Lower school fees a good step to tackle inequality

The recent move by the Ministry of Education to cut fees at independent schools by more than half in some cases for children from low-and middle-income families is a laudable step in tackling inequality (Independent schools to be made more affordable for less well-off; Dec 28).

This follows other initiatives aimed at alleviating inequality, including the move to make the Direct School Admissions process digital so as to provide students and parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds with more information to make an informed choice.

Reducing the financial costs and burden of studying in independent schools would help to level the playing field.

This will hopefully narrow the gulf between the percentages of students from higher and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, especially in top schools where the percentage is heavily skewed to the former.

Such a move, while commendable, represents a continuous work in progress to reduce the effects of inequality and foster a meritocratic society.

However, the effort to address inequality is never a straightforward or easy one. Inequality is a multidimensional issue that requires a multi-pronged approach to tackle. While improving access to resources is an important step, an ecosystem of support and intervention is needed at various stages of life to make an effective impact.

Beyond just the endeavour to remedy the ill-effects of inequality, we ought to decide on the type of society we would want to live in.

Clearly, aspiring to be a society where everyone, regardless of his background, is given an equal opportunity to shine is desirable.

Nicholas Soh Zhi Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2018, with the headline 'Lower school fees a good step to tackle inequality'. Print Edition | Subscribe