Basis for the Education Policies
Singapore is a densely populated nation state, about 647 square kilometres in size. Our forefathers came as early immigrants in search of a better life.
They came from a great diversity of racial and cultural backgrounds from various parts of Asia, Southeast Asia and beyond. Our population is broadly grouped into four major ethnic communities: Chinese, Malay, Indian and the Eurasians and others, roughly in the proportions of 75:15:7:3. There are four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is the language for government and business transactions, as well as being commonly used as the language of inter-racial communication. In everyday life, people interact with fellow citizens of different racial backgrounds at work and at play; Singaporeans live in ethnically mixed housing estates and neighbourhoods, and their children attend racially integrated schools.
Within a system of meritocracy, people have equal opportunities to learn, achieve and excel. While there is considerable mixing of the races in the public domain, the different communities maintain their own language, culture and customs. We like to use the analogy of four overlapping circles in describing inter-racial relations in Singapore. In the overlapping area, Singaporeans share common experiences, a common language, that is, English, and have equal access to opportunities. Where the circles do not overlap, each community maintains its own language, culture, and customs. This emphasis on multiracialism and meritocracy has helped to build multiracial harmony out of diversity in Singapore, and fuelled economic development over the past three decades.
A unified national education system provides equal opportunities for each student to learn and to achieve his or her potential. Meritocracy recognises and rewards everyone who works hard and excels. Meritocracy is highly compatible with the multiracial model of society, as its very essence lies in allowing all races to advance in whatever field, solely on the basis of achievement, merit and hard work. On a more practical level, meritocracy is also the best means to maximize the different capacities of a population. This really suits Singapore's needs best, given its small population size and the lack of natural resources.
Meritocracy in Practice in Singapore’s Education System
Streaming, which is conducted through national-level exams, are just some examples of meritocracy in practice. Most, if not all, schools divide their students through yearly assessment to pick out the cream of the crop.