Straits Times Forum Writer Calls Priority Admission Elitist, Wants it Reviewed


Just because your parents come from a good school, doesn’t mean you should be entitled to a spot in said school.

This was essentially the gist of the Straits Times forum letter by Mrs Annie Chiang.

I am a working mother of four, and I wanted to send my children to a school that is within walking distance of my home in Bishan.

Unfortunately, because the school is popular, parents living as far away as Tampines leverage their alumni privilege to enrol their children in the institution.

As a result, my children have to go to a school farther away, adding transport costs to the family expenses.

Currently, the alumni system is an effective way for children to enter a highly popular school. But, if the child’s parents did not have the good fortune to study in the school, he would have nothing to count on, and his chances would be very limited.

This handicap would arise again when he tries to get into a secondary school which has an affiliated primary school.

Minimising the alumni and affiliation advantage would create a less competitive P1 registration. We must stay true to the values of inclusiveness and equality for all.

If we want Singapore to be an inclusive society, it starts with all schools keeping their gates open to embrace children from all walks of life.

Maintaining the alumni privilege means parents are willing to keep their children in the cocoon of a “successful” environment. Would this not encourage even greater elitism in our society?

To have an equitable system, we should have fewer such privileges and encourage a diversified school environment through a more democratic registration system.

This isn’t the first time someone has called for a review of the alumni privilege system. Here is an excerpt from another forum letter published in 2015.

“A blue-collar worker is unlikely to hail from an elite school, so his children’s chances of getting into one is very much reduced.

This is repeated every year, and, as a result, it is no surprise that it is mainly children from middle-class families who get into the better schools, creating a class of elites.”

Among Singapore’s six top primary schools, only four in 10 students live in HDB flats, while the national average is eight in 10.

The worry is that this could widen the gap between young people from well-off homes and their other peers, producing students who are increasingly disconnected from the concerns of ordinary folk.

Abolishing the practice of giving priority to children of alumni would be a good first step to ensuring a more equal playing field, allowing students from disadvantaged backgrounds a better chance to break out of the poverty cycle.

Perhaps it’s time to actually start acting like a meritocracy.

Top Image: Straits Times


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