• Definition:
‘Meritocracy is a fundamental ideology in
Singapore and a fundamental principle in the
education system which aims to identify and groom
bright young students for positions of leadership.
The system places a great emphasis on academic
performance in grading students and granting their
admission to special programmes and universities.’
Basic guiding principle of Singapore’s governance
as well as education
• Evidence:
Various scholarships and bursaries
- e.g. PSC scholarship; NUS- Singapore Lions' Club
Bursary Award
Divide students into different streams since
secondary and even primary schools
e.g. Express/normal streams
History of meritocracy
Originated from Ancient China
Confucianism: the first merit-based civil service
system existed in the imperial bureaucracy of China
Spread from China to the West during the
Why Singapore adopts meritocracy
Traditional views of the founding fathers of
Ensure social equality especially in a multi-racial
Important in the building of nation
Ensure fairness
• Efficient use of resources
- Resources are given to people who have the
ability to make best use of it
• Ensure social mobility
- Students from lower socio-economical
backgrounds can improve their status through
their own hard work
• Statistics have show that it may actually reduce
social mobility
More than half of the parents of students in RI have
university education,while the highest percentage
in neighborhood school is 13.7%
May lead to social stratification
• Meritocracy may not be just since:
Different standards of merits are involved
- Academic vs. Leadership
Some factors are out of our control (e.g. social
status, inherited wealth, etc.)
- A study by Ghent University has even shown that
Children who are first in birth order are more likely
to be hard working
• Leading to elitism
Evidence in Singapore:
- Parents are willing to do community service and
even move their homes in order to get their children
into good primary schools
- Concentration of educational resources in top
schools such as RI
- Special Programmes (such as SMTP)
Danger of elitism
 Branding of students
 Complacency and intellectual snobbery
 Lack of appreciation towards the society
A debatable case: the Wee Shu Min elitism
The Wee Shu Min elitism controversy
On 21 Oct 2006, Wee Shu Min, the daughter of
Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Wee Siew Kim, who was also a
RJ graduates, was slammed by netizens for her elitist
and naïve comments on the blog of Derek Wee who
voiced his concerns on job security and age
Wee Shu Min (left)
called Derek a "stupid
crackpot", belonging to
"the sadder class" and
overreliant on the
government. Her post
also called for Derek to
"get out of my elite
uncaring face”.
An important guiding principle in
Singapore’s politics and education
• ‘Westerners value the freedoms
and liberties of the individual. As
an Asian of Chinese cultural
background, my values are for a
government which is honest,
effective and efficient.’
- Lee Kuan Yew
Why Singapore adopts pragmatism
Lack of natural resources
Social and political needs to achieve rapid
economic growth in order to ensure stability
Therefore, Singapore government, ie the PAP, has
always taken economic performance to be above
other concerns such as human rights
Pragmatism in education
• Purpose of education: to equip students with
necessary skills to find jobs rather than to
develop critical and creative thinking skills
• overbearing focus on grades and paper
• Teaching-learning pedagogy
• Credential-oriented system
Overly-focused on exam results and grades
- Ubiquitous TYS and guidebooks
- Students focus more on the results rather than
the learning process
The other extreme: many students blindly engage
in a plethora of competitions, CIPs and
commitments, for the mere sake of boosting their
curriculum vitae and portfolios
Proliferation of rote memorization
- affectionately termed as “mugging” or “pure
regurgitation”, as a must-do if a student wanted to
excel in standardized exams
- hones exam skills but does not develop creative
and critical thinking skills
A cornerstone of the Singapore education system
• While English is medium of instruction in schools,
most students are required to take a Mother
Tongue subject, which could be one of the three
official languages: Chinese, Malay or Tamil.
• Changing objectives:
First introduced in 1966 with the primary
objective of promoting English as the common
language among the diverse ethnic groups in
Nowadays: to educate students with their mother
tongues and impart traditional values
Critical Thinking
0 Exams nowadays require more thinking skills
0 E.g. AQ question for GP, Planning questions for sciences,
and essay questions for humanity subjects
0 Analytical and critical thinking
0 room for self-expression and creativity
0 Practical values of knowledge
Alternative Pathways
0 Tendency to be less exam-oriented
0 e.g. Integrated Programme
0 That’s the reason why we are here :)
0 From 2012, seven new schools will offer the Integrated
Programme, bringing the total to 18
0 More depth and breath of knowledge
0 E.g. deeper and broader subjects, enrichments, competitions,
0 Criticism of IP student disadvantage
0 BUT, for the 1st batch of IP students, similar performance to the
previous cohort of non-IP students in the same schools
Alternative Pathways
0 E.g. Direct School Admission (DSA)
0 91 schools in the 2012 DSA-Sec Exercise
0 15 government and government-aided JCs: 10%
four independent institutions: 20%
0 Recognition of a diverse range of achievements
0 Include non-academic areas e.g. music, sports
Canberra Secondary School
Digital Media
Naval Base Secondary School
Visual Arts
New Town Secondary School
Uniformed Groups
Queenstown Secondary School
Uniformed Groups
St Andrew’s Secondary School
Military Band*
Teck Whye Secondary School
Unity Secondary School
Uniformed Groups*
Woodgrove Secondary School
Environmental Education
Arts School
0 E.g. School of the Arts (SOTA)
0 Singapore’s first national
pre-tertiary specialised arts
0 AIMS of its education
0 creative thinking
0 expression and
communication in the arts
0 being in an arts community
Education (liberal)
Liberal Education
0 E.g. Yale-NUS college (1st! :O)
0 Small size of college classes
0 E.g. around 85% of all classes in Swarthmore College has less than 19
students per class. In addition, only one class has more than 100
0 More resources for undergraduates
0 more full time faculty with PhD degrees than a large
research university
Success story of LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE
• Liberal arts colleges produce nearly twice as many students who earn a
PhD in science as other institutions.
