Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Singapore Government Dodges Malay Education Issue Again

The Asia File

Ben Bland

Contrary to popular perception, Singapore does actually have a working Parliament, in which ministers are occasionally asked questions, some of which are not plants or attempts to crawl up the arse of a minister.

In Parliament yesterday, one such incident occurred, when Zaqy Mohamed, vice-chairman of the ruling People's Action Party's youth wing and an ethnic Malay MP, asked the education minister what was being done about the persistent educational under-performance of Malay students compared to Singaporeans of other ethnic backgrounds.

The problem is a serious and persistent one. Figures from the Education Ministry show that while Singaporean exam results have increased across the board over the last decade, the stark disparities between the city-state's main three ethnic groups remain.

In 2008, just 59.3% of Malay students achieved 5 passes at O-level, the exams taken by 15 and 16-year-olds, compared to 86.2% of Chinese and 73% of Indians.

The disparity, which appears to be particularly sharp when it comes to Maths and Science, seems embedded from a young age. While 89.6% of Chinese and 72.9% of Indian kids taking the Primary School Leaving Examination achieved A*-C grades in Maths, only 56.3% of Malay kids managed the same feat.

The only area where Malay students seem to come out on top, according to the government figures, is in terms of mother-tongue ability. 98.6% of Malay students taking the PSLE achieve an A*-C in their mother-tongue exam compared to 98.4% of Chinese and 96.7% of Indians.

But despite the clear message of this data, the government, which tiptoes around racial issues because of fears of ethnic disharmony, does not appear willing to confront the problem.

In response to Zaqy's question, the education minister Ng Eng Hen said only that the performance by Malay students had been "stable" over the last decade, with some improvements in Malay and English.

While Zaqy wanted to know "what more can be done to help Malay students progress at the same rate, if not better, compared to their peers from the other race groups", Ng offered only vague platitudes, as he side-stepped the issue.

"Parents and families, of all races, can support students by ensuring that they attend school regularly, motivating them to work hard, and adopting good habits like reading widely," the minister said. "Community and self-help groups can also help families deal with problem issues related to finances, jobs and relationships, in order to create a more supportive home environment."

In other words: nothing to do with me, mate.

It's not surprising to see the government dodging this intractable and controversial issue again. The question is whether the PAP's seeming indifference is motivated more by its over-arching self-help philosophy or by the fact that a Chinese-dominated party in a Chinese-dominated nation is not too bothered by the underperformance of the Malay minority.

Also read:Spare the Rod, Spoil the Country


Anonymous said...

Singapore does not give a damn whether your Chinese or Malay. Its pure meritocracy - so the folks either have to put in the hours and work like the rest of the kids or get shitty results.

In Malaysia, I think the Government could add the necessary 5% to boost the result - bonus point. End result, a Malay who gets a 9A1 in Singapore will perhaps go on to achieve great things wherelse a Malay who gets 15 As in SPM or PMR can go on to work in the gomen

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear your solution to this pressing issue.

Y1 said...

I am sure every country has a certain race/sector that do not do well in education. I would love to know what are the statistics for Malaysia.

I know in the UK, the blacks and inner city whites do not progress beyond primary schools. There is nothing much government can do if the parents/clan/community do not find the need nor have the motivation to encourage their children to study.

The reasons are many. We cannot blame it solely on poverty or lack of opportunity.

eddy said...

1. Bro Y1, you said...there is nothing much the Government can do if the parents do not have the motivation to encourage their children to study. I agree with you. Macam mencurah air didaun keladi.

2. It is rather brave of the Singapore MP to ask sensitive questions about his race to a Singapore Government Minister. I hope his bravery will be rewarded by the Singapore Government who could at least look into the problem which will persist if not checked and will cause instability in the future as the population grows bigger.

Its no good talking about meritocracy and colour blindness when the problem involving a group of your own citizen is staring you in your face, the problem does not go away and dissappear into thin air.

Mike Tan said...

The children here go through the same school system and provided the same facilities and opportunity.
Unlike in Malaysia where one can blame it on urban and rural divide.

as the saying goes,u can bring the buffalo to the water but u can force her to drink.

So what's the solution Hantu? Give them crutches as well?

SM said...


Malay Education Issue? You mean in Spore the Malays have a "separate" Education System?
As Mike Tan commented...all the races in Spore go through the same education system...if there is a Malay Education's not the fault of the Spore Government. I guess the Spore Govt will have to contact UMNO on how they can implement the Never Ending Policy (NEP) for the Malays in Spore & set them back another 50 years!
As a side comment, my Mentor (who is a Malay by the way) sent his son to Spore to do his A'Levels a few years ago (I guess he could trust the Spore Govt not to "hinder" his son's education). His son went on to do Medicine in London & is now a doctor there & is furthering his studies there to specialize.