Leave no child behind in academic rat race

Recently, there has been plenty of vibrant discourse about the widening class chasm being an unintended consequence of the value of meritocracy that has been inculcated in us all our lives.

It is timely that this issue has been brought up and people can discuss it without fear or favour.

Class distinction has always been a taboo and divisive topic, inciting visceral feelings of inequity, discrimination and elitism.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, most parents relied on home tuition to improve their children's academic grades.

In the 21st century, however, enrichment classes have become commonplace and parents spending thousands of dollars monthly on these classes has become the norm as they see this as essential for their kids to be competitive with their peers.

Some parents even spend exorbitant amounts of money to send their children to gifted training classes to prepare them for the Primary 3 Gifted Education Programme entry exercise. This trend was almost unheard of in the past.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds, however, do not have this privilege and, based on the value of meritocracy, if they perform poorly academically, they will unfairly perceive themselves to be incompetent and dumb, therefore perpetuating this vicious circle of class divide.

I hope the Government can substantially increase the public spending on education to help underprivileged children so as to level the playing field in this highly competitive academic rat race.

It should be noted that Singapore invests just under 3 per cent of its gross domestic product on education, compared with more than 5 per cent in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

Eliminating exams at the lower primary levels to mitigate this academic rat race is a piecemeal effort. We need more impactful and systemic measures in place to give the underprivileged an equitable head start in life and leave no child behind.

Lee Ser Lin (Ms)