Today, the Straits Times (MPs: Help needy kids move up in life, A8, The Straits Times, Mar 2, 2011) reported that Singapore MPs, on the 2nd day of the Budget Debate, made "calls to reduce disparity in opportunities for rich and poor students". They wanted higher quality teachers and IT resources for neighbourhood schools as their parental background sets them back when competing to get into top secondary schools.
Some MPs quoted Minister Mentor's Lee Kuan Yew's January 2011 statistics that students of top secondary schools like Raffles Institution have >than 50% of fathers who are graduates nowadays compared to the <10% for neighbourhood schools. The MPs remarked that the neighbourhood school students will be disadvantaged in time as they cannot be competitive academically as they get less opportunities to get scholarships or university places and graduate to get high paying jobs. Less opportunities for neighbourhood school students mean a growing social stratification with the rich becoming richer.
Is there a solution to this resolving problem of lower academic excellence in neighbourhood schools? I don't know.
However, there is an interesting development in Myanmar's education system. In Feb 2011, I visited around 7 primary and secondary schools and was surprised to see that the Ministry of Education publishes yearly a calendar of photos of top 10 students in the final secondary year national examination(Grade 11). Schools and some villages display this page.
In Singapore, this will be considered putting "pressure" on the students and such ranking of students had been thrown out of the door by parental complaints in the past years.
MYANMAR SCHOOL SYSTEM
1. Kindergarten (Grade 1). 5 years old student.
2. Primary School (Grade 2 to 6). Final exam in Feb
3. Middle School (Grade ). Final exam in Feb
4. High School (Grade 11) - recent change. Students will be 15 years old. It was called Grade 10 last year but since kindergarten is Grade 1, Grade 10 becomes Grade 11. It is equivalent to "O" levels. Final exam. A national exam for all students in Myanmar in March.
SCHOOL EDUCATION SYSTEM
According to one Myanmar lady in Singapore, Science and Math are taught in the English language. English is also taught. Other subjects are in Myanmar language.
READING SKILLS COMPETITION
There is such a competition in villages. I did hear loud recitals by students in schools and once I chanced upon a young girl of around 12 years reading loudly (in French according to my guide) while trekking in the Inlay Lake district. I had to walk past her school. She was just sitting on her chair and reading loudly and continuously.
1. March, April and May
2. October 10 days
3. December 10 days.
Government teachers and volunteer teachers in villages. Some village school have no desk or tables for the children.
I can see that even in Myanmar, there is strong interest in education of the young children.