Children from higher socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to attend Integrated Programme (IP) secondary schools and their affiliated primary schools, as well as those that offer the Gifted Education Programme (GEP).
This was a key finding of a recent study that examined class stratification in schools and if students from different schools had different levels of educational aspirations.
The study was done by Ms Ong Xiang Ling, its principal investigator who is a Singapore Children's Society research officer, and Dr Cheung Hoi Shan, a post-doctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore.
Their work pointed to a disproportionate number of students from affluent backgrounds in IP and GEP schools.
In the study, schools were divided into three groups and about 200 students from each group were polled. Type 1 were IP schools, their affiliated primary schools, as well as primary schools which offered the GEP. Type 2 were government-aided schools and autonomous schools which did not offer the IP, and Type 3 were government schools.
Data showed that nearly 41 per cent of Type 1 secondary school students came from families with a monthly household income that exceeded $10,000, compared to 7 per cent in Type 3 schools. About 31 per cent of Type 1 students lived in private homes, compared to 2 per cent in Type 3. About 54 per cent of Type 1 students had at least one parent with university education, compared to 17 per cent in Type 3.
The fact that there is a significant disparity in secondary schools, where entry is supposed to be by merit, points to a possible perpetuation of class differences in schools, said the researchers. Dr Cheung said: "The observation from many news reports... does point to some form of social stratification in our schools; so in elite schools you tend to have families represented by higher socio-economic status (SES) and in other neighbourhood schools you tend to have the reverse."
She added: "We see SES differences also in secondary schools, where entry is supposed to be determined in large part by the children's results in the PSLE. Entry is not about distance or alumni associations, yet we also see marked SES differences in elite secondary schools. So it may point to a perpetuation - if you started off with high SES, chances are because you have more resources, you are better prepared for PSLE, so you are more likely to get into good secondary schools."
Said Ms Ong: "Higher SES children are more likely to be in Type 1 schools, and being in Type 1 schools makes them more likely to have high confidence in attaining at least a university degree. Then it would mean that there could be a perpetuation of class differences, because research has shown that if you have high confidence of attaining a university degree, you are more likely to actually get a university degree."