Singapore: Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) issued a statement concerning a decision announced yesterday by the Education Minister Ong Ye Kung to abandon streaming in schools by 2024.
In its statement, SDP claimed credit for having proposed to abolish streaming in its policy proposal, Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation.
Moreover, SDP claims that this action by Mr Ong shows how yet again, “the PAP is following the SDP’s lead.”
The SDP had written in its education proposal, “Therefore under the SDP’s education plan, the PSLE will be removed and students entering secondary school will not be streamed. Streaming of students will be done at an appropriate age after cognitive functions have more or less fully developed, not before.”
However, SDP’s leader Dr Chee Soon Juan had actually written about the dangers of streaming in his 1994 book, Dare To Change: An Alternative Vision for Singapore. “A major problem of streaming is something called labelling. This perverse effect of self-fulfilling prophecy is even more evident in children… It is not difficult for children [in lower streams] to feel less valued as well as for others to feel similarly towards them.”
The statement from SDP point out that the Education Minister was in effect saying the same thing in Parliament when he remarked, “Entering a stream that is considered ‘lower’ can carry a certain stigma or be self-limiting, Students can develop a mindset where they tell themselves, ‘I am only a Normal stream student, so this is as good as I can be.’ It becomes self-fulfilling.”
Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who was then a PAP MP, actually criticised the streaming system almost four decades ago, in 1981. He questioned this system, and claimed that “intellectual snobbery” would arise because of it.
Dr Tan, now an opposition leader, said back then, “The fact that 88% of the children in the borderline Pass group (40 – 49%) in the last PSLE opted for the express stream, despite being advised that their children would fare better in the normal stream, illustrates this point very clearly.
Why do parents do this? Is it because they think they know their children’s capabilities better? Or is it to avoid losing out in the social class struggle?
Class division, undesirable though it may be, exists in muted form in our society. This is expressed in the way Singaporeans go increasingly for prestigious brands of clothing, bags, shoes, cars and even schools.
And when we start creating prestigious labels such as superschools, special and express streams, no Singaporean wants to be caught with the merely ‘Normal’ label. Moreover, we seem to be too enamored over streaming when the West is having second thoughts over the system.”
The statement went on to say that the PAP has already followed SDP’s lead in the past, on matters such as taxes, minimum wages, the hiring of Singaporeans first, and other issues.
But it does also point out that the PAP first criticises SDP’s policy proposals particularly in election periods, but ends up copying and adopting these very same ideas at a later date.
IN another statement dated February 27, 2015, and updated on March 5, 2018, entitled First they criticise, then they copy, SDP outlines the PAP’s track record in doing this very thing.
SDP proposes: Minimum wage in 2001.
PAP criticises: Minister Lim Swee Say criticises that Minimum Wage will erode Singapore’s competitiveness.
PAP copies: Government introduces the Progressive Wage Model where some low-income workers are paid a minimum wage of $1,000.
SDP proposes: Individual healthcare risks are pooled.
PAP criticises: Mr Lee Kuan Yew said: “…nobody derails the idea of having individual accounts for CPF and Medisave. Whatever you earn, it’s yours.”
PAP copies: Medishield Life now says that “everyone shares in the national risk pool”.
Singaporeans first policy
SDP proposes: Employers must try to hire Singaporeans first before considering employing foreigners.
PAP criticises: Senior Minister of State Amy Khor said that such a policy will not work.
PAP copies: MOM introduced the Fair Consideration Framework which “require employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass holders.”
Streaming in schools
SDP proposes: Removal of streaming in schools.
PAP criticises: Second Education Minister Indranee Rajah says that streaming still has a place in Singapore’s education system.
PAP copies: Education Ministry to abolish streaming by 2024.”
Dr Chee posted a link to the statement on his Facebook account, ending with its last paragraph. “So at the next elections when its candidates start their ritual of bashing the SDP and saying that our ideas are not workable (or worse, that the SDP does not have any alternative proposals), Singaporeans should remember Mr Ong Ye Kung, and tell him and his mates not to be hypocrites.”
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