Education: An Equal Start?

Dialogues - Education An Equal Start - 2023-04-29

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On 29 April 2023, The HEAD Foundation in partnership with The Best of You, jointly organised “Education: An Equal Start?”. 

Participants examined the three challenges of time poverty, responsibilisation, and adultification from the lens of students and their families from socio-economically disadvantaged families in Singapore. 

Singapore’s education policy, anchored on meritocracy and the provision of access to quality education, has been seen as an important mechanism to uplift students, especially those from socio-economically disadvantaged families. The insights from interviews conducted by Dr Charleen Chiong in her book Families, the State and Educational Inequality in the Singapore City-State, showed that since these families appreciated and acknowledged the competent service and care provided by the state and schools, they believed they remained responsible for their own success. 

An existing anchor, meritocracy, is under more scrutiny as education inequality persists. With Singapore’s economic growth, families with good social capital can provide a better learning environment for students. In comparison, parents from socio-economically disadvantaged families may lack such resources, and have limited bandwidth to access support.

Adding to the discussions were Dr Aaron Koh, Associate Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Education, Mdm Moliah Hashim, Director of SMRT Trains Ltd and Strides DST Pte. Ltd., Dr Alistair Chew, Founder and Director of Findings, and Mr Stanley Tan, Chairman of South Central Community Family Service Centre, who shared their perspectives on the seemingly transactional relationship whereby one is responsible to ensure their own success in a meritocratic society and the resulting need to redefine merit and success. They also discussed the multi-pronged approaches from government, community, schools and civil society to better engage and support these families. 

More needs to be done to shift away from making families responsible to making responsibility plausible, in addition to creating a more conducive home and school environment for the children. The interaction across the different stakeholders needs to be re-examined to better balance the interdependency between meritocracy and responsibility and achieve dignified outcomes, beyond winners and losers. 

This conversation is timely and in line with Singapore’s forward plans to “rethink her approach to education and work to ensure a broader and more open meritocracy that works well for all Singaporeans” (President Halimah Yacob, Opening at second session of Parliament on 10 April 2023).

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the speakers in this webinar are their own and do not represent the opinions of The HEAD Foundation.

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Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.