'Fixing' RI not the solution to problem of social divide

When social issues are tossed up in discussions, schools such as Raffles Institution (RI) are believed to perpetuate these problems, with allegations that bringing together high achievers in the classroom breeds elitism and segregation.

RI faces scrutiny over its student profile and other issues, even being told to focus on teaching kindness (Kindness in an age of elitism; June 15).

For many, bringing changes to the school appears to be the solution to fixing social issues.

It was reported that 53 per cent of RI's students reside in public housing (Society must keep social networks open: PM; May 17).

This was compared with the fact that 80 per cent of Singapore's population live in such housing.

But would RI having about 80 per cent of its student cohort residing in public housing address the social divide?

Adopting this rationale, should universities change their selection criteria to dilute emphasis on academic requirements in order to achieve a good social mix in coveted areas of study, like medicine and law?

We should distinguish between social needs and social aspirations.

The desire to enter coveted schools is an aspiration, not a need. Addressing social needs requires a different platform.

We should understand that segregation in the education system is not to divide, but to provide alternatives to suit different needs and paces.

There also appears to be a lack of awareness of the Integrated Programme offered by RI and other schools like it.

In addition to the Values In Action scheme, students take up social projects throughout their four years of study or beyond.

For example, community problem solving projects have raised awareness of dementia and other issues that carry a social stigma, youth for causes projects have raised funds for identified charity organisations through the sale proceeds from self-initiated concerts and research studies projects have focused on children with low IQ.

We should distinguish between social needs and social aspirations.

The desire to enter coveted schools is an aspiration, not a need.

Addressing social needs requires a different platform.

We should understand that segregation in the education system is not to divide, but to provide alternatives to suit different needs and paces.

Benefits are reaped by those who can keep pace with the rigorous curriculum in schools like RI, but it is counterproductive for those who have not built a good foundation to shoulder such rigdours.

We should embrace those who have fallen behind as well as acceptthose who excel.

It is ironic that we call for kindness to be shown to one group and, yet, pass judgment on another based on limited knowledge.

Social issues are complex and dynamic in nature.

Surely, "fixing" RI is not the solution.

Doreen Leong May Yuen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2018, with the headline ''Fixing' RI not the solution to problem of social divide'. Print Edition | Subscribe