Thursday, April 29, 2010


Our National pledge emphases the principle of equality. A person is entitled to equal treatment in our society and should not be discriminated based on race, religion, gender or age. They are entitled to equal opportunity under a system based on meritocracy.

However, the concept of equality is subdued in a capitalist, free market system where people with the power and the money enjoy "more than equal" treatment. They can take advantage of the weak and the poor who do not have the financial resources to challenge injustice through the law courts.

Well-off parents can afford private tuition to their children to perform well in their studies and earn a scholarship and a good career in business or government. It is difficult for children from poor families to meet this competition, although some of them  are able to overcome the obstalces and have done well.

To reduce the disadvantages faced by the poor, we need national policies to achieve the following goals:
  • provide decent income through a minimum wage system
  • provide social security for old age
  • provide affordable health care
  • provide quality education to all, and not dependent on private tuition
  • strong regulation and enforcement to prevent cheating and exploitation of consumers
These policies need to be based on the principles of social justice. They will not lead to an equal society, but will reduce the vast disparities in income and opportunity that are part of the capitalist system.

Tan Kin Lian


Anonymous said...

Kin Lian.
well articulated. The current education system is not ideal by just looking at the size of the private tuition market tell you that the system need fixing.

John Wong

Ex-Con said...

The charts from studies in the article below does indeed suggest that there is a very strong linkage between parent's wealth and children's future earnings i.e. rich remain rich or richer, while poor remains poor or poorer.

The charts also show trends such as lack of social mobility in countries with high Gini Coefficient (high income inequality). And also of the rich paying lesser and lesser taxes over the last 30 yrs, i.e. the poorer have to take up bigger portion of the tax burden.

If economists study the Singapore situation, it will be exactly the same. One very obvious phenomenon -- in the last 20 years, majority of scholars and elite admin service officers come from higher-income families. They don't need the money, yet are given $500K overseas scholarships, and then fast-tracked to $350K/yr super-scale positions by their 33rd birthday.

Anonymous said...

Rex comments as follows,

I have said this before, and i will say it again.

The primary school education system is a real big joke in Singapore. the education ministry philosophy is "teach less learn more" and supposed to discourage rote learning.

Science: Based on that philosophy, the upper primary science text books are very thin. Like Magazines! There are very little facts inside. Instead it poses questions to the kids many times,but does not always give answer!! That's why it is so thin maybe. THE TEXTBOOKS are next to worthless when it comes to exam. The exam questions are mostly based on facts taught but not documented in the textbooks. So the richer students pay for another "outside book", or tuition, which summarises all the relevant facts required to handle examinations. This means the poor student wasted money buying the silly magazine-cum-textbook and it is hard for him or her to catch up.

Mathematics: IT comes in 4 thick books slightly smaller than A4! (the publisher makes big money). But, the exam questions are very different from the textbook examples!! Much more difficult than the textbook examples!! The poor student is again disadvantaged.

ENGLISH: English is another big joke. There is not enough emphasis on grammatical construction. Too much emphasis on a lot of irrelevant stuffs by any standards. Yet typically the student buys four separate textbooks eacy year for English, the publisher make money four times.

Chinese: This surprisingly is perfectly fine. I have no problem with the chinese textbooks. They are clear, to the point, and the passages provided for comprehension in the textbook are acceptable.

A long time ago, even if you are poor, you study hard from the textbooks which you bought, and you can succeed.

Not today. Rich people who can use money to bypass the system will ensure their children do well.

Singapore has no place for poor children, sorry.


Anonymous said...

JC tuition, one subject about 4k per year so my niece have two subjects and my son one subject so we paid 12k. We are not rich but what to do, cut all other expenses. At least afetr A level,they can now go to local uni.

I know the rich kids are going to US, UK or Aust. Thank god that our uni now is of high standard.

Anonymous said...

About ten years ago, I conducted a two months student enrichment course for one secondary school.

I noticed that there is great difference in class size between the special stream and express stream classes. The class size for special stream is about 25 but for express stream the class size is about 40 plus.

It seems that our education system allocates much more resources to the gifted and special streams students than the express and normal streams students.

I felt that this is not right (not fair) and related this to my friends, one of them told me that his daughter was in gifted class and her class size is only 13 !

Anonymous said...

but according to Lee Kuan Yew the pledge is just an aspiration!

When LKY took out his axe and met NMP Viswa in a cul de sac in Parliament, LKY told the whole of Singapore, National pledge is just an aspiration because it has no reality and therefore not believable.

"All Animals are equal but SOME animals are MORE equal"

Anonymous said...

i also like to suggest that the gahmen stop using the property market as investment for people because it will only make the rich richer. the poor with limited exposure (as they only have HDB flats which they cannot & will not sell) to it. and because of high property prices that keep going up, our children - who are forced to step on the rat-race treadmill like us - are unable to take care of us. sad, very sad for singapore

Anonymous said...

