Meritocracy vs money-tocracy
Posted July 24, 2012on:
Yesterday, TODAY led with an article, A tuition nation.
A survey by Blackbox Research of 955 Singaporeans aged 18 or above revealed that:
- 46% indicated that tuition was necessary ”to stay competitive with peers”
- 37% thought tuition should start when kids are in primary school
- 27% thought tuition should start when kids are in pre-school
- 27% had kids already enrolled in tuition
- only 4% in the bottom income bracket ($4,000 and below) were able to afford tuition
If these were results in politics, you could hardly argue that a party had won a vote of confidence, much less established a mandate. But it is tuition that we are talking about here. It is about two Es to avoid an F: Emotions and economics to avoid failure.
By failure, we are not necessarily taking about the academically-challenged stumbling at tests. Instead, in the game of comparisons, it is the failure to keep up with one’s peers or to beat them soundly. Tuition today is different from tuition yesterday. It used to be about addressing weakness and filling gaps. Now it is about turning an A into an A+.
Tuition often evokes an emotional response, not a rational one. “I want my child to excel in school otherwise s/he will be a karang-guni man!” trumps “S/He will find a way to succeed with my support, be happy, and be the best that s/he can be.”
Tuition, whether it is needed or not, is as close to the Singaporean heart as food is to the Singaporean stomach. Logic does not dictate. The unflinching short-term focus on grades, glory, and get-into-the-school-of-choice does.
I daresay that an increasing number of parents view tuition as necessary a crutch as having a maid. It might even be a status symbol when parents start comparing the regularity of enrichment activities or the reputation of their kids’ tuition agencies with other parents.
It is no surprise that tuition centres have blossomed here. Some tuition agencies set entry tests, select students that produce results, and show off the best to keep feeding their tuition engine.
Tuition as we now know is becoming more about economics and less about education. Screw meritocracy. It is a money-tocracy!
Tuition is also a game that some adults play by paying instead of participating. It is like a horse race or a gladiator arena where they compete by proxy. The ones that actually play and suffer for it are the kids.
What do the kids think? I would like to see an in-depth series of articles attempting to answer that question. I recall one that described how a top-performing student became dependent on tuition. With the schooling and tuition drilling short-term strategies and long-term bad habits into them, can they even think for themselves?