Dogged focus on tuition hurts meritocracy

The departure of highly qualified teachers from the public sector suggests that there are inadequacies in the system ("Award-winning teacher became a tutor for the love of it" and "Ex-MOE official now a physics expert"; both published on May 23).

Furthermore, the popularity of tuition, which has anecdotally been said to lead to strong improvement in students' grades, also suggests shortcomings in the provision of education here ("Super tutors in demand / Each of them earns at least $1m a year"; May 23).

It can be argued that the increasing demand for tuition demonstrates that it is not a one-off phenomenon, neither is it purely fuelled by "kiasu" parents.

Certainly, there are also students who genuinely require more attention to stay on a par with their peers.

However, the true victims of such a trend are students from low-income families, who may not be able to afford the high costs of tuition.

This reduces their access to opportunity, as compared with their peers.

Should tuition become a mainstay of the education sector, it also impinges on the meritocracy that Singapore society rests upon.

It would be a shame for a bright student to be denied opportunities simply because he performed less well than another student who had heavy external mentoring.

It would, therefore, be in public interest for the Ministry of Education to bolster efforts to retain teachers in the public sector, as well as shore up efforts to reach out to students who fall behind academically, thus reducing the appeal of tuition.

Hopefully, these measures would help keep the playing field level, in the one domain where everyone should have an equal shot at success.

Aidan Mock Yong-Jie