Monday, March 26, 2012

Discrimination, equality and justice

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


yujuan said...

Singapore is not a country of citizens of the world, we are still a sovereign country, still need PRs residency passes and employment passes for foreigners.
Call me a nationalist by all means, but citizens should be given priority in allocations of scarce, but sacred to us, resources like public housing, education, etc.
Such policies are universal the world over, otherwise what's the argument about the constitutional right of citizens to vote in the Govt we want, may as well give voting rights to PRs as well, ain't it?

Weng Mao Fa said...

Three months ago, a 81yo housewife had bad pain on her hand after 5pm. She was rushed to NUH Emergency. At registration counter, patient was asked to pay $90 BEFOFE anything else.

Is this a discrimination?

Tan Kin Lian said...

I agree with your views and thank you for being polite in expressing it. If there is scarce resource, they should go to citizens first!
But there are basic needs that should be given to everyone. It would be inhumane to let the non-citizens be untreated when they fall sick.
So, we need to make sure that the basic needs are adequately provided for.
But the scare resource seems to be "good schools". Why create this type of scarcity in the first place? And even if it is given to citizens first, only a few citizens will get this choice.
I prefer that this type of scarcity should be removed and that primary schools should be made equal. We should not "differentiate" by allowing some children to go to good schools while other children go to "bad schools".

B Tiger said...

Mr Tan,

I am a bit disappointed at your argument which I think is self-righteous in style and not reflective of the real situation. Mr Heng and the MOE is right this time round. Come on! How can your primary school experience 50 years ago be relevant to the current primary one placement scene we face? Don't you know that good schools are about networking as well nowdays? You know what networking is right?

First there are always MORE school places than children. So no kid is being deprived of a place by MOE. That preceding statement is MOE's standard answer to us citizens who despite staying in HDB's which are near some popular schools but can't get in. There are just too much demand for such schools and we don't need to aggravate it by adding in demand from PR's (foreigners).

Many highly qualified PR's of the kind we want encourage do not want to take up citizen for one reason or another, but now if they want to have a choice school then maybe it's time to reconsider citizenship. On the other hand foreigners parachuting in their children and renting/buying/jacking up expensive properties near choice schools smacks of exploitation of a glaring loophole in our education allocation system.

Look at Jim Rogers the legendary billionaire from Alabama. He bought a house near Nanyang primary school for his kids on advice from his local friends. His wife is a parent volunteer in the same school where his kids go. He has more than enough money to donate to the school if he has not already done so. But he is a Singapore citizen - even when he need not be. That is the kind of talent we want to encourage to stay.

Second, the distance between the kid and the home is a matter for the parent to decide - not MOE nor respectfully you. I used to walk to my school in my kompung days but the kompung and school of old are long gone. I now send my kid to a popular school beyond walking distance - in a school bus.

It does not matter if the school is 2km away or 20km - the bus ride is about the same. You are really focusing on the non-existant "danger" which is the basic fault of your argument.

To conclude I think there is no discrimination as all citizens are equal and registration rules apply evenly. There is just finally a removal of a large and obvious LOOPHOLE where richer and luckier foreigners have a free ride on us.

Tan Kin Lian said...

@B Tiger. You are free to express your views, but there is no need for you to judge my views.

I feel that the whole system is complicated, with so many categories and criteria, and as you have pointed out, there are ways to circumvent them.

Remember that my basic belief is that it is better to have all primary schools of the same standard, rather than to have good schools and bad schools. But some people may disagree with me, and that is their view. They do not need to judge me or my views.

I do not agree on give some people the advantage through networking. It is a basic flaw in our system to grant privileges to some people. I do not wish to criticise your view and ask you to show the same degree of respect to me.

Blackprince said...

How can limit the amount of allotment to PR be considered as inhumane Mr Tan. Not to mention, this rules only apply to neighbourhood schools. Private schools like ACS international does not have such restriction. Is our nation having anti foreigner policies? I don't think so. I think u are over reading the issue.

Tan Kin Lian said...

@ B Tiger. I read that you are happy with the current system, for the reasons that you have described - and that you are able to get your child into a choice school. Well done.

I do not wish to judge you, but my view is quite different from yours.

Tan Kin Lian said...


I do not like the concept of choice schools. I prefer that all primary schools should be made equal, as much as possible.

I do not like the fight each year to get into choice schools.

But, if we have choice schools, we should reserve it for Singaporeans first.

Frankly, I think that this trend of "me-first" will breed a bad society for the future.

CreateWealth8888 said...

When somebody willingly said something in the public; it is already inviting judgement from others.

Hoffnungsfunke the billygoat said...

