Social mixing helps promote meritocracy

As a young person who did not grow up in a socially or financially privileged environment, I am thankful for the meritocratic and inclusive society I am in.

It is not uncommon for Singaporeans to rise up the socio-economic ladder within a generation or two.

We have a range of institutionalised systems that brings together people from different backgrounds and allows us to forge shared experiences - including our public housing policy, the education system and national service.

Nevertheless, no society is perfect. We need to continually look ahead, striving to prevent or close cracks in society before they even appear.

While I have managed to break the social and financial barriers surrounding me, and pursue my interests and engage in activities to the best of my abilities, I cannot assume that every young person growing up in my environment is able to do the same.

And while Singapore is today a meritocratic society, we cannot assume that it will continue to be so, unless we put in the effort of sustaining and strengthening the system.

However, it has got to be more than the Government who actively works on this, for we, as the people, are a very integral part of this ecosystem as well.

Regardless of how many policies there are to promote social mixing, there is a limit to how much Singapore can advance towards our goal if we do not make use of these opportunities to interact with people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Increased opportunities for social mixing would also promote meritocracy, as one of the best ways to encourage young people from less privileged backgrounds is to show them that they can be well integrated into an inclusive society in spite of their backgrounds.

The hope that one can break out of one's present socio-economic environment would encourage them to work hard and improve their lives and that of future generations.

Leveraging a strong government-citizen relationship to move our nation forward means that it is not just the people who put in the effort or just the Government which does its job, but both Singaporeans and the Government working hand-in-hand in a mutual and win-win partnership.

Teow Junhao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'Social mixing helps promote meritocracy'. Print Edition | Subscribe