It was a curious thing to hear Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew say, that admission to a primary school is not meritocratic, since it matters if you have a sibling already there, or pa or ma is an alumnus. He also said the system favours the social class of your parents. The planners must have had more in mind than the one kilometer ruling when RGPS was sited at Hillcrest Road (prime District 10), and Punggol Primary in a humbler neighbourhood. Never mind all that, the PSLE levels the playing field, and meritocracy is restored in the secondary schools, where entrance criteria is based on performance. Or is it?
A libel suit has now brought to air about what really goes on in those school placement exercises. Madame G had blogged that retired teacher Mrs W took bribes from parents and guardians in return for placing their children in her school. W sued G for defaming her by alleging she had demanded $3,000 for each student placed, vitiating the noble intents of meritocracy. Interestingly, this is the same figure that has been bandied around the kopi tiam and wet market circuits for quite a while, wherever desperate housewives congregate to brainstorm and ensure their ward gets a leg up in the paper chase crazed society of Singapore. Stories abound of "chao kuan" creative director types who promised free advertising services (and then sent their staff over for the pro bono work), as well as the less monied who volunteered for school crossing patrol duties, with no firm assurance their long hours under the sun and rain (at least 40 hours) will achieve the desired goal.
Instead of dwelling on the cancer metastasizing in the education system, PAP MP Michael Palmer and lawyer for the defence is nitpicking about whether his client had alleged W was seeking the cash donation for her person or for the school. Even trial judge Justin Chong shared his sense of values by opining that "a reasonable alternative reading was that the money was for the school". Ergo, if the money goes to the school, the purpose ennobles the deed. End justifies means. What amounts to a whistle blower case has been warped into a sordid tale of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a twisted system.