The Straits Times
Published on Nov 20, 2012

Nip elitism in the bud


THE Government may not have intended the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to be the be-all and end-all of a successful education ("PSLE not the be-all and end-all: PM" and "Top schools' students tend to have friends like themselves: Poll"; last Saturday).

But combine the PSLE with the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) and the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme, and we end up with a system that creates an elitist group of children from as young as age nine.

My son sat the GEP entry test recently. A classmate who was successful taunted the others who did not qualify. This attitude carries through the rest of the GEP years.

The poll mentioned in the second article told me, and I suspect quite a few other Singaporeans, nothing new.

The "exclusivity" of the students from the top schools is a known fact. What is alarming would be if many of these students go on to become leaders in the Government or their respective fields without a sense of our reality - that of the common people.

Besides, with the amount of studying that goes on in these schools, can we really expect these children to have time to mix outside their own circles? Community service is periodic and can only have a temporal effect.

A review of the PSLE will be complete only if it includes a review of other schemes like the GEP and DSA.

It is unnecessary to assess and stream children from such a young age. Parents can accept a reasonable measure of success, but this should not be done by assessing or streaming children from as young as age nine.

Give children a broad-based education to allow them to explore and enjoy learning, and assess them when they are more mature and when exam techniques are less of an issue, to give everyone a level playing field.

The crux of the matter is whether we want to have a society that has an elitist minority or a truly diverse one.

Suzy Egan (Mrs)