Mr Leon Perera: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Just one point of clarification to the Minister Dr Maliki who addressed my cut and it is in relation to my cut where I asked if the Government can publish data by SES, background, for admissions into the different categories of schools: Government, Government-aided and Independent.
I think that having some transparency about that would be helpful to help us to monitor our progress to ensure that the more popular and well-resourced schools do not become closed communities. And that is the goal I think we all share. I would hope that the Government would consider just making that data public.
Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman: Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Leon Perera for the supplementary question. I just want to start off by saying that we understand that what he is saying is we should have a good mix of students to encourage social mixing, students from different backgrounds in our schools. We must begin with the premise that no one education setting fits all students, although we have the same objectives in mind. We want to make sure that there is a good mix as students learn to grow in their adolescent period and understand the real world.
But I want to assure Mr Leon Perera that most schools have good representation from different socio-economic backgrounds – Government and Government-aided schools are largely representative of the national average. Our Independent schools, including Specialised Independent schools, there is some variation from the national average by virtue of the performance of the students at the PSLE – I mentioned during the Parliamentary Question by Mr Louis Ng earlier that there is a correlation between socio-economic background and performance at PSLE. But Independent schools cater to specific learner profiles that are different and with different aptitudes.
But really, our fundamental objective is not to achieve identical profiles for every school. Even our neighbourhood schools, they are identical in broad based curriculum, but they are unique in some specific aspects and because of that, almost all Secondary schools, in fact, all Secondary schools today, admit students in Secondary 1 through DSAs. Which means that they are able to niche themselves sufficiently. And what does DSA mean? DSA means that people with different unique talents go into the school. And we want to encourage that. We want to encourage that diversity in our school systems and in our school environment.
So, in the Independent schools, for example, we provide that opportunity for students from different backgrounds to interact. For Independent schools today, roughly, we have close to half of our students coming from public housing. So, there is a good spread of students from different socio-economic backgrounds in all our schools, including our Independent schools. Mr Leon Perera talked about how they are well-resourced. I want to assure Mr Leon Perera that all our schools are well-resourced.
In fact, in my speech, I spoke about resourcing schools with higher needs. Because they have higher needs, we want to give the students the best that they could get and we respond to their needs accordingly.
But even if we do see situations where schools may not have the demographic profile that reflects the national profile, we also encourage them to use other platforms for integration, for students to interact and appreciate the Singapore society’s profile. For example, once the students are in school, we facilitate interactions like Values in Action projects not just within the school but across schools, projects, co-curricular activities (CCAs), joint CCAs, joint camps, cohort level camps – many opportunities for the students to interact.
So, while the school provides certain experience which are relevant, with a right understanding of the objectives, it does not mean that our students are not interacting, that they are not mingling with students from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Just to give some examples. Integrated Programme (IP) schools are doing this too. They are also interacting with other students. For example, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) works with Queensway Secondary School on their programme called the Play Inclusive Programme; Raffles Institution working with Crest Secondary School, collaborating with students in Scouts in the CCA, doing projects, community projects together; Raffles’ Girls School with Edgefield Secondary School, with Guangyang Secondary School, collaborating on CCA programmes.
So, it does not mean that we need to just focus ourselves on the profile of students in those particular schools when, as I mentioned earlier, in almost all our schools, the profile is generally reflective of the socio-economic backgrounds across our students.
Mr Chairman, I just want to make one clarification to my speech earlier. I had said that in response to Mr Sharael Taha and Dr Shahira Abdullah nine in 10 of our ITE students are employed within the first six months. The correct figure is eight in 10. Maybe it was a mix-up, because nine in 10 of our technical diploma students get employed within six months. Just a clarification.
7 March 2022
Ministry of Education