The Workers’ Party (WP)’s candidates in a video released yesterday discussed possible solutions that can be made to Singapore’s formal education system, from reducing challenges faced by low-income students to cultivating critical thinking in schools.
In the third installment of the party’s e-rally series “The Hammer Show”, moderated by Nicole Seah — one of WP’s candidates for East Coast GRC — the panellists explored how home-based learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequality that children and youth from low-income households experience in relation to formal education systems in Singapore.
Lawyer Fadli Fawzi, one of the WP candidates for Marine Parade GRC, said that while Singapore’s formal education system is good, elements that make up the “informal social ecology” of such students should also be taken into account.
“For example, a child living in a bigger family might have no room to study or think or even do their homework,” he said.
“We also hear of problems with technology [where] children have problems connecting to the Internet where the houses don’t have wireless access,” Mr Fadli added.
Such instances, he argued, signals that Singapore needs to ” look at education beyond the formal schooling system and more towards the informal ecology itself”.
IT professional Nathaniel Koh highlighted that even prior to COVID-19, inequality has been a significant issue in Singapore society.
One of the key things he observed during Meet-the-People sessions is that there are low-income parents who have primary school-going children who have to send their children to schools far from their homes due to school placement, he said.
Mr Koh, who is also a WP candidate for Marine Parade GRC, said that for low-income families, “every cent matters”, and even public transport will cost them money that they might not necessarily have to allocate for such a purpose.
He suggested a system where children from low-income families can be placed in schools that are closer to their homes when necessary in order to reduce their travelling costs.
Social activist Raeesah Khan shared her experience tutoring English to teenagers from underprivileged backgrounds preparing for major public examinations such as O-levels and N-levels.
Ms Khan, one of WP’s candidates for Sengkang GRC, observed that among the challenges faced by such teenagers is an unstable home environment, which significantly impacts their focus in their studies.
Not only do they face challenges in keeping up with their studies, the said teenagers also often face obstacles in seeking access to opportunities that will help them escape the cycle of poverty, she added.
Such is why the WP is proposing a zero-interest SkillsFuture loan to help young people obtain the specialised training, skills and qualifications they require to obtain better-paying jobs.
Ms Khan also highlighted the importance of incorporating critical thinking skills and lessons on politics in Singapore schools in the process of building a truly informed and empowered democratic society.
She cited her experience as a student who has experienced both the Singapore’s public school system and international school systems — having lived abroad in cities such as Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur at certain points in her life previously.
“What I remember was how stifled I felt in the local system … I really felt like I couldn’t express myself and that my voice wasn’t heard,” she said.
Cultivating critical thinking in local schools, said Ms Khan, is pivotal in “allowing children to express themselves”.
She added that children today should also be exposed to “different political systems, especially the political system here, because they’re our future voters”.
“They should be empowered to make wise political decisions … Personally, I believe that you can never start too young,” said Ms Khan, adding that one of her 11-month old son’s favourite books is an alphabetical book on activism.