Monday, April 10, 2006

Bigotry & Elitism

Hou, The Students' Notebook

* First, it was neighourhood schools v. elite schools
* Followed by the GEP v. non-GEP fisacos.
* Now, it is JC v. Poly.

Notice a pattern on the nature of these disputes?

I think what all of us just need, is much more empathy to understand each others' differences. And we have a long, long way to go to really become a gracious society...

And, for further reading.


Blogger indolentia said...

very marxist... i know, but i honestly do believe that it all boils down to class differences and our inability to see beyond the boxed worlds that we were brought up in.

it is not so much the schools that we're talking about. i think the major issue is what these schools stand for - what they represent.

i.e. elite schools for the middle to upper income brackets and the neighbourhood schools for everyone else.

(note: i do acknowledge that within every elite school there are bound to be exceptions, and vice versa. my brother goes to a neighbourhood school, and i was from an elite secondary school and jc. so that's a bit of where i'm coming from as well.

what i speak of - for the sake of discourse - are generalizations, as the inclusion of specifics would make discussion almost impossible.)

a lot of the bigotry and elitism that we see in our society has its roots in the way our education system is designed. i don't know if it was meant to be that way, but that's how it seems to me.

the first thing that i will say, is that it is easier for a middle to upper class student to get into and remain in an elite school from primary all the way till university. mainly because of the fact that with money comes opportunities. as much as i hate to say it.

now i imagine that meritocracy and fairness and we-all-have-equal-opportunities-because-its-a-free-country kind of objections will be flying through some peoples' heads now. so let me just try to clarify what i just said with an illustration.

imagine two students, A and B, equal in intellect, enter an elite primary school at primary one. A gets in by affiliation (parents or siblings or other strings) and B gets in through balloting.

they go through primary school. A gets extra tuition outside school, takes part in activities that stimulate the intellect (e.g. drama, music, what have you). B doesn't have all that extra stuff, through no fault of his own. just that his parents do not have the financial means to give him all that stuff.

due to class size, and the inability of the teacher to cater to all students. A starts to do better than B academically. not because he's smarter, but because he gets extra help outside school.

PSLE. A does extremely well because of the rigorous tution and the drilling from his tuition teachers with countless assessment books. he is streamed into the special stream.
B on the other hand, didn't do as well and is streamed into the express stream.

A makes it into an elite secondary school, while B doesn't.

10:01 PM  
Blogger indolentia said...

this is a purely hypothetical example to illustrate a point, so please do not argue by saying that not everyone is like that.

GENERALLY, people in higher income brackets are presented with more opportunities. as such, by secondary school, the majority of students in elite schools are from the middle to upper classes.

where is all this going to?

it is in our adolescent years (teens to early twenties) that we form our identities, and perhaps the firmest friends. it is also during these years that our worldviews are shaped the most.

now due to the fact that by secondary school, a lot (not all) of us are fit into schools which have cultures that revolve very much around our income brackets (are my fellow AC students going to deny that their frequent visits to holland village, as compared to the neighbourhood Macs, are not bourgeois?), it is inevitable that we will form stereotypes of the Other. the Other being those from neighbourhood schools. a lot of our identity is based on what we are NOT, and it is there that we draw the boundary.

therefore and thus, we start to believe that the Other is so different, and incompatible to the world that we know. and this works both ways. and more often than not, due to purely human nature and our subconscious (and sometimes conscious) workings, these distinctions take on an i'm-better-than-you stance. e.g. students from elite schools are snobbish. OR students from neighbourhood schools are not as smart.

As such, elitism and bigotry in our wonderful Singaporean society is largely a result of the stereotypes and mindsets that we pick up in school. Re-inforced by friends, and sometimes even by parents.

How we can get out of these mindsets and start treating each other with respect?

Firstly by acknowledging that they exist in the first place. Then by making a conscious effort to mix around with people from other backgrounds, trying to shove those stereotypes into a little box in the back of your brain. Recognize that everyone has had different opportunities and choices to make. Basically, don’t judge a book by its cover (or a student from his school… for that matter).

I don’t profess to have easy answers, and I know that its very easy to point out a problem. It’s the answers that screw with your brain.

10:02 PM  
Blogger En & Hou said...

indolentia : Yes, this form of stratification is not easy to define and explain by itself, what more about the possible answers. It is made worse by the fact that (unlike racism) it happens in a very subtle manner, as well as the lack of awareness of this.


7:08 AM  
Blogger unknown said...

often, the good opportunities, policies and offers are targeted towards the elite schoos, the GEP, or the JCs. These people are seen as the 'cream of the crop' and will largely benifit society in the future.

Just look at how many 'enrichment courses' these people have to 'develop their talent'. do the others have it? they are allowed to take more than 10 o'level subjects even though they do not take the o'levels, given thousands of chance to take on leadership positions to prepare them for future in workforce......

similarly, students who are more 'average' are often ignored, even though they may form the majority. just compare the size, facilities and design of the neighbourhood schools and the elite much difference...

