Singapore has decided to phase out the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) academic streams in secondary schools. Those will be replaced in 2024 by full subject-based banding, where students study subjects at varying levels of difficulty. Given the academic stratification and anxieties associated with the existing system, parents who want their children to benefit from socially inclusive education could have been expected to welcome the end of a policy which outlived the economic use that it had when it was first introduced. Most Singaporeans support the latest move, but some are worried about the consequences of banding, one of whose objectives is to improve social mixing in secondary schools.
A mother cited by this newspaper has attracted online wrath for being upfront in her comments about her concerns. The housewife, who has a daughter in Secondary 2 at an all-Express school and sons in Primary 5 and Primary 6, said that she would prefer her children to not mix with those in the Normal stream. Her reason: "It's because of their upbringing - their mindset and values may not be in tandem with what I agree with. It's not so much about their academic performance." Others have voiced similarly discriminatory sentiments, as if upbringing - which translates into class in the lexicon of the status-conscious - is an infectious disease that can be transmitted to their children by those from presumed lower orders.