Written by YP Empower
In the recent letter by T. Rajendran to Temasek Review1, a number of contentious issues were raised. The YP Empower team would like to express our thoughts on those issues.
The writer compared his transport costs with those of his peers in JCs and ITEs. Truly, polytechnic students and university students alike do not enjoy transport subsidies. The team feels that full-time students in polytechnics, even universities, should be given transport subsidies as most of them would still be directly or indirectly getting their transport allowances from the backbone of the society – their working family members.
However, we do not agree with the rest of his arguments. Firstly, instead of being concerned that foreigners are out-performing Singaporean students in school, the main concern ought to be that our Singaporeans are being outperformed without being denied the chance. The brightest and most hardworking of our students would certainly at least match these Chinese scholars in all aspects but the rest who are inferior in terms of grades may just not be trying hard enough. Besides a scholarship, there is nothing else the government is giving the foreign scholars to surpass us in academia. It is simply their drive and motivation to excel which has seen them performing remarkably. If setting the standard higher means denying us the chance to be first in class, being first in a substandard setting is certainly not something to be proud of. If we want to be top, we’ve got to work hard for it and we may have a chance of succeeding. Individual success cannot be guaranteed by anyone, much less the government. Competition against local and foreign talent is inevitable, as we are in an increasingly interconnected world (due to the advancement of technology) – early exposure to it may be beneficial to Singaporeans too.
Secondly, Singapore prides ourselves as a country that can produce good quality graduates comes from a good education system. In order for the universities and tertiary schools to continue to attract top talent to teach and research, the cost would have to be mitigated. The writer needs to compare the fees he is paying to that of a school of similar standards in other countries like the US or UK to appreciate the good value education he is paying for.
Thirdly, we can empathise with our local Tamil who may be affected by the new migrant Indians who have brought along their caste mentality to Singapore. We recite our national pledge about building a democratic society regardless of race, language or religion. We should be reminded of it as we progress into a metropolitian society with massive influx of foreigners coming into Singapore to work, live and contribute to our economy. While we do not tolerate remarks that are detrimental to our society, we would need to learn quickly how to allow multiple cultures to be assimilated into Singapore. Just like how our forefathers came to live together from all over the world including Malaysia, India and China,the writer should not feel threatened for that is not the spirit which our national was built upon. If we hear derogatory remarks made about our home or family, it would reflect our gracious society to patiently correct and show them the error of their views. Singapore does not acknowledge nor condone the Indian caste system – we believe in equality and meritocracy. Thus our local Indians need not feel inferior to foreign PR from supposed higher Indian castes as such is not applicable in Singapore’s context. The caste division in Singapore is socially unacceptable, and if we continue to disallow such to occur, the PRs or new citizens would have to learn to adapt to our culture and respect each other as Singaporeans and not the colour of their skin.
And lastly, we do not necessarily agree that the government should be blamed for homeless and family tragedies. As evident from our Budgets, the government does focus on ensuring our poorer and less fortunate residents are given a helping hand financially and in various policies and schemes. Nonetheless, Singapore cannot become a welfare state for more social issues would arise from that, notwithstanding the inevitable increase in taxes to support such a system, which we believe the writer would certainly frown upon.
We agree that Singaporeans must make a stand, and not allow foreigners to try to influence and take over what is uniquely Singaporean. However, we must also be able to embrace change that is good for our country, so that we can continue to prosper and grow from strength to strength.