Inequality - schools are good class levellers

I agree with Education Minister Ong Ye Kung that there is an urgency to tackle inequality in Singapore (Ong Ye Kung flags stratification 'poison'; May 16).

A good place to start is with our education system.

In the 1960s and 1970s, everyone, rich or poor, went through the same school system.

Now, many "top" primary schools have affiliated secondary schools offering the Integrated Programme.

As a result, many of these children will grow up with schoolmates of similar backgrounds at least all the way till the end of their secondary school education.

As most of our lifelong friends are made when we are in school, we need to ensure that social stratification does not take place during the schooling years.

One root problem is our primary school admission exercise, which gives priority to children living in close proximity to the school and children of alumni.

As an example, this would mean that top primary schools in the relatively wealthy Bukit Timah belt tend to have a higher proportion of children coming from wealthy families living in private estates.

One drastic solution is to relocate some of these "top" schools to Housing Board neighbourhoods to ensure children living in HDB estates have a better chance of attending these schools.

Perhaps a less drastic solution would be to have a quota system based on household per capita income or housing type.

This is no different from the racial quota system to ensure that each HDB block has a good mix of residents of different racial backgrounds.

Yeo Chee Kean

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Inequality - schools are good class levellers'. Print Edition | Subscribe