Accept class divisions, but blur the dividing lines

The recent Institute of Policy Studies study showed that there is a clear class divide in Singapore, essentially between those from elite schools and private housing, and those from non-elite schools and who live in HDB flats (Study finds evidence of class divide in Singapore; Dec 29, 2017).

Class division is not unusual and peculiar to Singapore.

Some academics think that this is not a good thing and that something needs to be done. I do not agree with this.

People with similar interests and of similar background tend to band together. This is only natural. If we look back at our early childhood, our first friends were from our class and from our neighbourhood.

Later on in life, we move around with our colleagues - those holding similar jobs and those from the same social class or from the same sports club. This is inevitable. It is the reality.

The solution is not to lament this divide, but to accept the reality and take steps to blur this segregation.

For lack of a better term, I will label the two groups, the "rich" and the "poor".

Most of our ancestors came to Singapore as poor working class migrants from China and India. Through hard work and austerity, they became "rich".

We should continue with this approach.

The "poor" should aspire to become "rich", and not just envy them. But, the Government must make it possible for the "poor" to become "rich".

Every child, rich or poor, should be given good and free education from nursery school until they graduate and enter the work force.

Essentially, the Government needs to give every opportunity for the "poor" to become "rich", grant bursaries and scholarships liberally to the "poor", and freely supportstruggling entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Perhaps the education establishments could try to mix children more and at an early age, through extra-curricular activities.

At the same time, every child should be brought up with a strong sense of communal responsibility.

The rich must be admired not for their wealth and ostentation but for how much they contribute to society - using the examples of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who have pledged their vast fortunes to charity.

This will allow us to have a good and harmonious society without fear or envy of any divide between rich and poor.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'Accept class divisions, but blur the dividing lines'. Print Edition | Subscribe