Address thirst for opportunity in rat-race culture

It is necessary to understand why the rat-race culture has been so persistent within our education system ("Helping children choose life, not death"; Nov 24).

Parents want their children to get into the best school possible because these schools have the most opportunities for them to further their academic learning.

This is especially true for children from lower-income families, who rightly see examinations which focus only on grades as a fairer playing field.

This is in comparison with the Direct School Admission system, which grants direct entry to students who excel in the arts and sports, for example.

This is because these activities often require huge, consistent investments from parents to buy sophisticated equipment and, in some cases, hire private coaches.

This thirst for opportunity is why parents are desperate for their children to excel academically.

Beyond academic prowess, the "better" schools have the infrastructure and coaches to engage in sports such as swimming and squash, with huge funding provided by these schools.

In these same schools, many overseas immersion programmes are heavily subsidised, sometimes fully, for low and middle-income families, thanks to bigger budgets.

This again creates opportunities that these children would not otherwise have.

The goal should thus be to make these opportunities available to all.

We should not resort to elite-bashing to bring top schools down to achieve equality.

Rather, strong funding should be provided to help every school work to create the opportunities like those in "good" schools.

This includes extending subsidies to more children from low and middle-income families for overseas immersion and school programmes, so that every child has a fair opportunity at experiential-based learning.

Improving the ease of sharing school facilities will be helpful too.

It is a good thing that parents have aspirations for their children to have more opportunities.

Addressing this thirst for opportunity will go a long way in developing trust in all schools, which can tame our rat-race culture.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'Address thirst for opportunity in rat-race culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe