Singapore 2025

What of Singapore towards 2025? Thoughts of a Singaporean.

MM Lee get RI award; praises meritocracy

A number of local papers/media outlets including the Straits Times, Today, mypaper and Channel News Asia ran this story on MM Lee receiving an award from Raffles Institution, but only the Business Times I understand included this rather pertinent observation (a friend has since pointed out to me that the Straits Times also made the point):

“The RI of today has an extraordinary, bright group of students but ‘they lack the diversity of the old RI that I had’, Mr Lee said. Sixty per cent of its students have fathers and mothers who are both graduates and there are few from the minority races.”

Source: Channel News Asia

The Straits Times nuanced the point slightly with an additional piece of information, “He (MM Lee) was told, he said, that 60 per cent of the present student cohort have parents who are both university graduates, making them of high-socio economic background. The other 40%, he said, were probably not far behind. He was also told that there were few minority-race students in present-day RI.”

The image of Singapore as “meritocratic and multi-racial” is likely to come under continuous strain unless the power brokers re-look this aspect of the social contract closely. Serious fissures could develop, if they have not already, should entry into the ranks of the elite reveal an under-representation of minorities. The argument that entry (top JCs, Administrative Service etc.) is on the basis of intellectual prowess alone will sound even more hollow in future as academic performance is increasingly accepted, even in Singapore, as only one, albeit important, indicator of ability.

In my mind, there does seem to be a perceptible attitude by power brokers of kicking this can further down the road. If continued, the fallout and impact on Singapore as a society, its various public institutions is likely to be intangible, simply because ‘minorities’ are affected.

The contradiction in the BT article is quite stark. On the one hand, there is a commitment to meritocracy, which ought to be lauded: “I’m not interested in who your father or mother is, or what station in life (you’re at), what religion, what language. How do you perform? What is your character?”

And on the other, the reality that meritocracy can arguably morph into a meritocracy solely for the meritorious.

What of its effect on our multi-racial society? Where minorities are under-represented in the bureaucratic and private sector elite? Watch this space. Closely. In the meantime, some data would be very useful to move the debate from the realm of the anecdotal to that of the empirical. Although anecdotes from MM Lee are unlikely to have any trouble finding corresponding data!

________________

“The RI of today has an extraordinary, bright group of students but ‘they lack the diversity of the old RI that I had’, Mr Lee said. Sixty per cent of its students have fathers and mothers who are both graduates and there are few from the minority races.”

MM Lee gets RI award; praises meritocracy
Teh Shi Ning
14 January 2011
The Business Times

(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is the first recipient of a new award Raffles Institution (RI) introduced to honour alumni who have contributed to Singapore in exceptional ways.

Speaking to the 800 alumni and guests at the Gryphon Award gala dinner last night, Mr Lee said he sees himself as ‘a fortunate product of the RI system’ and its meritocratic tradition.

That belief in meritocracy, formed at RI, has been important in the way he subsequently governed Singapore, Mr Lee said. ‘I’m not interested in who your father or mother is, or what station in life (you’re at), what religion, what language. How do you perform? What is your character?’ he said.

He cautioned that graduating from a top school does not guarantee success in life, not in Singapore.

Britain until shortly after the war, he said, was such that going to a top school meant an assured position in life. ‘Your network of friends are those in the upper strata and they will be able to help you advance your career,’ he said. But he decided that ‘that system was inimical to the maximum use of brainpower of the people’.

The RI of today has an extraordinary, bright group of students but ‘they lack the diversity of the old RI that I had’, Mr Lee said. Sixty per cent of its students have fathers and mothers who are both graduates and there are few from the minority races.

He called for others who have come after him ‘to uphold the fine traditions of meritocracy not only in their school lives, but in whatever fields of endeavour they subsequently find themselves pursuing’.

Last night’s gala dinner also sought to raise donations for RI’s 1823 Fund set up last year to fund scholarships for needy students, student-run community projects, science research labs, sporting programmes and teacher training.

Singapore must develop a culture where alumni owe their alma mater an obligation to fund and improve it, thereby adding lustre to their own status as alumni, Mr Lee said. Local schools and tertiary institutions can learn from their American counterparts’ strengths in co-opting alumni support and forging identity, he added.

By the end of the night, a total of $10 million was raised. Top donors included Peter Lim, the Lee Foundation, Oei Hong Leong and MM Lee himself.

See also Channel News Asia report: Singapore must preserve meritocracy in govt schools – http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1104544/1/.html

Ends.

Written by singapore 2025

14/01/2011 at 7:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: