Singapore – A housewife who told the Straits Times that she “would prefer if her children did not mix with those in the Normal stream” has drawn intense flak online.
Last week, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung announced in Parliament that streaming in secondary schools will be scrapped and replaced with subject-based banding (SBB) by 2024. Besides this, the Government will also combine the O-Level and N-Level examinations into one common national examination.
Students who enter secondary school are presently streamed into either the Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) streams, based on their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results. The new SBB will see students taking subjects at different levels, according to their abilities.
In an interview with the Straits Times on the new changes to the education system, a local housewife shared some controversial views. The publication reported:
“Housewife Wendy Chan, who has a Secondary 2 daughter in an all-Express school, and sons in Primary 5 and Primary 6, said she would prefer if her children did not mix with those in the Normal stream.
“Ms Chan, 48, explained: “It’s because of their upbringing – their mindset and values may not be in tandem with what I agree with. It’s not so much about their academic performance.””
Wendy Chan’s views drew the ire of several Singaporeans, including a teacher. The teacher, Facebook user Mark Rozells, penned an eloquent response articulating why Wendy Chan’s views are “small-minded and poisonous”. He wrote:
“Dear Ms Chan, I am also a parent, as well as a teacher. I’ve taught students from different streams – Express, Normal and Integrated Programme (IP).
“Every student, regardless of stream, has their strengths and challenges, both personal and from their families. I’ve seen hardworking, resilient students in Normal stream and lazy, entitled students in IP and Express streams.
“And yes, family does play a big part in upbringing, which is why I worry for your children.
“I hope one day you will realise just how selfish, small-minded and poisonous your statements are, and I hope your children will be better than you, in spite of you.
“If Ms Chan’s perspective is really the prevailing mindset amongst parents out there, then no number of CNA tear-jerker documentaries is going to matter. A reform of the entire way students are posted to secondary school is urgently needed.
“Unless of course we want to continue to be a country divided by class.”
Mr Rozells noted that Wendy Chan’s views could reflect prejudices that become part of the fabric of society due to policies and administrative practices. He wrote:
“Prejudice doesn’t appear overnight. We didn’t suddenly wake up to deep class divisions, not having friends from outside our airconditioned bubbles, living in one of the most unequal countries in the world.
“Prejudice takes time. It takes root with policies, grows with administrative practices and becomes so intertwined with the very ethos of society that we forget/ ignore it. We manufacture all sorts of fiction to excuse it, to justify it.
“And just once in a while, the mask slips. And a Wendy Chan appears, showing us the face that is our own, because we too hold those prejudices or we do nothing to challenge them.”
He added: “So, for every brave school administrator who chooses to give students in Normal stream the resources, opportunities and good teachers instead of writing those kids off as deadweight…
“For every teacher who believes in the students in the Normal stream…For every parent who sees beyond the stream to who the child really is and can become…For every non-Normal student who isn’t an elitist prick…
“And For every politician who is willing to pay the political cost to tear down the barriers that keep the poor, minorities and the oppressed down…Thank you. As a society we are better than this.”
Mr Rozells post garnered significant traction on social media and on online forums. On Facebook alone, his original post received about 1,200 reactions and 1,500 shares.
Netizens responding to his post slammed Wendy Chan and asserted that they would not want to mix with people who share her views: