Time to Scrap “Unmeritocratic” Alumni Admissions for Primary School Students?


Following Education Minister Ong Ye Kung’s parliamentary speech on meritocracy and levelling the social divide in school, opinion has erupted regarding alumni admissions for students to privileged families to primary schools.

Some find that there is an inherent conflict because rich parents get to send their kids to such schools based on their affiliation with their alma mater, resulting a sloping of the playing field.

Said Harisan Unais Nasir:

“Being born lucky is not a talent worth rewarding, unless the type of meritocracy we want is devoid of the element of effort.”

Harisan also stated that national policy in allowing such alumni admissions is akin to promoting an un-level playing field, and such policy should be scrapped.

However, others like Lee Meng Chian, say that there’s no conflict of interest as alumni put put their children in their alma mater to inculcate a “shared value system”.

Lee also said that those who can’t make the grade should simply work harder.

“Those who are trying to improve their lot should persevere and accept help along the way.”

Naturally, many others have begged to differ.

Said Daryl Tan:

“Allowing alumni to artificially influence the course of meritocratic proceedings, through school admissions for example, would erode our nation’s values and its subsequent adherence to these values in the future. This sets a dystopian future, for our young sons’ and daughters’ chance of success is predicated on their parents’ deeds before they are even born. As such, we can never truly solve the problem of social stratification.”

Grace Lim says that parents strive to get their children into “branded” schools so they can be the ones to further the divide between the haves and have-nots:

“Many parents want their children to enter prestigious secondary schools for non-pedagogical benefits – a network of relationships formed by mixing with students with higher academic scores and who are likely to do well in life, or the perceived lustre of graduating from one of Singapore’s top schools.”

So far, the Education Ministry has not committed itself to a definitive stance on the issue of alumni-admissions, despite the issue having been raised several times across the years as an “unfair privilege”.



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