Be BOLD or Keep to the OLD?

Last week, President Halimah said our new leaders need to “make bold moves, keep up spirit of pioneers”. So when Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, who is also minister in charge of innovation, spoke in Parliament yesterday, I was looking forward to seeing him execute some “bold moves” in the education sector.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Minister talked about secondary school streaming, noting that some argued streaming should be abolished to remove the stigma of Normal stream. We should not assume that all students want to be in the Express stream, he said.

It’s true. Some of us actually want to go Special stream lor.

Anyway, he went on to say that some students prefer the pace of learning in the Normal streams and some also prefer to be a big fish in a smaller pool.

“Remember, stigma is not an education policy, but the result of our own attitudes and biases.”

So how, not education policy means not Education Ministry’s dai ji liao?

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Minister went on to acknowledge the call for PSLE to be scrapped as it brings stress and unfairness. He added that there are many parents out there who support PSLE as it teaches their children the value of hard work and lets them showcase all that they have learned.

This is the first time I’ve heard anyone describe PSLE this way. Usually my parent-friends will tell me how it’s a nightmare to them – e.g. they have to take leave to study with kids, non-stop nag when the kids look like they are slacking, but also constantly worry that the kids will be too overwhelmed by PSLE that they are unable to tahan emotionally and mentally etc.

Minister said the alternative to PSLE is to use the residential locations, which is even more unfair. True that. But surely there must be a third, fourth and perhaps fifth option right? Since when is it a case of PSLE vs Allocation by Residential Locations only?

Anyway, with the PSLE T-score system to be replaced with Achievement Levels from 2021, it looks like PSLE is here to stay for some time.

Minister also talked about government’s unfinished business with the issue of inequality. He warned that implementing universal welfare – like providing assistance to both the middle-income and low-income groups – would mean taxes have to be raised.

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But is Singapore really so poor that the only way for our government to help more people/ to help people more is to raise taxes?

Minister noted that half of Singapore’s population do not pay personal income taxes and the GST “is still a single digit”.

Eh, so should those who don’t have to pay personal income tax be grateful that they are not earning high enough to be taxed? And should we be thankful that GST is not going to hit 10%, yet?

So ehm, hopefully we will see bold moves soon ok?