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As per recent media reports, Meritocracy cannot be seen as a fair education system anymore. The report stretched saying that the system was well-placed at the time of independence since all the people were majorly poor. So, the pre-designed notion of it was of a system that cut across various aristocratic hierarchies. But the accumulation of power in a few hands has made the system less reliable.
Meritocracy As An Education System
The documentary Measuring Meritocracy claimed the system’s pre-status as a leveler in Singapore. They pictured this education system as a much more effective and inclusive one during the time of independence.
Lim Siong Guan, the Civil Services head currently sheds light on the boons of the system. He stated that this system helped him achieve beyond anything any person in his family dared to think or dream. He portrayed himself as a beneficiary of the system and its resources. Likewise, Marvyn Lim Seng, an important public figure credited the institution for providing him an outlet from poverty.
Meritocracy as a system enables one to transcend the social barriers of family background, social class, and connections. It allows one to advance in society based on individual merits and achievements.
But the roadblock felt in the way of Singapore and other societies have been the larger trial run on the fairness of this system. Daniel Markovits proposed that it has become “a black to equality of opportunity” than a sturdy “engine” of equitable distribution.
Introduction of Meritocracy in Singapore
Measuring Meritocracy in the first section explained how the system was built on the foundation of dethroning privileged groups in power. The aristocratic class scene is “unfair, incompetent, frozen, sclerotic” as stated by Markovits in The Meritocracy Journal.
As per David Goodhart, in Britain, the 1860’s reforms saw the arrangement of jobs as highly biased. The emergence of the system gave them the power to throw the old nepotistic elite. These ideas slowly traveled from Britain to Singapore.
The 1880s saw the passing of The Queen Scholarship which organized a standardized system for the measurement of merit and distribution of resources. However, as per some, it was shrewdly a strategy of the colonial government to raise a set of people in favor of the empire. The school funding in colonial Singapore also varied based on their vernacular or English-medium teaching.
Although, by the 1950s, free-reigning Singapore got a true idea of self-governance and a refined articulation regarding mass education. There was an introduction of free primary education in 1955. The coming of the People’s Action Party further refined the quality of education stepping up its access to the masses. By 1966, a University provision of free education enabled many less-off people to outstand their marginalized status.
What made Meritocracy unfair with the Passage of Time?
With time, post the first round of leveling among the masses during independence, the next round flipped the system gradually. Since people who gained position and power from the pre-existing systems received undue advantages.
Many people also explicitly shared their concerns regarding the individualistic premise of the system. Critics pointed out that it pushed under the cloak the fact that privileges passed on from generations than simply being a result of individual merit or performance. Also, when the well-off generation occupied places of power, they give their seat to the forthcoming generation.
The strife mainly lies between “the greater good of the masses” and the rise of an individual. The foundation of this discourse intensified the arms raise among the masses. The reports highlight how even the minor task of gaining admission to the school is essentially a function of family background than a child’s merit.
Nevertheless, many officials still see it as the best way of organizing society. They believe that it still encourages people to hope or strive for upward mobility in society. So, the system can yet be made more inclusive and compassionate.
Full subject-based banding that allows children to land up in different subjects, and fostering plurality are some of the steps taken up by the government. Despite the system’s inadequacies, the chance of preserving and practicing different cultures and languages is still kept intact. The desire to move beyond grades is yet another instance of the initiative to push back the hierarchies and promote inclusiveness.