Monday, April 18, 2005

The scholars castes

Singapore in not a communist country- and that is a fact not a myth. Singapore values talents and would do anything to make sure that the talents are well utilized for all purposes, especially economic. Made me feel a little more than a piece of pork hanging above the butcher table. Intriguing that is to say, Singapore do try to help the people who are really willing to serve the country by providing them with a good scholarship to keep the brain drain. Well this is what I am interested to talk about- reading through some elite ex-JC students' blogs had sparked off my interest in this topic.

A number had mentioned about applying/applied/succeeded in clinching scholarships from the PSC or other govt agencies such as firefly, dsta, a-star, gic etc. (not Codenames for the Army Mobilisation but really legitimate ministry organizations) It's very easy to know actually - 1. Ascertain they were from the top JCs 2. Click on the archives 3. Focus on the dates: Mar (that's when the A levels scores are released; many of these folks would be scoring lotsa As), Apr - Jun (this is the scholarship interview season), Jul - Oct (they would be writing about which one of their friends is going to which university and how they are settling in etc)Is it for money and prestige? As a show-off? I certainly think it is a combination of all three. Given the astronomical costs of a degree course in UK/US nowadays, not many people can afford to go on their own. The Singapore society also gives recognition (as well as a strong sense of jealousy if you happen to belong to the have-nots) for being a gahmen scholar.

Sad to say,in Singapore, we had a caste system akin to that of India: Right on top of the caste system are Government Scholars with their academic degrees fully paid for by the state (this is further differentiated between overseas and local scholars) This group is divided into 2 sub-castes namely the free-spirited overseas scholars who go to places like Harvard and with a higher tendency to stay there to pursue a professorship when the going get tough. The other sub-caste are the local scholars who studied in the National university of Singapore or the Nanyang Technological University who pretty much have their “po-tay-to” and “po-tah-to” distinguished.

A lesser caste are the ordinary self-funded graduates (again with several classes) this is also divided into 4 subcastes – those in top overseas universities (because Lao peh (father) got money), those in local universities (because Lao peh got some money but want to use CPF instead), local universities' rejects and being forced to go overseas (you may have cases where top overseas universities accept them but NUS/NTU/SMU rejected them) (where lao peh may or may not have money but still… anyway) and locally based distance learning degree program attendees (most likely they are local universities' rejects but do not want/unable to afford to go overseas) (because lao peh got no money or the sudent don’t want to use lao peh’s money)Sad to say that right at the bottom of this caste system are these three groups namely the Poly diploma/A level holders, ITE graduates and finally Pri/Sec/ITE school dropouts. Some of you might be inclined to add in people with no education, illiterate but I must say that this group is fast becoming extinct in Singapore and thus have no impact in this observations.

The interesting about the Singapore caste system is that people can move from caste to caste. That’s when the beauty of meritocracy come into place. But sad to say the minute that you are borne to this world, there is already an expectation of the things that you have to do, have to achieve. We are in a society where we need to understand that we are merely pawn in the structure, the energy cells for the robots in the Matrix. We all need to fulfill our roles. In fact we are forcibily placed into our caste as a result of our economic status. We can’t inherit wealth, likewise your parents can’t pass down their wealth but what they can do is to try to convert the wealth to educational credits, to give you a good education so that you can perpetuate the wealth yourself. Which of course came with the warped theory that the rich get richer and the poor, well they can get rich, with years of hard work and of course a wager at the casinos, or a lucky tip at the totos.

So what is the point I am trying to make here. Much as I want to talk about meritocracy in Singapore which I must admit that it do exist, I have to e the sore loser to say that people do not have the chance to get the social mobility because of the invisible tag hovering over our head which stated the caste that we are in. My view is that let not prejudge, get the ministry official to watch the Matrix. Neo was supposed to be the One and the Oracle said he is not the One, however that doesn’t meant that Morpheus stop thinking that he is the One, and when Trinity need the One, Neo became the One. That is so simple.
(PS if you don’t understand what I say, please go and watch the “Matrix”)

Perhaps we can try to get the ministry to ponder over it… Stop following the caste system like some unalterable rule and let the one with talents the opportunity to achieve, scholars or not.

Then again a public screening of the Matrix may help..

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