Opening up 'elite' schools not way to solve social divide

Narrowing the social divide cannot be done simply by putting students from "non-elite" schools into "elite" schools (Tackle inequality by tweaking education and housing policies; May 15).

Contrary to perceptions, schools like Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls' School have a diverse student body with a good mix of students from different races.

They accept students from many primary schools in each intake, and provide bursaries and financial assistance to those who need them.

Furthermore, addressing the social divide should start by not calling such schools "elite" schools.

These schools are coveted, but not "elite". They are simply schools that were given the autonomy to run programmes other than those offered by the Ministry of Education. Because of this, they are able to provide a more rigorous curriculum to stimulate students' learning ability.

Admission to such schools is based on merit in academics, sports, music and arts.

Transparency in this merit system must remain for rich and poor alike.

Debates on meritocracy, which perpetuates the principle of "reap what you sow", happen when the tools accessible in the reaping and growing process are not the same, hence affecting the outcome of the harvest.

Therefore, we should look into early intervention.

Fractured family structures should be identified early, and good social support be made easily accessible because having a conducive home environment is vital for learning.

Making quality pre-education programmes easily accessible is also important so that education journeys start at similar points.

Primary schools are good platforms to equalise social inequality.

Select sports and fine arts programmes could be incorporated into the standard curriculum to provide varied exposure and help build children's confidence in areas other than academics.

Complete equality cannot be achieved, but children can be prepared to compete on fairer ground.

Doreen Leong May Yuen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'Opening up 'elite' schools not way to solve social divide'. Print Edition | Subscribe