Critique of Singapore Meritocratic Education System
Singapore education system emphasize on high academic performance especially via high stake examination. In this regard, the country practise meritocracy, which is founded on the concept that hardworking students attain the best grades, hence receive rewards and subsequently benefit from the best jobs. Nonetheless, the system creates a wide range of challenges in the nation (Allen, 2011). For instance, it becomes a source of social inequalities as students from the higher social class receive more rewards at the expense of those from lower social class and disadvantaged groups (Tan, 2008). Meritocracy in Singapore is unfair because it continuously privilege some students while the majority are completely discriminated. Therefore, the country needs to introduce reforms in the assessment of learning in order to integrate a process, which focuses on the needs of the students.
The meritocracy assessment system in Singaporean education is geared towards provisions of fair outcomes, but it fails to enhance fairness of opportunities. In this regard, the assessment of learning through examinations tends to rewards a small group of learners who score higher outcomes and incessantly continue rewarding them each time the desired outcomes are attained (Allen, 2011). Therefore, the system is not good for the countrys learning system because it tends to entrench social inequalities by rewarding certain learners opposed to offering equal chances to disadvantaged group at the beginning of the cycle (Tan & Deneen, 2015). For this reason, it cements various inequalities in the country such as gender inequality, ethnic inequalities, and racial inequalities.
Meritocracy assessment systems create a wide range of problems in the society because learners are not offered a chance to pursue their dreams. More importantly, meritocracy tends to affect the motivation of learners from the disadvantaged communities (Tan, 2017). On the other hand, it motivates students from upper class because they learn attend better schools based on the recognition they obtain from these learning institutions. Subsequently, children from underprivileged backgrounds are not able to perform well hence; they cannot pursue their professional goals in the future (Tan & Deneen, 2015). Moreover, these learners also experience lower confidence because they do not receive recognition. Furthermore, they are more likely to suffer from fear of examination failure, which creates a sense of inferiority. Consequently, meritocracy is not helpful to these students since they will be less inspired to study and their academic performances are poorer as compared to learners in renowned schools (Tan, 2011). Singapore meritocracy systems are nurtures unfair admission policy where children from the upper class attend good schools, a practice, which ultimately broadens the gap between the poor and the rich backgrounds in the society (Allen, 2011).
In most cases, meritocracy tries to segregate excellence by treating individuals with essentially unequal families as casually the same. Therefore, it ignores and even hides the actual disadvantages and advantages that are unequally distributed to various ethnic groups, social classes and societies in Singapore. In addition, the system propagates this basic inequality in the society (Tan, 2011). For this reason, students who benefit from meritocracy based on their merits take advantage of the unfair rewards. It also goes against the ideals of non-discrimination (Barr, 2006). Therefore, scholars have argued that the assessment system of learning that rewards students based on their achievements or talents and that fail to consider their privilege or birth, may promote unfair learning (Sadler, 2007). The fact behind this argument is that it learning and examination of students conceal the disparities of the learners according to their social status, wealth and class.
Meanwhile in Singapore, children from higher social class attend good schools and benefit from quality education as opposed their counterparts from lower social class. For instance, such students benefit from tuition programs because their families can afford (Lim, 2013). In case there are students with equal cognitive capacity but from different social status, the one from rich backgrounds is likely to score higher in examinations as compared to the one from poor background. Therefore, such submissive blindness to disparities in the ideal of meritocracy aggravates the challenges of inequalities in Singapore (Klenowski, Scott, Scott, Cowie, Mitchell, McLaughlin & Bird, 2015). The problem is compounded by favoured access to decent schools to learners of alumni.
The high-stake examination in Singapore provides an assessment system, which engrain inequality and unfairness in different ways. Firstly, the assessment process significantly ignores the background of the learner in terms of status or wealth and class differences on the tenet of non-discrimination. Secondly, it excavates differences via segregation of the less fortunate or privileged children in the Singaporean society (Sadler, 2007). For this reason, the assessment system in the countrys education system does not promote equality between different students. In fact, it tends to give the children from rich backgrounds a head start in the examinations to the detriment of those from the poor backgrounds. Furthermore, it intentionally puts many obstacles in the educational journey of the disadvantaged learners (Gilmore, 2016). In this respect, meritocracy that supposedly reward based on the ability of a student gradually degenerate into a structure that repays in accordance with ones wealth and birth.
