Thursday, February 07, 2008

excuse me, are you from ITE?

I've stopped blogging completely in recent months, but the remarks by the principal to her Sec 5 students 2 weeks ago piqued my interest, and I started reading what some people were blogging about this incident. BL gave a good overview of the different issues involved, and Mollymeek has an interesting commentary on what this reflects about our society. It is also interesting to note that two teacher bloggers were not quick to condemn this principal. I have only one point to make. Molly and Piper did make this point as well, but did not articulate this as explicitly as I am going to do so:

What's wrong with going to ITE?

Some bloggers have pointed out that the remarks of the principal reveal the fact that she looks down on ITEs and this was unbecoming, especially from someone in the education sector. Well that may have been true, but it cuts both ways: the outrage shown by parents (and the public in general) reflects that they look down on ITEs too.

How dare you suggest that my daughter go to ITE!

Is this suggestion that offensive? Why so? Is ITE such a horrible place to go? Despite its impressive collection of accolades, despite being called a "jewel in Singapore's Education system" by Minister of Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam, despite all that taxpayer's dollars spent to upgrade ITE's facilities and image, deep down in our hearts do we still think ITE is a place for losers, a place of disgrace?

Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps the suggestion that these Sec 5 students go to ITE is not offensive, but rather the outrage was directed at the harsh pedagogical approach of the Principal. Or perhaps the outrage was directed at the assumption that the principal cared more about the school's ranking than the individual well-being of the students. Or perhaps we are indeed offended that Sec 5 students be suggested to go ITE. But it is not the fault of us, it is the fault of the system. Meritocratic, merciless, the system forces those with poor academic qualifications to be doomed to a lesser life.

That the less academically inclined be doomed to a cycle of poverty, blame the system if you like. But that the ITE graduates be looked down upon, be treated as losers, there's only you and me to blame.

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