SINGAPORE - Starting from school to the workplace and society at large, the Government is moving to make sure that pathways remain open for all Singaporeans in every stage of their lives.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged this on Wednesday, adding that the best way to improve lives is to create "ladders of opportunity" that will allow people to scale new peaks regardless of background and family circumstances.
This endeavour, he said, starts with schools. To that end, the Government will improve education at all levels from pre-school to university, to make sure every child gets a good education, he said.
It will also improve access to top schools, by having them seek out students from humble backgrounds who are less likely to apply for these institutions.
More will also be done to shape the culture in schools so that students can interact with one another comfortably regardless of their family circumstances, he said.
For example, schools have been encouraged to exercise restraint in spending and in organising activities.
As an example, he said, there was no need for schools to organise school trips to exotic and expensive locations.
Beyond schools, ensuring social mobility also means giving all Singaporeans "possibilities and hope" throughout their lives, he said.
He promised that the Government will provide opportunities for all rank-and-file and professional, managerial and executive workers.
It has just opened the Devan Nair Institute for Employment & Employability in Jurong, noted Mr Lee, to provide training under the continuing education and training (CET) scheme.
A second Lifelong Learning Institute will open in Paya Lebar later this year, he added.
After people have upgraded themselves, said Mr Lee, it was also important for them to have the opportunities to switch careers.
The Aspire Committee formed by the Government to explore ways to create more opportunities for ITE and polytechnic students, was set up for that purpose, he said.
Mr Lee noted that there was another third aspect to maintaining pathways open.
It is to uphold an "ethos of openness and informality" in society.
This means Singaporeans should treat one another with respect and easy camaraderies, whether one is a prime minister, a cleaner, or a parent, said Mr Lee.
"You don't bow deeply and touch your forehead," he quipped.
He urged the rich and successful not to flaunt their wealth and to adopt a "low key and unassuming approach", adding that status should not be determined by the clothes people wear, cars people drive, and also by the way they talk.
Using Britain in his example, he spoke about how Englishmen are classified the way they speak and their accent.
"Singaporeans must not be like that, we must feel a certain comfort with each other," he said.
He added that those in "positions of responsibility" should give due regard and respect to others.
Describing a scenario of how counter staff and teachers are respected by those they serve, he said: "We have to have that kind of society to be able to talk about openness... and to keep the flow of people moving up and not being closed off by glass ceilings."