Lack of diversity in schools a troubling issue

I agree with Mr Russell Tan Wah Jian that we seem to have collectively confused equity with equality in recent years ("'Elitism' can be good for society"; Forum Online, Aug 11).

Unfortunately, Mr Tan seems to have committed the same mistake.

Elitism is not the darker side of meritocracy. Rather, it is a product of myopia because it ignores the diverse backgrounds that the members of society come from.

In arguing for an equity-based society, Mr Tan failed to recognise that not everyone starts off with the same resources or privileges.

To believe that it is a "natural consequence" for children from more affluent family backgrounds to gain admission to better schools runs contrary to the fundamental principle of meritocracy.

Such a conception of meritocracy is not only problematic but is also deeply damaging to our social fabric, as it entrenches socio-economic inequality and curtails social mobility.

Also, because of the diverse socio-economic backgrounds that people come from, the reality is that not everyone is given equal opportunities.

In fact, it is not the most outstanding who can grab these opportunities; more often than not, it is those who are most affluent and well-connected.

More can and should be done to ensure that those from less privileged backgrounds are not disadvantaged in our education system.

As a fellow alumnus of Raffles Institution, it comes as no surprise to me that Mr Tan may hold such views. This is, in part, the result of the increasingly limited diversity in our school.

Most students come from similarly affluent backgrounds and fail to appreciate the diversity in our society or understand the realities of others from less privileged backgrounds. Mr Tan's letter reveals how troubling this problem has become.

It is imperative for us to take another look at the way we have deviated from the well-trodden path our education system has taken in recent years, and ensure that we do not become complacent in the comfort of the status quo.

Daryl Yang Wei Jian