Sunday 7 October 2018

Income Inequality and Education Causing a Divide in Singapore?

There has been a video going around and it has been gaining a lot of attention among Singaporeans especially during this period of exams where PSLE and O levels are around the corner.

If you haven't seen the video yet, here it is.

In the video, it starts with interviews of young kids of around 9-11 years of age. One girl mentioned that if you owned 'branded items' like smiggle bags and smiggle pencil cases, you would be the most popular kid.

When I was young in primary school, I kinda felt it as well, from OP bags to converse school shoes, we did have a kid who would own all these items but she wouldn't be the popular kid unless she was fun to be around.

I can really feel the pressure for kids nowadays who want to match up to their popular friends, my tutee who is 12 years old, have also told me that she hated that she has a Lenovo phone and not an iPhone. All her friends has iPhone and that it is cool to own one.

She also mentioned to me that they went to Starbucks after school and it was really cool of her friend to have a gift card which she really wanted. Wow, when I was in primary school, I still didn't know what Starbucks was.

But the real highlight in the video is when the interviewees were aged 15-17 as this is the age where they have been 'categorized' by their PSLE score and would soon be 'categorized' by their A, O and N level scores as well.

There was a obvious difference between the interviewees when the second question of 'what expectations do you have for yourself?' was being asked. From then on, there was a clear divide among the students in the Integrated programme (IP) than the rest.

For me, I went to a government secondary school, Saint Anthony's Canossian Secondary and I wasn't performing that well. To be honest, my mum actually just wanted me to pass all my subjects and if possible, get into a course in Polytechnic which I managed to.

To be honest, I have always been poor performing in my family, with cousins who all went to JCs, like VJC and ACJC, I was intimidated at every family gathering when aunts and cousins would ask me about my choices.

It definitely did cause a divide between me and my cousins as the common subjects we could talk about was limited.

Even my brother did pretty well for O levels as well. However, when he got into the elite JC that he always wanted, in the first year, he went to the principal to request for a change of class to another where some of his friends were in as he felt that the class he was in was too competitive and everyone was so 'on' about studying.

When he was talking to his dean about it, his dean told him that changing his class would prove to be a wrong choice as he was dropping out of the good class.

Well, he didn't end up too bad and also obtained a scholarship in the end to study overseas. He told me that many of his friends who went to other JCs like Temasek, Tampines and Meridian actually did very well and some even better than him but because of the way the school operates, many of his friends were not aware of scholarships and overseas opportunities that they could have gotten.

Between me and my brother, I am not very good at even general knowledge and sometimes he do get baffled that I am not aware of certain information which according to him is general knowledge but I believe that because my brother and I come from a low-middle income family, friendship is not really based on money and results and we can empathize more. I do feel that the divide between high income Singaporeans and low income Singaporeans is getting wider and it is not an easy problem to deal with.

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  1. Dear friend
    It is no longer about income inequality, but about asset and wealth inequality. You and your colleague may both earn the same wage, but if your colleague lives in a mid to large freehold landed property which he will inherit fully, you would know there is a real difference where he will end up. Happy hunting!

  2. Hi,

    This is the real reality. The most important thing is not to feel down and demoralised for being inferior in certain aspect. I also have the same circumstance during my schoolday as well as the corporate career. My colleagues had the latest gadgets while I had the basic item. I do not feel inferior as I know what I want. I yearned for financial independence and strived for it. This is also known as FIRE.

    Be yourself and focus on your preferred goal.