Every school is a good school

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

He would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal (British Socialists) policy.  -Maggie Thatcher

The new funding cuts for top independent schools for Singapore do not make intuitive sense to me. When PM Lee proclaimed so boldly in his 2013 National Day Rally that “every school is a good school”, I took it to mean there would be greater support for schools that were “less good”. I didn’t think it meant the Ministry would start cutting the grants given to “better” schools. After all, if we want to make every school equally good, surely it means lifting bad ones up to the level of the good ones and not the other way around.

Having said that, I do think fund-raising in the independent schools needs to be regulated – I just don’t think the Ministry did a very good job of justifying their latest policy.

I used to be quite afraid of criticizing my Secondary school on my blog because my school clamps down pretty hard on students who “tarnish the school name”. That’s probably why there was a very premature end to our Confessions page on facebook. Now that I’ve graduated, I suppose the chances of me  being made to serve detention is considerably lower than before.

I did come from an “elite” independent school. It was a school where majority of the students were from well-off families. It was a school with long-standing traditions and values…and an impressive academic track record. But it was also a school that, towards the end of my Secondary School life, began to bother me with its constant fund-raising. I felt the fund-raising carnivals and school events detracted from the true mission of the school – to teach, to learn, and to mold our own brand of leaders.

Every now and then, we students would receive a fund-raising card and were encouraged to raise as much money as possible for a plush performing arts centre, or an indoor track, or some other new campus that was so stunning we simply had to have it for our “children and grandchildren and all the generations that would come after”. Not only was I already busy with homework and tests and major exams, but I felt like such preaching was putting undue stress onto students who didn’t come from well-off families. Of course, most of my friends had no problem filling up their donation cards, but somehow, it upset me when teachers and members of the school administration  hailed these students with such grandeur and importance. Oh, and how we applauded when the total amount of donations was announced to the entire school.

It is saddening indeed that money, fund-raising events and campus upgrades have grown so important to so many schools. Singaporeans – or at least those I’ve met – want an education system that is less stressful and less competitive. We want a system that is fair to teachers and students, and appreciates broad definitions of success. Also, I think a lot of us want a system where schools stop competing for awards, funding and better results. And I simply don’t think pretty campuses are going to help build such a system. Perhaps the race for better facilities might even perpetuate it.

So if the Ministry wants to justify telling top schools to moderate their fund-raising, they could say excessive fund-raising often detracts from the main purpose of schools. To justify cuts on funding, they could say that they are trying to change the mindset that money is that essential to building a good school. They could say that, in tandem with this new policy, the Ministry is allocating more funds to schools that are supposedly poorer.  These are intuitive, reasonable justifications that I and a bunch of other Singaporeans would like to hear. From what I’ve read, I don’t think these reasons were fully expounded on, but thankfully, due to our great education system, I was able to figure out these justifications for myself. Yippee.

  1. […] Independent, SG: Cold facts of spending money on schools – My Political Pennies’ Worth: Every school is a good school – flâneurose: Sumptuary Laws – the MOE Edition – Bertha Harian: Clueless […]

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