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We don’t see inequality in S’pore’s education race because we’re conditioned to focus on our own lanes – Mothership.SG

Veteran S’porean poet Kirpal Singh poured drinks for LKY, snubbed RI & almost couldn’t enter uni – Mothership.SG

Mothership and The Birthday Collective are in collaboration to share a number of essays from the 2018 version of The Birthday Ebook.

The Birthday Guide (which you should purchase right here) is a set of essays about Singapore by 53 authors from numerous walks of life. These essays mirror on the complexity of the longer term roads we should take, as people, and as a nation.

“Small street, huge street, private roads, shared roads” is an essay contributed by Teo You Yenn.

Teo is a sociologist and Affiliate Professor with Nanyang Technological College. She can also be the writer of That is What Inequality Appears Like.

Teo’s essay is reproduced in full right here:

By Teo You Yenn

There’s something about our personal lives that’s particularly poignant to ourselves.

Dwelling within the inside of it, all the time seated on the entrance row, we expertise our particular person journeys as particular. Observing different people who aren’t us and sometimes not comprehending them, we reckon our personhood is exclusive.

We reside in a social and cultural milieu that encourages and compels this individualist mode of conceptualising actuality: people are distinctive, every individual makes his or her personal decisions, chooses their very own path.

“In the long run, it’s as much as the person” — this can be a sensibility I’ve heard in many various contexts.

As a instructor of Sociology, this individualist lens is a core psychological framework I work to undo when college students come into my classroom.

I do that not as a result of I need to destroy younger individuals’s sense of self-mastery or confidence, however as a result of I need to construct up their sense of social belonging and collective duty.

three tales of our schooling system

It’s essential, once we reside in society, to know and recognize that we’re all the time related to, formed by, and impactful to others.

A helpful instance for illustrating how related people are to others in society is our schooling system.

The well-known and repeatedly-told story about Singapore’s schooling system is that it’s “world-class” and a “meritocracy”.

It has terrific infrastructure and is staffed by well-trained academics; Singapore college students do properly in worldwide checks; the schooling system recognises and rewards particular person “benefit” and is thus an applicable website the place the nation’s greatest and brightest are recognized.

One other story much less well-known outdoors of Singapore (however widely-known inside it) is that the schooling system is a troublesome one for youngsters and fogeys — there’s plenty of homework and testing; to manage or to do properly, mother and father need to micro-manage, and paid tutors outdoors of faculty have turn out to be more and more needed.

A 3rd story, progressively gaining consideration, is that youngsters from low-income households are having a troublesome time “maintaining” within the system they usually have to be “levelled up”.

Therefore, the notion: Particular person effort is what counts most

The individualist lens that so many people view the world via leads us to make sense of the three tales this manner: the schooling system just isn’t good however finally rational and truthful.

There are some pitfalls and damaging externalities, however this can’t be helped if Singapore needs to determine its greatest expertise.

Inside what is actually a good system, individuals need to do what they need to do. They need to work exhausting and use their very own assets, and there’s a restrict to what the system can do for the person.

In the event that they succeed, it’s a signal that they’ve achieved what is important and have benefit; in the event that they fail, it’s as a result of they haven’t accomplished what is important.

In the long run, it’s as much as the person.

Methods do matter; people make decisions based mostly on the place they’re in them

By way of this lens, it’s troublesome to ask two questions that sociologists of schooling pose: what qualities does an schooling system reward and what qualities does it punish? How do the rules and practices of reward techniques affect which teams are rewarded and which teams usually are not?

We pose these questions as a result of sociologists, in all kinds of contexts, have established that methods matter: people don’t make decisions in social vacuums — what choices we’ve, what paths can be found to us, rely closely on how and the place we’re located in a society.

From a sociological perspective, we have now seen that schooling techniques embed inside them many inequalities; so-called meritocracies have too typically rationalised somewhat than alleviated inequalities that stem from class, ethnicity, and gender.

Being taught to maintain one’s eyes educated on one’s personal lane

My college students catch on that a part of what they should do is to place the three tales about Singapore’s schooling system into one body.

I’m asking them to view the world via a lens that insists on the connections between individuals and society; a lens that invitations them to see all private acts as socially embedded and socially consequential.

From right here, they see that the street they’ve taken — which has led them into the college lecture theatre — is identical street that has taken a few of their friends into low-wage jobs.

My college students begin to recognise that a few of these friends have strengths and skills that don’t translate into the rewards they’ve been promised (insofar as they get to the top of college).

As they assume again on their journeys, the place mother and father, tutors, and evaluation books function prominently, it begins to daybreak on them that they didn’t discover this sooner as a result of they have been touring on separate lanes they usually’ve been taught to maintain their eyes solely on their very own.

The method of awakening

For a lot of, the primary second of reckoning is accompanied by a way of guilt as they realise that relative class privilege or drawback matter very a lot in shaping which lane individuals find yourself in.

There’s typically a second extra necessary second, the sort of second when the instructor learns from the scholar: they remind me that they’ve needed to pay some prices to be within the higher-speed lane.

This isn’t only a street however a street race, one they’ve been on since they have been youngsters. They’re drained and confused. They’ve been advised there can be rewards.

However now, nearing what is meant to be the top of the race, they’re not positive that promise can be fulfilled. The place does this race lead? Who actually wins? After the race ends, what does all of it imply?

Our worldview impacts how we interact with the world

How we view the world shapes the questions we ask of it. The questions we ask of it shapes how we interact with it.

Once we view the world via individualist lenses — “in the long run, it’s as much as the person” — we ask questions inward.

How will I do higher within the subsequent examination? How do I ensure my baby can sustain together with her classmates? What self-help ebook do I learn to discover ways to maximise my potential? How do I ensure that I can “leverage” on qualities nobody else has?

My college students’ astute observations concerning the uncertainty and prices of their very own ostensibly “profitable” paths recommend that these questions could make us really feel lonely and powerless.

We’re within the lanes we’re in. I’m sorry there are individuals within the sluggish lanes that result in poorer locations however there’s nothing I can do about that.

In the long run, we’re simply people, and act as people.

Once we play by guidelines, once we settle for the logic embedded in a system — with its accompanying guidelines, laws, procedures — we normalise and strengthen that system’s logic.

The alternatives we make usually are not particular person ones

Our participation is a essential situation of any system’s perpetuation.

Once we interact with the world as if we’re mere people, we behave as if we now have no proper to ask questions concerning the system that compels our cooperation.

Once we interact with the world as if we’re mere people, we perpetuate our individualism, isolation and powerlessness.

Once we reside in society, it’s essential to know and respect that we’re all the time related to others. The alternatives we make — the roads we take — might really feel like particular person ones however they don’t seem to be.

Roads and lanes exist earlier than we as particular person individuals exist; they may live on after we as people stop to exist. How we behave as we journey on them impacts different street customers, current and future.

Once we reside in society, it’s essential to be motivated and emboldened to behave as members of a collective, as a part of a workforce on a street that we share.

Final September, MOE introduced considered one of its largest shake-ups to the faculties and exams system. The “Study for Life” plan, which can take away exams for some Main Faculty ranges, will take impact in 2019, and is aimed toward encouraging college students to excel in areas aside from educational outcomes.

In the event you occur to be within the schooling area and assume this essay could also be appropriate as a useful resource (e.g. for English Language, Common Paper or Social Research classes), The Birthday Collective has a brand new initiative, “The Birthday Workbook”, that features dialogue questions and studying actions based mostly on The Birthday Ebook essays. You possibly can join its publication at

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