Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Raffles schools

Just for the record, this was published recently:

Uh, I don't write the headlines for these letters.


The Raffles schools were the pinnacle of aspiration for families like mine all across Singapore.
I remember taking the bus to Tiong Bahru Primary School, confident I would be an "RGS girl".
On my first day at Raffles Girls' School (RGS) I was asked by a new schoolmate: "Were you the top girl in your school?"

It transpired that virtually every girl in the room was asked the same question, and the answer was the same: We were the top girls from schools across our island nation.
I had such a great time at RGS.
I studied alongside daughters of hawkers, labourers, civil servants, and so on. I was gobsmacked when some of the girls arrived at school in chauffeur-driven cars.
Within the classroom, however, our family backgrounds did not matter. Of the 40 girls in class, only one had a graduate father.
How may we reverse elitism at Raffles Institution (RI) and RGS ("A hard look at averting elitism"; Wednesday and "RI population less diverse now, say many alumni"; Tuesday)?
In primary schools, one will find naturally gifted children from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may not already be in the gifted education programme.
Sometimes, the parents of such children won't even know that their children are good enough to get into RI/RGS. Sometimes, there are fears that they cannot afford to "keep up" or "fit in".
I suggest the relevant authorities consider "outreach programmes" to nurture these natural talents, engage with their families, reassure them of financial support and prepare them for a time at RI/RGS.
Or invite the top boys and girls in each class or school to sit a special test for RI/RGS. Just make sure that this is a test - unlike the Primary School Leaving Examination - for which they cannot be prepped.

1 comment:

Sibylla said...

I did not do well enough to get into RGS but my husband went to RI and in his day ( the 1980s) many of his classmates came from modest backgrounds. The thing is that all those old boys from modest backgrounds have grown up and gone up in the world and none live in HDB flats now. You can bet they will do everything to make sure their kids also go to RI/RGS right? So whether you believe in nature or nurture, these kids will end up in RI/RGS - but the third generation will have grown up in luxury. Nobody that "rises" from the working class will want to go back there.