Every school a good school — what it really means

30 August 2021

These 5 words are quoted every time we debate about Singapore education and inequality:

Every school, a good school.

It was popularised by Mr Heng Swee Keat when he was the Minister for Education in 2011-2015.

It is so mis-quoted that he has to explain in a Budget Debate. This is a further elaboration:

To make every school good in its own way, which seeks to bring out the best in every child.

His definition of a good school is being good in its own way, catering to their student population.

All schools are different

So stop quoting the 5 words and listing out the differences between schools – be it facilities, teachers, students, alumni, resources, or opportunities.

Obviously, there are LOTS OF DIFFERENCES.

You can even say some schools are elitist, have special privileges, and unfair advantages.

But you have to acknowledge the reality, that schools are different, and they cannot all become the same. (To be explicit, they still have to improve, especially the bottomline). Schools are not factories.

That brings us to the next point.

All children are different

Because children are different, if all schools are the same, then it will be terrible.

To force a child to be in an unsuitable environment will not do him/her any good.

The difficulty then becomes how to find the right school for your child.

It is not easy to know about 181 schools, nor possible to predict how your child will behave in their environment.

In the end we are doing what we think is best for our children, at that very moment. Our decisions might turn out to be wrong. They might morph into something totally different a few years later.

It is not final

No matter what:

  • your child didn’t get into your 1st choice school
  • your child get in elite school and didn’t do well
  • your child get in heartland school and didn’t do well
  • your child did well in primary school

It is not final. Far from it.