Then came the bell curve, the graphical representation of the probability density of the normal distribution (also called the Gaussian distribution), and a statistical method of assigning grades designed to yield a pre-determined distribution of grades among the students in a cohort. National Institute of Education's Assistant Professor Kelvin Tan tells us it's the wretched T-score that matters, that determines whether one gains entrance to a brand name school. The teachers couldn't be bothered whether the youngster acquired the necessary learning to put him in good stead for a meaningful life. It's all about fitting a finite number into finite schools, places which are continually reduced to accommodate foreign students, brought in at our expense, to dig spurs into our own.
His analogy of a doctored Olympics bears repeating:
"Imagine a new kind of technlogy for the next Olympics, where there is no bar to jump over. The high jumpers just keep jumping, higher and higher.
At the end of the competition, they are not told the actual height that they have jumped, but who comes first, second and third. This meets the purpose of the Olympics in determining who jumped the highest.
But the actual height is not made known to anyone."
Dr Tan explains that the T-score itself doesn't actually tell the student how well he has performed in each subject or across the subjects. In effect, it is just a queue number.
With such an introduction to the rat race, it's no wonder the end product is an embarrassing parade of miscreants. Lawyers who barge into court proceedings uninvited, doctors who lie and scheme to avoid a traffic ticket, and professors who barter gifts for grades. It makes one wonder what they learn in the universities. The tragedy here is that our system of meritocracy is protective of the charmed lives of those fortunate to be anointed "scholars". Even when they fail spectacularly in the duties assigned - witness the numbers who hold high office without the relevant qualification or track record - they are moved laterally into another well compensated appointment. No wonder parents go through extremes and jump silly hoops to make sure their charges ace the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). One end of the bell curve promises riches in millions, the other spells "It's The End" (ITE).