Tuition and Socioeconomic status

February 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

Feb 12, 2011

PAPER CHASE
Skewing a level field

MS PHYLLIS Christe’s letter (‘A matter of means, not just genes’; Jan 31) raises a pertinent point about an increasingly uneven playing field in the paper chase, which appears to favour the more affluent.

As a student of a decent neighbourhood school who made it to an elite junior college, I have experienced first-hand how students have such vastly different access to resources, especially in terms of academic aid.

In my neighbourhood secondary school, most students were from lower-income families and there were those who strove hard to pursue academic excellence, knowing that it was the most realistic way to climb up the social ladder in the future.
Nearing the exams, many would unfailingly seek extra lessons from teachers, settling for every scrap of free time the teachers could spare after schooling hours.

Tuition was the next viable option for those who really wanted the extra push. However, many had parents who simply could not afford it. Many turned to community tuition programmes offered by the Singapore Indian Development Association, Chinese Development Assistance Council and Mendaki.

While helpful, such programmes were compromised by an inflexible schedule that often clashed with the students’ co-curricular activities (CCAs). Many students could not afford to ignore CCAs because an excellent record allowed them to hive off two points from the raw or gross scores of their O-level exam results.

Class sizes of the community tuition programmes also averaged around 15 to 20, so personal attention was diluted.
The environment in the elite junior college I attended was the opposite. Many of my peers were from more affluent families and could readily afford private tuition. They did not have to contend with inflexible tuition hours and enjoyed personal coaching by quality tutors such as professors and former teachers. So, in my experience, excelling academically appears to be becoming as much a matter of means as it may be of genes. Being able to afford and have access to private tuition seem to tilt the balance in favour of the more affluent, skewing what may once have been a more level playing field for all students.

Lee Min Shing

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Entry filed under: education, elite, Singapore.

Non-grad parents, but they made it to top schools Employment enclaves

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