Elite students


Since the Wee Shu Min’s “get out of my elite uncaring face” debacle, the topic of elitism has been a rather hot discussion topic.

Today, the Straits Times publishes a report on elitism. The report is based on a survey conducted by Singapore Press Holdings’ research department on students aged 15 to 24.

At first glance, the results of the survey are not surprising at all.

Basically, students feel that “elitist behaviour” is mostly about looking down on others who are not academically strong. (I think these elites will probably “progress” later in life to look down on others who earn less, stay in HDB, or work in unglamorous jobs.)

What is perhaps a little surprising is that the survey defines “elite schools” to be just these 11 schools:

  1. Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
  2. Hwa Chong Institution
  3. Methodist Girls’ School
  4. Nanyang Girls’ High School
  5. National Junior College
  6. Raffles Girls’ School
  7. Raffles Institution
  8. Raffles Junior College
  9. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School
  10. Temasek Junior College
  11. Victoria Junior College

So, parents take note. If you are grooming your children to be the elites of tomorrow, send them to these schools.

I also notice that those from the elite schools do not place as much importance on getting a scholarship as their non-elite counterparts when they define elitism.

This is perhaps explained by the fact that students from elite schools are wealthier, with a median household income of $7,501. On the other hand, their non-elite counterparts come from homes with a median household income of only $3,560.

“Some 71 per cent of those from elite schools speak English at home, and 62 per cent live in private housing,compared to 34 and 19 per cent respectively of those from non-elite schools.”

Since the elite students are from rich families, they don’t even bother with scholarships – they can just ask their rich daddies to send them overseas.

This means poorer students should get a better chance at obtaining scholarships, which is good. But, alas, I think the reality is not that rosy.

Although the elite students say scholarships are not important, many of them still apply for scholarships and actually get offers. I don’t have the numbers, but I think we can draw certain indirect conclusions from the doctors come from rich families observation.

Moreover, organizations that award scholarships often say they do not consider family background (wealth) when deciding who should get the scholarships. They award scholarships purely based on merit, i.e. academic performance, CCA performance, NS performance, and of course performance during interviews (but rich kids perform better in interviews!)


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  2. I am kind of particular about how elite leading people. If they can’t drive or manage average people, should they be considered elite in the first place.?

    The actual fact is, if they are academically strong, they should be able to derive the consequence of working without teamwork. So, are they really elite.? Probably, they are elite in not getting the jobs done.? or setting any unfair barrier to secure their elitism.? I believe that the authenticate elites will do something.

  3. I wish to say that your article is biased towards the view of students in ‘elite’ schools are from rich families, and that these elite-bred students do not need to rely on themselves for a placement in the universities.

    However, there are students out there in these schools who are not from rich backgrounds and yet managed secure placement in courses of their choice without the heavy firepower power that the rich kids have.

    And oh, a poor, but equally driven kid can stand better chances than rich kids in securing degrees of their choices, as in my opinion, they are able to demonstrate their will and determination better, to even interviewers.

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  5. yy, not all elite students are from rich background (let’s define them to be students of elite schools for sake of discussion).

    The ST report simply says that on average, such elite students indeed come from families with higher household income than the non-elite students. The key words are “on average”.

    (Well, ST actually looks at the median household income, but let’s not be too pedantic about it.)

  6. Considering that I’m from a so-called elite school, and plenty of my friends are not rich, snobbish or elitist, I think your generalisations are rather unfair

  7. blippi & yy, thanks for your comments.
    Let’s hope that Wee Shu Min is the exception rather than the norm.
    I believe the survey results do not imply that 100% of students from “elite schools” exhibit elitist behaviour. Obviously, there are the humble and down-to-earth types.

  8. Really, how can there be only 1 or 2 types of elitism?
    Isn’t there too much obsession already in Singapore, with:

    1) academic elitism

    2a) conformity elitism (coming out on top of what seems safe and proper to do)

    2b) kiasu elitism (grabbing at whatever it takes to stay ahead)?

    These over-celebrated forms of elitism do not guarantee the rest of excellence out there, including:

    3) civic elitism (excelling at caring for society)

    4) entrepreneurial elitism
    (excelling at transforming own visions into concrete reality;
    especially but not confined to money-making businesses;
    there are, after all, social entrepreneurs)

    5) sensible elitism
    (excelling at doing what is right and balanced;
    strong quality in, for example, those who practise environmental green-ness).

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