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Forum letter writer urges MINDEF to stop sorting army recruits by their educational backgrounds

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A forum letter writer writing in to the national broadsheet has urged the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to stop sorting army recruits by their educational backgrounds.

Drawing on his own experiences in National Service (NS), John Lim Le Sheng wrote that though he has admired the ability of NS to integrate Singapore society, he “struggles” to understand why MINDEF continues to use the educational backgrounds of recruits to sort them into batches and ranks. Lim recalled:

“I remember asking my commanding officer why recruits from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) were not included in the leadership batch of recruits, where a high percentage go on to take leadership positions, such as sergeants and officers, within the army.”

Noting that he often found that men who were educated at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) had a better work ethic and more dedication as compared to their counterparts who were from polytechnics and junior colleges, Lim said that sorting recruits based on their education level is troubling for two reasons:

“First, even during NS where recruits are no longer graded on their academic performance, we still let their educational backgrounds determine their future success.
“Second, sorting recruits based on their educational attainments prevents equally capable students from receiving leadership training and increased investment in their development.”

Lim said that it “pains” him that those from other educational backgrounds did not have a chance to learn the leadership traits that he was fortunate to receive due to his education level.

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He recommended that MINDEF “open up leadership batches to recruits of all educational backgrounds, instead of sorting them based on their previous educational attainments.”

Lim concluded: “For us to progress in tackling inequality, we must start with the belief that circumstances that affected one in the past cannot, and must not, taint one’s hope for the future.”

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