"Top schools often coerce their less-able students into dropping their weakest subjects, even if the student actually wants to carry on with the subject. The school's fear is that the student might score a B or C, thereby dragging down the school's overall percentage of A's."
Of course, I have my skeptical readers. One of them, Lam Chun See, left a comment to suggest that my remark about top schools was just "a lot of speculation". Ironically, just today, the Straits Times Forum published the following letter:
ST Nov 29, 2008Of course, I do not have the statistics to show how common this kind of practice is. I am sure that the schools themselves would not keep such statistics. Their reputation is what they care about .... remember? Why gather hard information about things that are best kept a secret.
Tuition not the way to success
WHEN I collected my Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results in 1985, I was told I had been selected to attend a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) secondary school. This sudden 'promotion' did my parents proud but it gave me much stress. The moment I started at the SAP school, I fell from being the top girl to being among the top 15. For the first time in my life, I knew I was simply 'not good enough' and was bitterly disappointed with myself.
Since almost everyone ahead of me had tuition of various kinds, I told my parents I needed help too.It was not long before my single-income family began to channel huge amounts towards education investment - tuition for me and my three siblings. One day, the principal of my SAP school in Katong asked to meet my parents concerning my lacklustre grades. He wanted me to drop chemistry and English literature specifically, 'so as not to pull down the school standard'. After my mother pleaded with him tearfully, this humiliating episode ended with more tuition for me and less retirement funds for my food-seller parents. In all, I had tuition in six out of 10 subjects, not because I did badly, but because I was not good enough to achieve the As and Bs the school was furiously churning out ....
Producing many A's is an achievement that a school should be proud of. However, producing many A's by pressuring the B-grade & C-grade students to drop their weak subjects is just window-dressing. It is nothing to be proud about.
It is similar to the structural unemployment issue that Singapore faced, a few years ago. A large number of Singaporeans were unemployed, because they lacked the relevant job skills. Singapore then imported a very large number of foreigners to work here, and granted them PR status or citizenship. On an overall basis, what happened?
Of course, the percentage of unemployed citizens/PRs went down (because of the large number of employed foreigners-turned-citizen-&-PR). And yes, that looks good on paper. But that figure in itself does not tell you whether the government had actually succeeded in helping any of those structurally unemployed Singaporeans to find new jobs or not.