Priority to alumni goes against meritocracy, equal opportunity

I agree with Madam Grace Chua Siew Hwee that those who sincerely want to give back to their alma mater should be able to do so given that they spent a part of their formative years in that school (Alumni donate to alma maters due to strong bond; July 19).

However, public policy in education should be pragmatic and not based on personal feelings.

It is an undeniable fact that a good proportion of students from "elite" schools hail from affluent families who have favourable socio-economic leverage over the majority of the population.

It is true that "non-branded" schools have produced some outstanding and successful people, but their numbers pale in comparison with "branded" ones.

Saying that they form a statistically significant proportion of the population is mere hyperbole.

Most would concur that our nation and its leaders value meritocracy and equality of opportunity, especially among the young in Singapore.

Allowing alumni to artificially influence the course of meritocratic proceedings, through school admissions for example, would erode our nation's values and its subsequent adherence to these values in the future.

This sets a dystopian future, for our young sons' and daughters' chance of success is predicated on their parents deeds before they are even born.

As such, we can never truly solve the problem of social stratification.

Intellectual honesty is definitely needed when tackling these types of issues with parents, and the relevant authorities and the privileged should not perform mental acrobatics to achieve their desired outcomes.

Darren Ng Zixiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'Priority to alumni goes against meritocracy, equal opportunity'. Print Edition | Subscribe