Does class really divide us?
If you have been on social media recently, you would have seen the large volumes of discussion and hoo-ha surrounding this video on “How kids see class difference“.
This is part of CNA’s new documentary “Regardless of Class”, which explores Singapore’s social divisions.
Based on a CNA study, respondents felt that class/ income inequality was the most division issue in Singapore, rather than race, language or religion – which are issues which we are more familiar with.
Is this an indication that our fault lines are changing?
While the short 6-min clip (which is part of a longer programme btw), showed two segments – one with younger audiences (about 9-11), and the second segment showed students aged 15-17 – the talking point for Singaporeans was really the exchange among the NA/NT students and IP students.
This part starts at about 4:25 of the video.
We’ll pull out some relevant quotes from the different students for your reading pleasure.
On grades and expectations
“They expect me to just pass. They don’t expect very high grades or what.”
“For the things that I’m good at, minimally ‘A’s for all of them. An A2 would be considered disappointing I guess?”
“Maybe study at ITE, get a good certificate and get a good job.”
“I hope that I can at least get into the NUS, but if I find myself the opportunity to go overseas, I would definitely take that.”
“My expectation is to pass all my subjects, because I have been failing since Secondary 1.”
“I don’t really hang out with people from the Express stream in my school, because most of the people in Express stream, they look down on us. They think we are quite stupid, so they seldom talk to us as well.”
” The kind of activities that my school exposes me to outside of school, generally tend to be quite populated by the higher Express streams, or like IP streams, rather than like lower streams like NA and NT. For me to make friends with people from NA or NT… requires a lot more effort from me”
“With some Express students, I tried (to make friends). But then I cannot because the way they speak and the way I speak very different. Their English like power. My English jialat.”
“When they look down on us, I feel angry.”
When asked if things would work out if they were all put in the same class
“Maybe, if they teach us.”
“I think so, if they are willing to teach us and help us. I know I am very slow, I am scared they won’t teach me.”
“I personally feel that a mixed class suggestion may not be very viable in terms of closing the gap, it might even increase the gap if these students feel like they can’t cope so they just give up completely.”
This really triggered Singaporeans – us included.
Some Singaporeans took it out on the student who seemed like she was putting down the NT students.
But most of it, our hearts went out to the NT students. They deserve better.
Inequality has been a topic which has been coming up over and over again in recent times. We have been perhaps, a victim of our own success.
Social divides has existed throughout history – from, race, to religion, to class etc. Take for example the caste systems, the monarchies — the existence of individuals placed on a higher pedestal than others.
We are not saying that because of this, we should accept this as the norm. But while we look to the Government to tackle this issue – we should also think of what we can do as individuals and as a society.
And by the way, the Gov has put in place schemes to ensure social mobility (Think KidStart, ensuring young children are on a level playing field) hor.
While we may not completely be able to eradicate this phenomenon, the least we could do is to teach our children to be kind, respectful, gracious, understanding, accepting and less judgmental. These are attributes that we must pass on to our future generations.
Otherwise, in time to come, our society will fracture and wither with social stratification.
Looks like we still have some way to go to being an inclusive society.