Mr. Tan,
I agree with your views that discrimination, whether against PRs or not, is undesirable. This is a knee-jerk reaction to the elections where Singaporeans made known their unhappiness at being flooded with so many immigrants into the country. The right solution is to build more schools and have, over time, more of them be perceived as quality schools to serve a much larger population. This measure shows that building more schools is unlikely to be in the works and marks Singapore's transformation into a society where foreigners are not welcome.

Before anyone lambasts me, I am a Singaporean, I don't like the crowds in the MRT and I vehemently disagree with the policy of boosting GDP through population growth. Still this doesn't mean that we should institutionalize discrimination.

B Tiger said...

Mr Tan,

I am generally quite supportive of your views since you went into the limelight in last year's election. Please accept my apology if I had come across as being disrespectful. It's just that we see the situation at ground level differently while you see it from a larger picture and may not see some of the flaws.

There is an example of a parent who lives next door to Rosyth Primary. Before the days of citizens having twice the ballots she tried her luck at phase 2C as she failed to get selected as volunteer. Her foreign HDB neighbours got lucky and she did not. Is it fair that her kid has to ballot with foreigners' kids and that she eventually has to go to a far away school? Is this not reverse discrimination since the neighbourhood has 25-25% foreigners?

Contrary to your claim these PR's and foreigners are not in the Pledge as it starts with "We the citizens of Singapore..." So I totally and vehemently disagree with you this time your suggestion that they are to be treated equally with regard to primary school registration priorities.

I initially sent my child to a neighbourhood school but changed him to a "branded" school after a few months. There are many reasons both push and pull but it was not an easy endeavour I assure you. Either you have to have $250K to donate or rent/buy inflated property nearby the school. In our case my child had two redeeming talents which the school appreciated and we have never looked back since.

There ARE indeed good schools like the one my kid is in and no-so-good ones like his previous. Instead of our objections to positive labeling of schools as "branded", "elite" and "ppular" why don't we all demand the rest of the schools to level-up instead? Good schools are good for many reasons too many to be elaborated here. The other schools should emulate them.

As for networking, a child cannot think for himself at 7 years old who his friends will be when he grows up. Adult networking theory can be applied to a child. If a child networks with peers who have high standards of academic, sport and character development, then he will learn to step up. This is called culture transfer and is the staple tip of Tony Robbins and the like success coach gurus. 95% of executives of the top western bankers come from a handful of Ivy League and UK universities. The majority of the political leaders and society leaders come from your old school RI. Many of them have known each other since childhood. That is the networking I want for my child and many parents want that too. It is certainly not a dirty word.

May you have a good day.

Tan Kin Lian said...

@B Tiger
If you read my opening paragraph, you will find that I am glad that citizens get priority although I would have preferred that this could be avoided.

We have so much "differentiation" in our society that it must lead to a self-centered society.

But, I now realize that most Singaporeans are happy to be "differentiated" in their favour, so I will not want to argue this point.

Tan Kin Lian said...

I want to show people that it is possible to give views, without passing unwarranted judgement on other people. I may disagree with your views, but I am still able to show respect to your views. I do not call you names or make personal remark or try to judge your views.

C H Yak said...

@" Don't you know that good schools are about networking as well nowdays? "

I believe so called "good schools" are primary schools. If secondary schools, it calls for good results to get in.

When it comes to just primary schools, I think Mr Tan has a good point.

Excel in the primary schools nearby so as to gain a place in the good or better secondary schools. That is fair competition.

If there are Singaporeans who feel strongly to go after "X" factors like networking at a particular primary school, so be it and good luck to such parents. LOL. If such good schools do exist on Pulau Tekong, so be it; if these parents who feel strongly about it can send their kids there, but priority should still be accorded for those who stay on Pulau Tekong first.

For illustration only, President Obama studied in a primary school in Indonesia, so those parents who believe in such networking for a possible "future President" should be allowed to send their children to this Indonesia school. Mr Tan was a PE candidate, if any parent believe his primary school played a part and such networking is good, so be it.

When you ask for "premium branding" you cannot ask for "fairness" or "priority" anymore. Even you buy LV you have to pay LV "price". So in this respect, I tend to agree with Mr Tan...SC or SPR; be fair to those who stay nearby. Better still, scrap such calling of "premium" brand for primary schools.

Stopping parent volunteering scheme is a right move. It is unneccessarily supporting such branding, and stupid in my own opinion. Singapore like to install crazy complicated policies and then perhaps look at even more complex measures to deal with the problems created.

Perhaps in such a system, you need alot of PSs (President Scholars to become Permanent Sec) to deal with the complications and pay them million dollar salaries.

When it is about the basics let's return to the basics. When you want to pursue "premium" brand you have to pay a "premium" like say going to Pulau Tekong if good schools are there but then don't complain or ask for priority.

Otherwise, balance will be tilted for more PSs and more expensive Million Dollar Ministers...and the fight for "networking" at premium primary schools will ensue. LOL.

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