Specialised schools may be curbing student aspirations, social mixing

Associate Professor Teo You Yenn has highlighted what has become an institutionalised social stratification by dint of the schools and classes we attend (Lack of social mixing is a symptom of inequality, not a cause; June 7).

It has been established that many of one's close friendships are forged during school years, especially the teenage years.

We obsess over how our top schools have become dominated by students of higher social-economic status, even as these schools make concerted efforts to attract high-performing students from heartland schools.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, the Ministry of Education may be contributing to the lack of social mixing, especially at two schools, Spectra Secondary and Crest Secondary, which cater to only the Normal (Technical) or NT stream.

Even in schools with a mix of Express, Normal (Academic) or NA, and NT streams, mixing of students may be difficult.

However, they still have a chance of mixing in the school's common spaces and during co-curricular activities.

NA and NT students who prove their ability to qualify for the Express and NA streams respectively after the year-end exams areable to do so. Many students aspire to such moves and are more motivated to do well to try and make the leap.

However, even if students in Spectra and Crest are able to upgrade to a higher stream, the barriers to such a move may seem insurmountable as they would have to switch schools. Will the more able students there be resigned to being in the NT stream, with no aspirations to do better academically?

Teachers usually try to motivate students to work harder and aim for a higher stream. However, are teachers in Spectra and Crest able to do that?

Teacher and parental expectations play a key role in the aspirations of students. Will they also be resigned to the children's place in a solely NT school and thus lower their expectations?

Though the two NT schools may have positive attributes such as maximising educational efficiency, they may be short-changing their students in terms of decreased aspirations and social mixing.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Specialised schools may be curbing student aspirations, social mixing'. Print Edition | Subscribe