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I am Singaporen VIII – Meritocracy, Mai Hum December 4, 2006

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.

I was reading the States Straits Times today…seems Little Lee is talking about Meritocracy again. Speaking of ‘giving a child from a poor family every opportunity to get a good education,’ actually, i agree that they can do it. I just don’t agree with how they go about doing it. Because in Singapore, there are such things like independent institutes which charge you $200 a month for the prestige. For example, Raffles Institution. Or the Hwa Chong Institute (i’m so not sending my son there.) Yah…must pay big bucks to go in one lei!

SO, to enable these poor children to get a good education, Government gives handouts in terms of scholarships, bursaries et al to these children so they can go study at these good schools. Of course, this is sticking to the meritocracy part pretty strictly. But the side-effects of this education scheme is that these people eventually become eternally thankful to the Government (read: the PAP) and will vote for them forever, because ‘they helped Ah Seng go to university!’

Ok, that’s still not so bad. My point about this meritocracy thing is that we shouldn’t be only allowing poor children who DO WELL to get a good education, but we should start considering education as a basic human right. Is it that abhorrent to the heads of the powers that be?

I feel that little Lee will have much to say about this, saying that if education is a basic human right, everyone will have access to education, no one will see the need to do well, Singapore will sink back into the South China Sea or become another backwater haven for pirates. Therefore, education up to primary school is compulsory, but not beyond. And also an university education. They cost thousands a year and the government keeps implementing fee hikes…donno for what also. Because this involves one thing which is of paramount importance to any self-respecting Singaporean: the abolishment of rankings.>This obsession with rankings has its roots in meritocracy…in that Singaporeans aim to be first in everything, first in this, first in that. Last time in the school rankings…every school wants to do well…so every school will put its ranking above the students’ development. Is that education? Education should give rankings the finger and focus on what education is really about, namely, the students. That’s why in many schools, Literature has been more or less done away with because it’s difficult to score and therefore a liability for the rankings, or students are strongly encouraged (read: forced) to focus on what they learn at school and to drop other less important subjects like THIRD LANGUAGES. It’s not about personal development…it’s about the honour of the school and your junior batch’s half day off.This is meritocracy, in its purest, crudest form. Everyone puts rankings above everything else. Even at universities, (although there are precious little of them in Singapore) rankings are important. NUS goes about saying look we’re the 19th best university in the world…but still no one is coming. Only people from China, India and stuff who are dedicated to hardcore mugging (They probably have names like Ai Du Shu or something like that) and who spoil the markets by mugging and mugging and mugging without understanding. As long as the answer is correct (which is a big SNAFU mentality in the Singaporean education system) can already. This further powers the meritocracy cycle up because now these Singkees are pressurised to do well and stuff and it goes on and on and on and on ad infinitum.

No, Singapore, you can’t attract ang mohs to study in Singapore because in Europe, rankings are relatively unimportant. The student is most important, not financial gain or the gain of the whole. Call me selfish, but isn’t that what education is all about?! Fuck your stupid rankings, fuck this controlling of individual student development ‘for the school ranking.’ Competitiveness is relevant, even important. But NOT in education! I find it extremely unhealthy, to say the least. There’s no need for such competition at all! I mean, parents always scare their children so:

If you don’t study hard, you will not have a good future, cannot go to a top secondary school/top JC/top university, cannot get a good job, will end up sweeping the roads, etc.

I personally don’t know why they think like that, but they do. Even if it’s not necessarily true.

Now i quote further…

“In doing so, Mr Lee wants Singaporeans to stop expecting the Government to make things happen all the time.

‘If you see something not right, put it right. You see something you want to do, do it. Move. And if you succeed, good for you.’ ”

Okay, well done. If we see something not right, put it right. Great case-in-point is the Opposition. Especially Mister SDP (who i really suspect is a PAP mole sometimes) who tried to put the judicial system right and well…because it didn’t happen to agree with that Government’s viewpoint of ‘right’, they stepped in and put him behind bars. Therefore, how are we going to put something right which we perceive to be wrong, but you guys perceive to be right?

Lots of double standards here. Expecting initiative from us, but meek obediance when it comes to politics. Wanting to give the disadvantaged a shot at a good education, but insisting on rankings as a method of judgement, which gives these students the education which is good for the school, not for the students.

As far as i’m concerned, thankfully i’m not going to be teaching at a school where rankings are paramount. I’m kinda thankful i’m going to be working at a central (but very unimportant) language centre where students mainly drop out after sec 3 because daddy said that bio was more important or because your school carelessly oversaw the fact that you are actually good at german but weaker at a particular subject at school, say, HISTORY.

Yup, meritocracy, mai hum for me…i’d rather take it with a pinch of salt.



1. takchek - December 8, 2006

I am wondering if you had read this:


On the rankings of universities, and their dominance by Anglo-Saxon schools which are competitive in their admissions standards.

