The conversations about good schools and elitism will never end for a society where academic credentials truly influence a lot of our subsequent lives. For me, entering Chinese High after attending an ‘ordinary’ neighbourhood elementary school made a huge difference. And I honestly wasn’t a star student even in elementary school. All I could say is I had teachers who believed in me and parents who did not pressure me to go one way or another. I made it to Chinese High potentially through sheer dumb luck.
But getting into the school showed me a different aspect of reality, where hard work matters a lot more; and I had friends from entirely different backgrounds who thought differently from I did. I begin also to see the difference in the education background of their parents and mine. I truly felt that positive impact of competition at that point – I won’t say I thrived in it, nor did it crush me with too much pressure. I just responded in a rather balanced way and made it through the system somewhat in the middle.
Yet even as a middle student in that school, I was easily already ahead of many others. And that is what every parent today in Singapore is trying to push their kids towards. They rather their kid be last in a good school sometimes, just perhaps for the opportunity to mix around with other ‘good kids’ and also be given the wider opportunities.
Until the ‘neighbourhood’ schools are given more resources than the ‘top’ schools, it’s going to be a tough sell to try and tell parents every school is a good school. Because the parents will think the school will be a good school for some kid out there, just not mine.