Meritocracy; a society where the citizen is rewarded not on the basis of his last name or his connections, but purely on his own merit.

Meritocracy has always been a core tenant of many Government speeches and Social Studies textbooks. In 2012, Prime Minister Lee reminded the members of his party of the role meritocracy plays in our society.

“I ask myself if we’re not going on merit, what are you going to look at?”

Cutting to the chase in a speech addressed to more than 1,600 People’s Action Party (PAP) activists, PM Lee noted, “You have a choice. You can look at wealth – they got money, you give them. You want that? You have another choice. You have connections, you give them. Some countries do that. I don’t think that’s the Singapore you want.”

One could go so far as to argue that Meritocracy is the bedrock of the Singapore Story. However, some material from a Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) course – courses sponsored by the Government in a bid to improve labour mobility – seemed to suggest that the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) may have missed a memo.


The picture above was an assessment that all participants of a WSQ Course on ‘Consensus and Managing Conflicts’ had to attempt. Participants were tasked to look at 10 employers of a company and eventually reach a decision which 4 to retrench. As for the 10 employees, not much details were given as far as their actual value to the company (read: merit) was concerned.

Instead, participants were told about their Political Affiliations, Sexual Orientations and Racist tendencies, to name a few arguably irrelevant traits.

Garywho first posted the course materials on his Facebook, described the course material as ‘atrocious’.

“Retrenchment should only be based on one’s work performance. This assessment scenario is not only against our values of meritocracy, it is extremely amoral and discriminatory. I have no idea what the course instructor is trying to teach here.”

A friend of his was allegedly failed by the Instructor for his refusal to participate in the assessment which he felt to be ‘shoddy’ and irrelevant.

retrenchment 2
Course participants to fill in their “justifications” based on the “merits” of the said individuals to be retrenched.

He went on to urge the WDA to keep a closer eye on the outsourcing of courses to ensure quality. Moreover, he submitted that the WDA ought to fulfill its due diligence by ensuring, at the very least, that the course materials and syllabus are in line with the values of the workforce at large.

The Government argues that “WSQs are based on national standards developed by WDA in collaboration with various industries.” In light of the WSQ Course material, one could argue that it was indeed a slip-up by the outsourced instructor and not a reflection of employment practices at large.

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