• a fifth of all US presidents were liberal arts college graduates
• Pulitzer Prize winners
0 Liberal Arts education
0 Broad-based education
Skilled Singapore workforce that possesses intellectual
curiosity, confidence, maturity and inclusiveness
0 Great emphasis on uniformity and conformity
0 Shifting towards liberal
0 useful to Singapore
0 enhances student learning
0 produces college graduates well-equipped for the
the Tourist
0 Tourism in Singapore:
0 major industry and contributor to economy
0 attracted 13,171,303 tourists in 2011
0 Why?
0 cultural attraction
0 natural and heritage conservation programs
0 Environmentally friendly
0 Low crime rates
0 Convenient transport system
0 Common language: English
Development of Singapore’s
tourism industry
0 The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board:
0 first established in 1964
0 promote Singapore as a tourist destination
0 First used the Merlion as its logo
0 Post independence:
0 tourism spurred on by technological improvements in
transportation and communications
0 welcomed as a means to create employment and boost
the economy
Development of Singapore’s
tourism industry
0 Board actively encouraged investment in infrastructural
0 such as the building of hotels
0 tourist attractions like the Jurong Bird Park
0 resort island of Sentosa.
Development of Singapore’s
tourism industry
0 1970s:
0 "garden attractions and modern hotels“
0 “Instant Asia”, or a "melting pot" of Asian cultures
Development of Singapore’s
tourism industry
0 Mid-1980s:
0 weakness of infrastructure were identified for falling
0 heralded the implementation of a S$1 billion Tourism
Product Development Plan
0 the redevelopment of ethnic “enclaves” such as
Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street and Kampong Glam
as well as historical sites like the Singapore River
Development of Singapore’s
tourism industry
start of 21st century
0 Uniquely Singapore Brand Campaign rolled out in 2004
0 11 January 2005
0 Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang,
unveiled the Board's bold targets
0 triple Tourism Receipts to S$30 billion, double visitor
arrivals to 17 million, and create an additional 100,000
jobs in the services sector by 2015
0 catalysed by a S$2 billion Tourism Development Fund.
2015 - Vision, Targets and
0 Set against the backdrop of growing opportunities
0 ensure that the tourism sector in Singapore remains competitive
0 three key areas of focus:
1. Strengthening Singapore’s position as a Leading
Convention & Exhibition City in Asia with a strong
and dynamic business environment
2. Developing Singapore as a leading Asian leisure
destination by providing an enriching experience
that is Uniquely Singapore.
3. Establishing Singapore as the Services Centre of Asia a place where visitors
come to enjoy high-end quality services such as healthcare and education services.
Recent Developments
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (2002)
Recent Developments
Singapore Flyer (2008)
Marina Barrage (2008)
Recent Developments
F1 Grand Prix (2008-2011)
Youth Olympic Games 2010
Recent Developments
Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts
Recent Developments
Resorts World Sentosa
Recent Developments
Gardens by the Bay (29 June 2012)
0 Increasingly expanding its target to the global market
0 Begun hosting international events that garner a
variety of supporters/tourists
(eg. 2009 World Gourmet Summit, 2010 YOG, 20th
International Orchid Convention[2011])
0 Increasing focuses on modernity and commercialism
The “all-evil” Casino
0 Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Casinos
0 Against traditional Asian values
0 Despite an outcry from civic and religious groups
opposed to the project
"A casino glorifies gambling. When you
have a casino with the government fully
endorsing it, that changes the perception
of what gambling is all about," said Joanna
Koh-Hoe, vice president of the social group
Focus on the Family Singapore.
Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore (2008)
0 responsible for ensuring that the management and operation
of the casinos in Singapore remains free from criminal
influence or exploitation
National Council on Problem Gambling
0 set up in Singapore in 2005 to address problem gambling
0 steep entrance fee of S$100 per entry or S$2,000 per year
0 Exclusion order
0 casinos would not be allowed to extend credit to the local
0 Despite the ill construction of casinos, the government
adopts strict policies to protect locals from suffering
its ill effects => “Father knows best”
0 “Integrated Resorts” not “Casino”
0 RW Sentosa: inclusion of USS and other attractions
makes it a family destination, not a gathering ground for
0 Marina Bay Sands: Glamorous Hotels, Gardens by the
Bay and other high-end leisure amenities seem to push
it a notch up, rather than just a gambling facility
0 developing attractions according to the tastes of the
tourists, despite threats to our traditional values
e.g. Merlion & Casino
0 Commercialisation of Singapore's traditional culture
e.g. Reconstruction of Chinatown and other historical
sites to attract more tourist results in the loss of
original character and authentic element of the place.
0 In recent years, Singapore has started building more
attractions that are modern and luxurious, and have a
smaller emphasis on cultural appeal(eg. USS, MBS).
The construction of the 2 casinos was a great turning
points as well. In this sense, we may be heading in a
more liberal direction.
0 However, the Government still maintains its role as
“Guardian”, and enforces certain rules and regulations
so that our actions are kept in check.
Take on Tourism
0 What’s YOUR take on tourism?
0 Modern?
0 Traditional?
0 Boring?
0 For us, it’s just a little HIDDEN.

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