I disagree with Nominated MP Eugene Tan's assertion that Raffles Institution is now less representative of Singapore than it used to be ("Hot topics at the debate"; May 31).
Admissions to RI are based on merit, not socio-economic background.
The school's doors are not shut to the less well-off. The Edusave (Independent Schools) Yearly Awards provide financial assistance to students in independent schools, making up the fee difference between independent schools and government ones.
In my last three years of interaction with RI students as a youth trainer, I have observed at first hand that not all the students come from well-to-do families. While some students may come from more privileged backgrounds, that does not make them "elitist".
Through service learning programmes, internships and community-based projects, these students learn to empathise with those from different socio-economic backgrounds. They alsointeract with young people from less privileged backgrounds and neighbourhood schools through inter-school conferences and workshops.
I also disagree that the tuition afforded to students from middle- to higher-income families is the main differentiating factor in academic performance.
The report ("Private tuition spreads beyond Asia's wealthy"; Aug 7, 2012) quoted studies, polls and other sources as saying that 97 per cent of all Singaporean students receive tutoring, and the trend transcends socio-economic backgrounds. If this is indeed the case, then tuition, or the ability to afford it, does not determine a student's academic future. Evidently, there are other factors at play.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth identified "grit", or the "tendency to sustain interest in and effort towards very long-term goals", as the main trait that determines academic success and success in life.
Instead of focusing on family background, perhaps we should look towards building character and developing socio-emotional competencies in young people to equip them with the grit to overcome difficulties and attain success in life.
Letter by Delane Lim
This article was first published on June 3, 2014.
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