I'm currently studying in a JC now, and I always hate it when the principal begins, 'you guys are the cream of the crops. you are the one who will be taking on leadership role in the future, be it on the buiness scale or in the politics. therefore, our school will do everything we can to develop your potentials to the fullest. on the other hand, you guys must not let us down. you're the elites.'

but on the other hand, can elitisim be abolished? i guess it cannot be and will never be......

5:25 AM  
Blogger unknown said...

my language skills are not as good and thus cannot write as flowery as indolentia...but my statements are the same... all biols down to the differenciation of class

5:30 AM  
Blogger wen yang said...

oh man... finally something from you guys... it's been MONTHS.

6:49 PM  
Blogger trask said...

i beg to differ. financial status may play a part in the student's academic progress, but it is not the main factor. i come from an elite school myself and i am not rich, rather the opposite. i know there are 'elite' students who are from a lower income family, like me. Our parents can be blue-collar workers, we can live in 3room hdb flats, but we made it to the sch. i strongly believe that as long as one puts in hard work and mug like mad, he or she will do well for sure, without requiring much external aid. anyway, intellectually challenged people can be rich or poor. it does not matter. even if the less educated parents cannot guide the child, the relentless moral support will also spur her on to do well. i am in the lower class and i admit it..but i can mix with 'elite' people in sch, so can any 'lower class' neighbourhood students. class does not matter, only the attitudes of students.

1:17 AM  
Blogger Sak said...

This post inspired me to write one. it's on

6:38 AM  
Blogger indolentia said...


...(note: i do acknowledge that within every elite school there are bound to be exceptions, and vice versa. my brother goes to a neighbourhood school, and i was from an elite secondary school and jc. so that's a bit of where i'm coming from as well.

what i speak of - for the sake of discourse - are generalizations, as the inclusion of specifics would make discussion almost impossible.)

i don't mean to say that my view is the be all and end all... but just that i believe that class differences and financial status do add very real advantages to MOST elite school students.

5:47 AM  
Blogger [L]Ab|tx said...

I personally do not see a problem with the differentiation of people in the society. People are meant to be different anyway. You arent made in a factory nor in a lab.

I do not exactly see the point of equalising everyone. Everyone is different, everyone is unique. You take what you care capable of. What you are not capable of currently, either you WORK HARD for it or just drool at it. I see more proportionality between a person's ability and his socio-economic situation.

So what you come from a neighbourhood primary school? Or lets say a secondary school. Whats the difference? Many would go da da da about all the enrichment programmes and all the extra stuff they get. But do you think you are able to cope with it? That's a question i think most people must ask themselves. They often ask for equality, but why should someone more capable than you settle for what you are getting? It would be unfair. Social status gaps are unavoidable. So what if we have a quasi marxist state in singapore? does it make the society more harmonious? no! i would say its a definite nono.

Many people do not reflect on what they are capable of. You always expect to get the best and be like the best, but in fact you arent. But why do so many people think so in this age? Thomas Hobbes once said " the life of man, brutish and short." To me, this is an indication of what man's thinking is really like. When you are down below, you try to get up. When you are up there, you neglect the people below.

In my perspective, the people who are calling out for equality are the people who feel left behind in this society. However, sometimes they do not realise why they are not up there. Upgrading is the key factor. Do you drive yourself to upgrade and catch up with the ever-proceeding society or do you lay back and say ah i will never get a chance. Procrasination does nothing to help you change your fate at all. I believe that with a person's ability, you can move up. I personally come from a neighbourhood primary school. So what? im in a decent jc now.

Does it really matter what your origin is? i would think no. I would say not all elites in this society are born with it. Some worked hard for it. I have many neighbourhood secondary school friends in my jc. What does that tell you? hard work can overcome all odds.

Elitism is a feature of human society. The desire to be the best is the dynamo behind everything. Who do not want to be the one in power? who wants to be below people. Honestly speaking, i would say everyone does not.

Obviously in alot of circumstances the 'rich become richer, poor become poorer' theory is obvious. But lets take it from another point of view. History have proven to us that you dont have to start off rich to end up rich. You need more determination and hard work. The rich are driven to become richer because they know the good of being rich. Hence they work hard to maintain rich. The poor, on the other hand, remains poor because they think they will never be able to win the race. Quoting from the film 'gattaca', the younger brother was genetically advantaged and hence the older brother never won the younger brother in a swimming competition between the two of them. But finally, when the older brother summoned his courage and swam as much as he could, he won him. Its an examplification of how status can be changed with determination.

We do not need alot of procrasinators. We need more initiators and people with drive. These people can propel us into the next century with a greater and more harmonious society. Understand the difference and accept it. Challenge it, not verbally but physically. Do not whine, prove it wrong =)

9:17 AM  
Blogger unknown said...

i have a different view...

i'm now in a 'not-too-bad' jc, together with some of the students from some elite secondary school. this goes to show that my intellegence and ability is nowhere lower than those students.

but why was i in a neighbourhood secondary school? why was my PSLE score so different from these people?

