Being wealthy is key for student’s turnaround?

There’s this story in The New Paper about how a young lady, Miss Melyssa Lim, changed completely after receiving her PSLE results. She scored 188 out of 300. That was insufficient for her to gain admission to SCGS, the school she wanted to go to for her secondary education. With a score of 188, she would have only been able to make it to one of the “neighbourhood” schools, where most of her classmates would have been predominantly from households of lower social economic status. But rather than suffer such a fate, Ms Lim decided to go to SJI International for her secondary and pre-tertiary education.

SJI International is a semi-private school. The students go through six years in the school and end with the International Baccalaureate (IB). It’s not cheap to attend the school. Just to apply, you need to pay an application fee of $1070. Annual fees are between $25,662 and $33,040 depending on which grade. That means that a full six years with SJI International would cost close to $200,000. Even with such expensive schooling, Ms Lim still had to go for tuition twice a week. It wasn’t reported how much she spent on her private tuition.

All the money spent paid off. Together with a change of attitude towards studies, Miss Lim managed to do well for her IB, scoring 40 out of a maximum score of 45. She provided some words of advice for people who didn’t do well for PSLE: “I won’t sugarcoat it for those who don’t do well for PSLE. Take a while to absorb that you’ve received this score, but also think about what you can do better next. It’s important to remember that only you can help yourself.”

While her advice is well-meaning, one must wonder whether Miss Lim would have been able to do as well if she had gone to a “neighbourhood” school instead of SJI International. If Miss Lim was from a family that couldn’t afford the exorbitant fees of SJI International, would she have “woken up”? Was Miss Lim’s success more because of her maturing, or more because she was able to afford to move to an environment more conducive for her learning style?

This story also seem to add to the view that no matter what school you go to, whether a national or semi-private school, private tuition is necessary for you to do well. I don’t know how much Miss Lee spent on her tuition. But I would reckon that it wouldn’t be cheap. Maybe that’s why so many parents feel that it is very expensive to raise kids these days.

While it’s definitely not logical to draw any conclusions from a single data point, this story does seem to add to the view that money is able to buy you success in education. It also naturally raises questions about social mobility. If someone didn’t do well in PSLE and didn’t have enough money to be able to move to a semi-private school like SJI International and/or be able to afford lots of tuition, does that mean that he/she wouldn’t be able to attain educational success and thus land himself/herself a good job and move up the social ladder?

Miss Lee’s story is definitely a heartwarming one of a student who managed to do well despite her early stumble at the PSLE. But I think it raises questions which we need to consider: Is educational success too dependent on how much money the parents have to spend on their children?

[Featured image: TNP photo of Miss Melyssa Lee]


One thought on “Being wealthy is key for student’s turnaround?

  1. Sadly, in Singapore, how well you do depends a lot on how good your tuition teachers are! If you can afford expensive tuition, together with effort on your part, good grades are assured. Yes, money gives you tremendous ballast to succeed in our education system.

    By the way, the children of the late LKY too had tuition at home. And this is some fifty years back. Probably they were the pioneers of the tuition industry; even good students like them were given an extra push by their parents. What more for normal Singapore children.


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