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English Essay, NTU, Singapore: Meritocracy has been upheld as a significant tenet of Singapore society. However, many critics argue
Meritocracy has been upheld as a significant tenet of Singapore society. However, many critics argue that the approach of meritocracy has brought more problems than benefits. To what extent do you agree with this opinion?
Use the information from the text below as well as your knowledge to support your arguments. When using the information from text A, you are expected to acknowledge the source of it.
Meritocracy: Time For An Update?
Meritocracy as an ideal resonates with most Singaporeans. As a principle, meritocracy speaks to fairness, opportunity, and the promise of social mobility. In general, meritocracy refers to the notion that individuals are appointed (or promoted) to positions on the basis of their ability to do the job, and not because of their family background, ethnicity, age, gender, or national origin. In the everyday experience of Singaporeans, however, meritocracy has come to mean many things, not all positive. While it remains an ideal shared by many, some questions have been raised about how well our meritocracy is functioning in practice, after fifty years of nationhood.
With the advent of globalization, labor flows, and rising social inequality in societies around the world, critics have come forward with several criticisms of meritocracy as it is conceived and practiced today.
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One criticism leveled at meritocracy is that it offers the promise of equality of opportunity, but does not deliver. In Singapore, the end of colonialism and its institutional discrimination against non-Europeans brought about a “reshuffling of the deck”, and consequently high rates of social mobility. This was accelerated in the years following Independence by the emphasis on education: heavy subsidies for public schools gave many Singaporeans of humble backgrounds a chance to prove themselves and succeed. Today, however, some have expressed concern that the lines of wealth, status and cultural capital are gradually hardening.
Official statistics show that Singaporean households in the top income quintile spend on average $175 a month on private tuition and other enrichment courses for their children. This is five times as much as what the household in the bottom income quintile typically spends. The suggestion is that this could entrench the advantages enjoyed by children of the wealth, enhancing the likelihood that they can succeed and do better in life compared to their less privileged peers.
Maintaining a high degree of social mobility will be a continuing challenge for Singapore, as it is for most advanced economies. Nevertheless, compared to many other societies, however, social mobility in Singapore is still high. A child born to parents in the bottom quintile of incomes has a 14% chance of attaining an income in the top quintile by the time they reach their early 30s; in contrast, they only have 8% chance in the US and 9% in the UK.
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