Meritocracy, the secret sauce behind Singapore’s success, has been the nation’s go-to recipe for progress and prosperity. But as Singapore continues to blaze forward, it’s time to ask ourselves, “Are we serving up the same old dish, or can we add a pinch of something new?” Recognizing the need for a broader and more inclusive meritocracy, the government of Singapore has donned its apron and embarked on an adventure. Armed with ingredients like reshaping education, valuing diverse vocations, and sprinkling in a dash of societal mindset transformation, Singapore aims to cook up a tantalising blend of equal opportunities for all to ensure meritocracy.
In her recent address on meritocracy, Halimah Yacob emphasised the need to “broaden meritocracy” in Singapore and called for a reevaluation of the government’s approach to education and work. The goal is to prevent advantages and privileges from becoming entrenched and perpetuating across generations. One proposed method to achieve this is by fostering inclusivity in education, particularly through the gradual removal of the streaming system in secondary schools. The replacement of the streaming system with subject-based banding, where students can choose subjects at different levels (G1, G2, G3), allows them to pursue their strengths and interests at higher levels, similar to the system in junior colleges. This change also enables students to interact with a more diverse group of peers, promoting networking opportunities. By breaking down the barriers imposed by the streaming system, students are given greater flexibility and the chance to explore their full potential.
Furthermore, Minister Chan Chun Sing has expressed the desire to recognize and reward the value of “heart” and “hand” work, including professions such as teaching. Halimah Yacob echoed this sentiment, emphasising the need to appreciate individuals based on their vocation rather than their superiority over others. The Ministry of Education (MOE) is actively reviewing the remuneration and career progression pathways in the Special Education sector to enhance the professional development of Special Needs educators. This initiative aims to improve the quality of services provided to students with Special Education needs, recognizing the crucial role these educators play in supporting and nurturing their potential.
Additionally, Chan highlighted the importance of sharing social capital across different schools. The government plans to strengthen the school cluster system, encouraging collaboration and cooperation among schools. This collective effort aims to instil the “right values” in young Singaporeans, cultivating a sense of social responsibility and a willingness to give back to society. By fostering these values from a young age, individuals can contribute to creating more opportunities for others and building a stronger, more cohesive society.
In the same vein, Lawrence Wong said Singapore can encompass a more open and compassionate form of meritocracy. A more compassionate meritocracy focuses on skills, training, and career progression rather than solely relying on academic achievements. It recognizes that the traditional emphasis on grades and academic qualifications can disadvantage individuals who may have different strengths or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. By shifting the focus to skills and performance in the workplace, a more compassionate meritocracy ensures that individuals have equal opportunities for advancement and success based on their abilities and efforts.
It has become evident that the government acknowledges the need to transform mindsets among Singaporeans. The concept of meritocracy has ingrained within society a sense of elitism and cutthroat competition, often leading to a disregard for those who have not achieved similar levels of success. This mindset tends to attribute their circumstances solely to a lack of effort. To combat this, the government is actively working to expose young individuals to diverse backgrounds within the education system. The aim is to redirect their focus towards making meaningful contributions to society and fostering respect for different vocations based on their societal value, rather than succumbing to notions of prestige or materialism.
A meritocracy of skills values the contributions of all workers, regardless of their educational background. It acknowledges that diverse skills and perspectives are essential for a thriving and innovative workforce. This means providing fair wages and benefits, as well as ensuring that lower-wage workers are not left behind. Initiatives like the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) and the Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) requirement aim to uplift the incomes of lower-wage workers and ensure that their contributions are recognized and adequately compensated.
For A Level GP Paper 1, in education or society essays, students can utilise the changes in grading to highlight the shifting view that Singaporeans are starting to have over meritocracy. The focus has now changed from mostly academic and score-oriented, to a system that is more focused on student aptitude, allowing more room for different kinds of skills and talents to grow. For balance, students may still point out the inadequacies of said measures due to social stigmas surrounding less conventional non-academic pathways that remain regardless. It is then good at this juncture to bring up the unique point about compassionate meritocracy and mindset changes, to highlight how in order to bridge inequalities in society, intangible gaps also have to be filled.
It is evident that the government recognizes the importance of not only addressing inequalities directly but also transforming societal mindsets. By implementing reforms in education, valuing different vocations, and promoting a sense of social responsibility, Singapore aims to create a more inclusive and meritocratic society. However, the attainment of these goals relies heavily on intangible factors, and it remains to be seen whether these efforts will be successful in reshaping the mindset of Singaporeans and achieving a truly meritocratic society.
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