There are signs that Singapore is embracing diversity in society. The government’s latest move to replace streaming in the education system with a grouping system based on subject competency acknowledges that students have diverse interests and capabilities.
It also allows for a mix of students in classrooms, unlike the previous system that bred a sense of elitism when students were streamed solely according to how well they did academically.
In the same vein, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong’s initiative to review sentencing guidelines also recognises the many types of criminals the court has to handle. The current set of tools of imprisonments, caning and fines is based on the assumption that criminals are all the same and will respond similarly to such punishments.
With a wider variety of sentencing guidelines, judges can mete out punishments that will better help criminals rehabilitate and re-integrate with society.
These shifts in thinking in our education and judicial systems are models for how Singapore society develops. They recognise diversity among individuals and promote a gentler and more inclusive society — as envisioned by our Prime Minister and many Singaporeans. They also represent a shift from efficient towards more effective policies that can better address social issues.
Our political sphere can also benefit from such a change in mindset. The issue of ensuring politics is kept serious exluces more than it includes. It empowers certain individuals to this level of discussion, making politics apart from Singaporeans’ lives rather than a part of them.
With more diversity, there may be some loss in efficiency in governance and policy implementation but it might also be more meaningful and effective.
The Nanyang Chronicle, 9th Oct 2006