Raffles schools were the pinnacle of aspiration for families like mine all across Singapore.

I remember taking the bus to Tiong Bahru Primary School, confident I would be an "RGS girl".

On my first day at Raffles Girls' School (RGS) I was asked by a new schoolmate: "Were you the top girl in your school?"

It transpired that virtually every girl in the room was asked the same question, and the answer was the same: We were the top girls from schools across our island nation.

I had such a great time at RGS.

I studied alongside daughters of hawkers, labourers, civil servants, and so on. I was gobsmacked when some of the girls arrived at school in chauffeur-driven cars.

Within the classroom, however, our family backgrounds did not matter. Of the 40 girls in class, only one had a graduate father.

How may we reverse elitism at Raffles Institution (RI) and RGS ("A hard look at averting elitism"; Wednesday and "RI population less diverse now, say many alumni"; Tuesday)?

In primary schools, one will find naturally gifted children from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may not already be in the gifted education programme.

Sometimes, the parents of such children won't even know that their children are good enough to get into RI/RGS. Sometimes, there are fears that they cannot afford to "keep up" or "fit in".

I suggest the relevant authorities consider "outreach programmes" to nurture these natural talents, engage with their families, reassure them of financial support and prepare them for a time at RI/RGS.

Or invite the top boys and girls in each class or school to sit a special test for RI/RGS. Just make sure that this is a test - unlike the Primary School Leaving Examination - for which they cannot be prepped.

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)
Harrow, Britain

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'Seek out balanced mix of students at Raffles schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe