Education arms race fuelling inequality; solution to improve income alongside access

Education arms race

Picture: The Edge

By Sharanya Pillai, The Edge

4 June 2018

SINGAPORE: Part-time supermarket cashier Rozaini and her husband, who works as a driver, earn a combined income of S$2,000 a month. That money has to support them and their four children, aged between four and 19. Their oldest son is currently undergoing national service, while the second and third children are in primary school. The couple pay $500 a month to rent their two-room flat, spend $800 on groceries and need another $100 for the medical expenses of one son with a skin condition. That takes up the bulk of their income.

In spite of this tight financial situation, Rozaini hopes to send her schoolgoing children for private tuition. She and her husband are both looking for a second job. Rozaini also sells clothes online, which brings her about $100 in extra income monthly. “I just want my children to have a chance to be better than us. They need to get better jobs than what we are doing, and earn more money,” she says. Rozaini and her husband completed Secondary Two and primary school, respectively, and want their children to attain higher educational qualifications.

Households such as Rozaini’s have come under the spotlight in recent weeks as discourse heats up on the concept of upward social mobility — that one can achieve a better socio-economic status than that of one’s parents. In Singapore’s meritocratic system, it has traditionally been a point of pride that anyone with some talent and the willingness to work hard will get ahead. Increasingly, however, this concept is being challenged.

Today, education has become transformed to less of a social leveller and more of an arms race. It has become harder for those from less well-to-do backgrounds to compete on equal terms with their well-to-do counterparts,” says Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University (SMU) and a former nominated member of parliament. “So, even as the opportunities are open to all, access to and utilisation of those opportunities are unequal.”

Read more in The Edge business newspaper here.


Website owner Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from the National University of Singapore, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as a GP and English tutor in 2016. He continues to blog on issues of concern to General Paper and student life.

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About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student of each cohort. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 530,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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1 Response to Education arms race fuelling inequality; solution to improve income alongside access

  1. Pingback: Education arms race fuelling inequality; solution to improve income alongside access | MemePosts

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