Provide Social Security for Old Age???............Dream on!
What Social security are we talking when the work "WELFARE" is taboo here.
We hardly hear about Social Welfare
Svc. or Free handouts!
So Social welfare is replaced by Job Welfare.
No such thing as old until you drop dead~

Anonymous said...

Just read the ST back page on NTUC Income. The CEO is a good example of putting policy holders first. I bought some policies from NTUC Income and I am glad that the organisation is a fair one to its policy holders.

Anonymous said...

Diary of a reformed elitist

I AM as Rafflesian/Raffles Girls' School (RGS)/'elite' as they come. My father was a Raffles Institution boy; I went through Raffles Girls' Primary School (RGPS), RGS, then Raffles Junior College, then on to the National University of Singapore, boarding at Raffles Hall. My sisters went through much the same route. My little girls are in RGPS.
I recognise the syndrome Ms Sandra Leong talks about ('Scoring high in grades but not in values'). I live it, breathe it. Most of my friends are like me, graduates. Most of us live in landed property, condominiums or minimally, executive condos or five-room flats. None of us talks about making ends meet, or how we must turn down medical treatment for our aged parents because we cannot find the money
Stories of the educated and well-endowed
But I will add to her essay: that those traits, that aura is not unique to RGS girls. It resonates within a social group, and its aspirants, the well educated or well endowed. I hang out with so many, I have stories by the barrel.
- My doctor friend, non-RGS and one would even say anti-RGS, was shocked when she found out how many As I got in my A levels, since I opted to do an arts degree. In her words, 'I thought all arts people were dumb, that is why they go to arts'. Her own family boasts only doctors and lawyers - she said they would never contemplate any other profession - and by implication, all other professions are below those two.
- A church-mate who lived in a landed property in District 10 - definitely not an RGS girl, and I venture to guess, not even a graduate - once, in all sincerity and innocence, prayed for all those who had to take public transport and live in HDB flats, for God to give them strength to bear these trials.
- Another friend, also non-RGS and a non-graduate, shudders when she recounts the few months she lived in an HDB flat. And that was a five-room flat. Imagine the culture shock if she had lived in a three-room flat.
I continue to meet people who never visit hawker centres, who wonder why the poor people do not work harder to help themselves, who fret if their children do not get into the Gifted Education Programme (reserved for the top 1 per cent of nine-year-olds).
Many live in ivory towers
The pattern repeats itself in the next generation. When my 11-year-old had to go on a 'race' around Singapore, using only public transport, the teacher asked for a show of hands on how many had never taken public transport (bus and MRT) before. In a class of 30, five raised their hands. I think if the teacher had asked for those who had taken public transport fewer than 10 times in their young lives, the number would have more than doubled or tripled.
Many of us live in ivory towers. I know I did. I used to think Singapore was pretty much 'it' all - a fantastic meritocracy that allowed an 'HDB child' from a non-graduate family to make it. I boasted about our efficiency - 'you can emerge from your plane and be out in 10 minutes' - and so on.
It was not that I thought little of the rest of the world or other people; it was that I was so ensconced in my cocoon, I just thought little of anything outside my own zone. 'Snow? Yes, nice.' 'Starvation in Ethiopia? Donate $50.' The wonders of the world we lived in, the sufferings and joys of those who shared this earth were just academic knowledge to me, voraciously devoured for my essays or to hold intelligent conversations at dinner parties.

Anonymous said...

8,32am, I agreed. The CEO is first class making personal visit and all. Good role model.

Anonymous said...


Good role model ... you mean the below ceo?
Good role model ceo

Btw, a big bunch of them just came back from their incentive holiday to Beijing 22-26 April 2010. Airfares, hotels, limousines, restaurant meals, night clubs, XO Cognac, Remy Mertins all courtesy of policyholders hard-earned money.

No wonder he's so happy to go jalan-jalan to give ang pao & presents, but only if ST reporters are around.

If not for the extravagant Beijing all-expense-paid holiday, the policyholders will get extra $500-$1,000 more.
See their itinerary in Beijing

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with Mr Tan's call for equality.

Singapore Education is no longer a source of social equality and meritocracy. I'll summarize the pertinent points already highlighted by others:

1. "Teach Less, Learn More".
This benefits the rich students who can afford private tuition to make up for any shortcomings in this idiotic philosophy.

Rex is correct in his assessment of the school textbooks.

The poor families have BOTH parents working. They can't afford private tutors or have a stay-at-home parent to teach the kids what should have been taught (but was not taught) in school.

2. I looked at my child's school yearbook class photographs. The GIFTED programme class has 16 kids AND 4 teachers! The "normal" class had 40 kids and 1 teacher in the photograph!!

3. I would like a study to be conducted to find out the family income of the students who win scholarships. Are only rich families benefiting.

4. I applaud "reformed elitist" for speaking out.

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