Forum: Parents' mindsets on education have changed since minister's time

I read Ms Lee Yim May's letter, "Minister's success should put parents at ease" (Sept 8), with interest.

She referred to the fact that Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said he had attended what he called a "no-name primary school".

I am several years older than Mr Shanmugam; we belong to the same education era.

During that time, the notion of popular primary schools did not exist. Pre-schools, enrichment programmes and tuition were unheard of.

Many of us were from poor families, with parents busy eking out a living and not very involved in their children's education.

My parents even forgot to register me for Primary 1, realising it only when my elder siblings were going to school on the first day of the new school year. A friend who knew the principal took me there and I was immediately registered to start school.

My primary school, now defunct, was also a "no-name" school. Of the two classes which sat the Primary School Leaving Examination, half failed. Five of us made it to Raffles Institution, a bumper year for the school, which usually had only one pupil making it each year.

Today, times have changed. Parents are better educated, know the value of a good education, are more involved and have better financial means.

They want to give their children an early head start, realising that education has become very competitive. So to them, pre-school, enrichment programmes and tuition are essential to start their children off on their long education journey.

Being in a popular primary school is now a part of the equation.

Popular schools do have an effect on the children's academic performance. The school's relatively better PSLE results, track record, image and the expectations from stakeholders invariably drive and motivate the principal, teachers and pupils to strive for excellence to keep the school's flag flying high. The positive vibes are palpable.

Singapore's meritocratic system is so deeply entrenched that the mindsets of parents can change only when there is convincing evidence that academic performance is not a measure of success.

Lone cases of success at a "no-name" school, which may be outliers, cannot effectively put parents at ease.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.