Graphics from The Straits Times

According to the latest statistics by the Singapore Children’s Society, only 2% of the neighbourhood secondary school students live in private housing. Supposedly a “Meritocracy”, Singapore’s education system has inherited the society’s vast income-inequality to its students.

Only 7% of the students going to government secondary schools are living in households earning more than S$10,000. This is a stark contrast to 40.7% to students going to schools with Integrated Programmes (IP). To worsen the inequality, students under the IP stream are allowed to progress a year faster to their A levels certificate by skipping the O levels. Neighbourhood school students are disadvantaged by a year, even when they are in the “Express” stream.

The Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) was supposed to be meritocratic, however, as the quality of education in Singapore primary schools are lacking, private tuition classes are necessary to play catch up with the syllabus taught. Families which are better off will have the luxury of hiring private tutors for their children, while the poor ones have to make do with whatever little resources left for schools. The inequality problem is particularly acute in neighbourhood schools, which are relatively under-funded and under-resourced by the Education Ministry in the name of “meritocracy”. Unlike the richer schools which offer IP programmes, neighbourhood schools do not have amenities like swimming pool or even a buffet of Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) made available to their richer counterparts.