Pritam Singh shares his story of how he got to where he is today. Using his unique educational journey to assure the public that you don’t need an elite education to be successful. His remarkable trajectory underlines the power of diligence, a strong work ethic, and resilience, refuting societal norms that privilege educational elitism.
A ‘hot mic’ moment made the news last week when PSP NCMP Leong Mun Wai, an alumnus of Raffles Institution, was called illiterate in a whispered comment among PAP MPs.
After the comment was made public, education and, more importantly, where one got one’s education again took center stage in many conversations.
In Singapore, as in many Asian countries, going to an “elite” preparatory school is something many aspire to.
In a video that went viral earlier this year, a woman named Beow Tan became infamous for belittling strangers on a train for boasting to onlookers that she was from the elite Hwa Chong Institution.
And in the wake of the Parliamentary ‘hot mic’ moment, lists of those who graduated from Raffles Institution (Lee Kuan Yew, Tan Cheng Bock, Chan Chun Sing, Jamus Lim) and Anglo-Chinese School (Goh Keng Swee, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Chee Soon Juan). National Development Minister Desmond Lee even received special mention, as he studied in both RI and ACS.
Despite this, Pritam Singh, Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party and Singapore’s first officially designated Leader of the Opposition, is a notable absentee from these illustrious institutions.
Mr. Pritam Singh went against the grain and is proof that going to the “right” school simply isn’t everything.
This is not to say that Pritam Singh was not academically successful. His educational journey bears testament to his late-blooming academic prowess. And yet, one name that will not be found among the alumni of such distinguished institutions is Pritam Singh.
His WP biography reads that he “won the Straits Steamship Prize, awarded to the top graduating student reading both History and Political Science, as an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore in 1999.”
Additionally, he has a Juris Doctor (cum laude) degree from the Singapore Management University and was a Chevening Scholar in 2003.
Previous to this, he attended Woodsville Primary School, Belvedere Primary School, Saint Thomas Secondary School, and Jurong Junior College.
At a commencement speech at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2018, he admitted to not having done his best in his younger days
“I fumbled badly at the Primary School Leaving Examination, entering the Normal stream in secondary school, and really bumbled my way into junior college and university,” he said.
PRITAM SINGH TELLS YOUNG GRADUATES THAT THE WORLD IS THEIR OYSTER
He also acknowledged to the graduates that “throughout the course of my educational journey before NUS,” he felt “I should have studied harder.”
Mr. Singh added that one of the things he has learned is that “a degree is only as good as your work ethic, attitude, and diligence.”
In the same year Ms Lorene Nalpon, who had taught Mr Singh at St. Thomas Secondary School wrote in a Facebook post, ”Who would have thought that one of my quiet shy boys from Sec 1 Normal (5) of Saint Thomas would turn out to be a wonderfully eloquent and enigmatic leader of the opposition of Singapore’s political arena.
All the more, I think being in [a] non-elitist school prepares an individual to understand and appreciate all that we have in Singapore and how to truly move society forward.