Parliament: Social stratification will poison society over time, and policies need to work against this trend, says Ong Ye Kung

In recent years, concerns about a class divide had grown, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung acknowledged, and there had been a perceptible reduction in social mixing in recent years.

SINGAPORE - More than four in five schools in Singapore have a relatively balanced mix of students from different income backgrounds, with at least 5 per cent of their students who come from each of the top and bottom groups.

But Singapore can do better, and it should and will, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday (May 15) in his speech during the second day of the debate on the President's Address.

In recent years, concerns about a class divide have grown, he acknowledged, and there has been a perceptible reduction in social mixing in recent years.

Some schools, due to their history, culture or programme offerings, have large proportions of students from higher income groups.

"That has raised concerns, and a few principals have pointed that out in their public comments and speeches over the years," he said.

An Institute of Policy Studies survey, released last December, has also showed that there may be a nascent class divide in Singapore, added Mr Ong.

The survey, which asked Singaporeans where they lived, what schools they went to, and who their friends and associates were. It found that those who live in public housing have ties to 4.3 people in public housing and 0.8 people in private.

 
 
 

People who studied in "non-elite" schools had ties to 3.9 people who went to similar schools, and ties to only 0.4 people who studied in "elite" schools.

"People are free to choose their friends and whom they want to be with," he said.

"But when groups are predominantly formed along socio-economic status - whether one is rich or poor - it is the start of stratification and that will poison society over time. Our policies will need to work against this trend, to actively bring Singaporeans of all backgrounds together."