I read about the priority scheme for Primary 1 registration with mixed feelings. While I am happy for Singapore citizens that they get priority over permanent residents (PR), I have empathy for the PRs that they will now be discriminated. Of course, the PRs benefit by not having to serve National Service, but there is a saying "two wrongs does not make a right".
Generally, all forms of discrimination are bad, and should be avoided. Discrimination is negative and leaves a bad taste among the people who are discriminated. Where possible, it should be avoided or kept under the radar - so that it does not become a hot issue.
In our National Pledge, we pledge to build a society based on "equality and justice". Our society includes permanent residents and foreign workers - who deserve to be treated equally and justly, as much as is possible.
I support one type of discrimination based on income, i.e. higher income earners should pay a larger share of their income in taxation. I also support the levy that has to be paid to employ foreign workers. I would even extend this levy to permanent residents, if this is deemed to be necessary.
Apart from the difference in taxation and levy, I prefer that all residents in Singapore should be treated equally and justly on their access to education and health care. We do not want to see a foreign worker denied of basic treatment, because they are not insured for any reason, such as being temporarily out of work.
For the same reason, I do not like the "means testing" that is being applied in the hospital on citizens. Why impose this burden on the hospital workers to explain to a citizen why they should get a higher or level of subsidy, based on the type of house they live in, for example?
Let me now deal with the issue at hand - the limited places in primary schools of top choice. The root of this problem is the competitive environment, even before a child goes into primary school. It is unfair that some people can get access to better schools compared to others. I find this to be another form of unfair discrimination.
I can understand the concern of parents who want their children to do well, but a discriminatory and self-centred system is not good for our society.
Almost 60 years ago, I attended a primary school near my home. It was a neighbourhood school that attracted students who lived nearby. There was no need for the parents to worry about school bus or to drive their children to school. Most students walked to the school and walked home after school. They fared well in life - some become doctors, actuaries and top civil servants.
The discriminatory practices adopted in our government policies over the past five decades have brought us to the present day situation. While we have some positive aspects in our society, including our economic well being and high standard of infrastructure, we also have the negative impacts such as a poor quality of life, high cost of living, wide income gap and low birth rate. Do we really want to continue this trend?
I feel strongly we need to adhere to the key pillars of equality and justice to build a better society for the people of Singapore.
Tan Kin Lian