Continental European schools are shifting focus away from the “creed of egalitarianism”, which undoubtedly drags down their prestige (and quality of education). The Economist had more, and I had posted them previously on my blog.


and to a smaller extent:


2. The Truth - December 8, 2006

No wonder German unis don’t do well…because here no one cares about rankings. Actually they do but the rankings here from what i know are not based on results. They’re based on whether students are happy, what the profs think and so on. That’s why i don’t mind going to an unknown university. Because it’s not important for me.

Not yet. Actually there ARE one or two rankings which include German unis, but they don’t do well because in Germany (for now), results are up to US. Not up to the teachers. It’s very irresponsible at uni level to expect the lecturers to bear the sole weight of ensuring that their students do well.

If no one understands that its up to their own initiative, rankings are just going to be useless.

3. The Truth - December 8, 2006

And secondly, i was also referred to the DAAD. You should have gone there, because the DAAD WILL help you with applications and everything. Given a relatively good A level grade, most unis will accept you. DAAD is like a central organ for all international students, and they were set up for a reason – thus, i would say that the international offices will start to get in touch with you once you get your Zulassungsbescheid (or acceptance letter.)

Maybe i just had a better experience. German unis are not as selective as french ones, as far as i know. By the way, RWTH Aachen has loads of Singaporeans. I’m in a uni where there are no singaporeans whatsoever.

But it is perhaps too late – aren’t you in uni already? Anyway. If you want to get a Masters in Germany, (although i’m studying according to the old system which is a direct Magister) you can always drop me a mail and i’ll put you in touch with the Aachen people.

(Ed: It seems you’re in the States. So…have fun while it lasts. Rankings don’t matter at all to me. What matters is that i have a memorable time here.)

4. takchek - December 8, 2006

Thanks for the offer. I already have my MS and BS, and am now into my PhD program.

5. The Truth - December 9, 2006

chay! HAHA!

6. CZ - December 9, 2006

Personally I dont share the same optimism as you with regards to how education in germany is all about the students. In fact, I wonder how you ever get this impression… hmmm…. if u’ve time, check out our blog where I’ve written an article about why Germany is the perfect place for university education. Moreover, many unis here are beginning to take rankings seriously becos of $$$. Btw, Munich has a large concentration of full time sporean undergrads too. A total of 11 I think.


7. guojun - December 9, 2006

hahaha how i get the impression? Em, i think the unis vary from here to there la…i mean, definitely its different from what’s going in in Muenchen, but at least no one takes us for money trees here…yes the Studiengebuehrenseinsatz got turned over by the Landesparlament again…haha…

8. xizhen - December 10, 2006

hi again, i think when there’s überhaupt no competition, then there’s no impetus for unis to do better. when unis stagnate, like they are for example here where i study, whereby the profs seem to be using the same transparencies as they did 20 yrs ago, then the student can’t possibly benefit. it’s of course great to have a system when it’s impt that students get a chance to education by waiving sch fees up to uni level (which is of course going to change in germany in the near future), but when the quality of education suffers as a consequence, then we have to ask ourselves if this is really the best system.

things of course may be different where you are studying, and if it is then you are very lucky indeed.

9. guojun - December 11, 2006

hhaahaha…then i think i am quite lucky indeed. =P But still. i think these are just both extremes la. Extreme stress and extreme lack of it. Still, people don’t thrive in both extremes…and i don’t see Singapore lessening stress (in fact its gonna go up…cos gahmen must import more foreign talent ma) and nor is germany gonna become more stressful.

I know i function better with less stress. Thats why i find it better here.

10. CZ - December 11, 2006

then again GJ, your’s is a studiengang where prufungen etc dont matter as much compared to someone in life sciences or engineering. I believe to do the arts requires you to have a completely different set of skills altogether. Its like flair and style vs facts and figures. Xizhen, it’s the same everywhere in germany. slides so old u can see the mould growing. Well this trains me to be more realistic and rooted to the ground in a way.

11. guojun - December 11, 2006

you could be right there. =) Then again, the slides here don’t have mould growing on them. hahaha…(actually its mainly because there aren’t slides.) HAHAHAHA

12. zdnyx - December 21, 2006

my younger bro was in normal tech
n then i taught him geography (was in express)
and he loved it n UNDERSTOOD IT

they jus band u, sweep u one side and then condemn u for life with that label =.=

wtf y cant they simplify the curriculum?
see how much the “bandeds” r losing out?

n the indignation goes on with the lame asses policies n “yes u will believe my pathetic excuse cuz ur dumb n im in power” (like the gst thingy)excuses

i dont wanna move
i love singapore…not the gahmen
but the gahmen has credits too la that im not blind to it…it just seems that they turn corlupted liao

will b visiting u often =]

(paiseh i post in wong post =.=” not spamming u)

13. The Truth - December 24, 2006

meritocracy mai hum!

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