I think the problem lies in hardwork. those people work hard, get good psle score, and enter an elite secondary school. But i dun want to be a deprived child! i still want to enjoy my childhood instead of mugging all day long.

but because of the fact that I'm in just a neighbourhood secondary school, i still get looked down upon by these so call 'elite students'.

in their secondary sch, they have things such as 'leadership training camps', 'philosophy class', etc. all these enrichment programns opens up many path for these people.

I think our educational system is very fond of early bloomers. children who appear faster learners when they are less than 12 years old. but is early bloomers really the elites?

what about the late bloomers? we just chunk them aside and let them rot. everyone look down on EM2-ers and express-steam-students like me. but hu knows? maybe in near future my potential may blossom. but becuz of this bianess, i may loose my confidence and give up on myself!

yes, everyone has different abilities. but do we really know who has the better learning ability and who are the slower learners? who are we to judge students when they are just 12 years old or 16 years old?

different learning ability and speed is not the key factor when deciding who should get the better facilities and enrichments, and who should be left aside to survive on their own. 'hardworking-ness' is.

and talking about income range. i do think it also plays a part.

just look at those richer kids. their parents have moneys to sent their kids to piano lessons, art lessons, sports training, etc.

and so, in school, they'll be deemed as the talented students and be sent to represent the school or the country in competitions. what about the poorer but talented kids who can't afford all these trainings?

or take me for example. my friends all can afford good tuition teachers and but good assessment books from overseas. but me? I've to survive on my own! I have to scrimp and save to buy just one assessment book (which has no answers inside). and even when I've completed the TYS or assessment book, there's no tuition teacher to guide me.

for kids who have super rich parents, they can always go for overseas study even if they can't make it here.

but for people like me? we have no chioce....we MUST survive this educational system (as elites call it...survival of the fittest).

no matter where you are in this world, there is no total meritocracy. I admit that singapore do have a high standard of meritocracy...but nevertheless, unfairness still exist to a certain extent.

7:51 PM  
Blogger [L]Ab|tx said...

I would like to dedicate this post in response to the post above.

talking about money, i would say that it does not play a very important role. What about the teachers in school? Do you really need a private tutor? Isn't your school teacher enough? If you bothered to take time to talk to your school teacher and consult them after school, it will work also! You dont need that private lessons and stuff.

I don't come from a well to do family, but im survivng perfectly well without all these special lessons and stuff. If you are really able, you can study on your own. Your school teacher's advice is enough.

What i wanted to say is that there is a difference in culture and atmosphere. Contrary to popular belief, a studying atmosphere is not a dead mugging environment! I would say, study at the correct time and play at the correct time. People in my school talk to teachers, consult them. I realise that what is lacking in most schools in the invigorating studying environment. If you want to do it, you can do it!

7:24 AM  
Blogger unknown said...

Yes, i agree that at the end of the day, the key to success really lies in ourselves.

to catch up with those students who have first-class tuition teachers, I've to work harder than them.

but what if someone with a first-class tuition teacher decided to work as hard as me? Who's results do u think will be better? U may say that I can choose to work even harder...but there's limit to a person's 'hardworking-ness'.

and speaking of seeking help from school teachers, not all tutors are willing to help after school ciriculum. heck, my tutor would not even take one more look at my PI more than he should. tutor-many students. how much time can one single teacher spend on me?

and the 'financial factor' does not just apply to the academic life.

Take for example, I've passion in music, and I know for sure I'm certainly talented in music to a certain extent. but my family is not rich enough to get me a piano teacher.

so what I do? Hardwork...yes. I learn the techniques and skills by myself from reading books and watching other people. But so what? I've no certificate!

While I watch all my friends (sharing the same passion) enter MEP courses or music schools or oversea musical training, I'm still stuck in JC, learning physics and chemistry which I dun even like that much in the first place!

*no point asking me to go poly. i go JC so that i can go uni so that i can earn more money when i come out so that i can get a cert in music*

observe the students in our Sports School. do u think the majority of them received no piror professional training?

u must be resonably rich to enjoy education and training. no money...nobody will help u.

true...i believe u believe in u helping urself. but compared to a person who receive external help and bothers help himself at the same time, u'll loose out.

9:14 PM  
Blogger unknown said...

quote taken from the maplesetory forum (click on the link on 'poly vs jc')

'No. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that a large majority of those playing now are poly kids. Even if there are pri sch students or sec sch students playing in the mornings, they are the minority. Huh? I can think perfectly. How else would I know that most poly kids are stupid, childish and mindless? But, it's normal for you to deny that...since, you are from a poly too. Haha. Why? Can't meet the minimum cut off to enter a JC? '

I would like to tell this xiao di di here (since i do not have a maplestory forum account) that I have a friend with L1R5 of 9 points but choose to go poly. similarly, I've met people with 23 points but still choose to go JC.

not everyone who enter poly can't make it into JC cuz at the end of the day, u get to learn more 'hands on' skills in poly (employers prefer that).

similarly, not everyone who enters a JC is an elite

9:21 PM  

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