MM Lee says students' background plays a role
By S Ramesh | Posted: 24 January 2011 1832 hrs
SINGAPORE : Students from families with at least one or both parents being university graduates are likely to have a better learning environment.
The correlation was evident in statistics released when Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew visited Dunman High School on Monday.
Mr Lee also assured non-Chinese students that promoting the learning of the Chinese Language well was not meant to harm them.
The minister mentor has been visiting schools recently to gauge for himself the quality of Singapore's education and whether Singapore is fair to everyone.
His first conclusion was that neighbourhood schools are as well-equipped with physical resources as "brand name" schools.
Secondly, he found that teachers are competent - even though the better ones may gravitate towards "brand name" schools.
Mr Lee said: "Of course, the better teachers gravitate to the 'brand name' schools because the status is higher and the principals scout out the better teachers, but in the neighbourhood schools they are equally competent."
However, he commented on one area of difference - referring in particular to the educational background of parents.
He said: ""If both or at least one parent is university educated, the chances of the home background would be more favourably supportive, with books and all the paraphernalia that makes for a learning child.
"That is the situation we face - to get the lesser educated parents to understand that at an early stage, they must try to get their children accustomed to go to the library, reading, trying to get used to acquiring knowledge by themselves, and not being spoon-fed by the teachers."
Mr Lee also released a table which showed the proportion of students who have graduate parents in some of Singapore's leading and neighbourhood schools.
For "brand names" schools like ACS Independent, it is nearly 72 per cent; Dunman High 42 per cent and Raffles Institution 55 per cent.
At schools like Crescent Girls, the figure is about 50 per cent; and Victoria School 45 per cent.
On the other hand, for neighbourhood schools, the percentage of one or both parents being graduates ranged from 7 to 13 per cent.
During his visit to Dunman High, Mr Lee spent much of his time interacting with the students, finding out their family background, the language they spoke at home as well as among friends in and outside schools.
"What programmes do you watch on television or radio?" Mr Lee asked a student, who replied: "I watch mainly Channel 8 programmes with my family."
Mr Lee has spent time over the years, emphasising that students need to do well in English - even as Singapore embraced a bilingual policy.
He said: "At the same time, we want to keep as much, as high a level of our mother tongue as possible. And in the case of the Chinese, it is an advantage because if you are proficient in Chinese, later on doing business in China is easier.
"But to juggle the two languages is no easy matter. But I emphasise English because I want the non-Chinese parents to understand that their children are not losing (out) when we say improve higher standards in Chinese. We are still an English-speaking, English-working society."
More school visits have been planned for the minister mentor.
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