The Singaporean meritocracy in education system also leads to elitism and nepotism especially in employment of graduates and other qualified persons in the country. In most cases, familial connections play a major part in determining the ability of the learner in securing employment (Beck, 2006). Subsequently, the relevant expertise and paper qualifications, which are advocated by the merit-based system, are disregarded. The ideal individual for a particular job is not necessarily the most qualified or brightest. The reward systems tend to focus on a person who can facilitate business deals or opportunities in a firm (Barr, 2006).
Scholars argue that the elites in the country are the major beneficiaries of Singapore meritocracy system. Additionally, they tend to define virtue in a self-serving way. The country also possess a system where best students take advantage of all rewards and also acquire almost absolute control through ideological government apparatus particularly the education and media (Lim, 2013). They control the prevailing discourse in the country that disparity is but an actuality of life or the unavoidable product of globalization. Additionally, the elites appear to advance the idea that the poor persons are liable for their own predicament and hence do not deserve any form of help. Indeed, elitism is a practice where the beneficiaries of meritocracy tend to cement their social status, which is exclusive, separate from and unrepresentative of the Singapore society (Prosser & Tan, 2007). Furthermore, meritocratic education system in the country breeds brightest individuals who contemplate that they succeeded in life since they are innately superior and eligible for their achievement. Additionally, these beneficiaries do not acknowledge their prosperity to their familial affluence or places of birth (Gilmore, 2016).
Meritocratic education and assessment is disastrous to Singapore education system because selection of learners by merits may be inappropriate since learning is intended to nurture merit through qualifications and skills (Jencks, 1988). However, this system has a tendency of helping the upper class to consolidate quality education at the expense of the disadvantaged societies in Singapore. Likewise, they are able to amass huge amount of wealth and better jobs (Klenowski, Scott, Scott, Cowie, Mitchell, McLaughlin & Bird, 2015). Furthermore, the upper classes in Singapore have the power to ensure that their children receive quality education hence become more meritorious. For this reason, they are able to sustain their widespread social inequalities in the country (Beck, 2006).
Although Singaporean education system offers equal education opportunities to all children, it fails to create balances for equal development and distribution of merits. In terms of employment of the educated persons, meritocracy, it encourages selections of workforce based on other benchmarks instead on the capacity to deliver on the jobs demands (Prosser & Tan, 2007). In most cases, no justification of merit can be explained.
The Singapore meritocracy system also propagates the problem of inequality in the society. For instance, the examination process is designed to promote competition between the students. However, this concept becomes an ill-conceived notion among the students (Reynolds & Trehan, 2000). In this respect, the learners think that they must be the finest for them to survive. Since the meritocracy promotes an excessive exam-oriented system, choosing learners on their grades is a great source of inequality because most of the learners are attentive in their studies hence performs poorly in their exams (Tan, 2008). The examining process is also discriminatory because it normally selects learners with superior linguistic capacity instead of those with technical skill.
Meritocracy system in Singapore advocate for learning and examination, which is based on the efforts and ability of the students. However, this form of education is disadvantageous some of the learners. Precisely, meritocracy system nurtures social inequalities in the country in a number of ways (Barr, 2006). Firstly, this system of education does not pay close attention on the differences in the social status, wealth, gender, and class in Singaporean society. Therefore, children from upper class are able to attend best schools and subsequently attain the best grades in their examinations as opposed to the disadvantaged counterparts (Sadler, 2007). Secondly, the meritocracy system creates a wide range of barriers in the education of learners from the poor backgrounds. In most cases, most of them attend less renowned learning institutions, which lead to negative impacts on their academic achievements. Similarly, they are unable to pursue their professional goals. Finally, it affects the jobs opportunities as familial connects facilitates easier employment rather than qualifications.
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