Article 1 on Singapore’s system of streaming students by academic ability, the topic of discussion for our first lesson on T2W1 Monday.
This article, written by an intern columnist in response to the comments on the video where a student is seen shouting at his teacher – in particular, the comments that noted that the student was from the Normal stream – seeks to convey the views of those who feel unfairly stigmatised just from having been streamed into these academically weaker parts of the education system.
A useful concept or theory to complement this passage is the phenomenon within educational psychology known as the Pygmalion effect, which claims that initial expectations lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.
You’ve likely seen the video. A clip of a 13-year-old student asking his teacher to apologise for shouting at him in class was uploaded by a fellow student onto YouTube, then went viral.
The news shocked me. But not as much as this statement, casually inserted into a Singaporean newspaper report on the incident: “It is understood that the students are in the Normal stream.”
I don’t know why the point had to be reported or highlighted. Would the reporters have made mention of the fact had the antagonists been in a different stream? What is the statement behind that statement?
Consider why students are in their respective streams in the first place. Before I sat for my Primary School Leaving Examinations almost a decade ago, I recall my family and relatives telling me to do well so that I would make it to the Express stream. At my age I could barely understand the difference between both streams, apart from the additional year I would have to spend in Secondary School if I was in the Normal stream.
But thinking back now, I realise that despite not knowing much about the streaming system, I was already scared of being placed in the Normal stream. People I looked up to made it seem like it was an undesirable place for the less intelligent, the hooligans, the slow learners — the sort of reputation I would attract if I couldn’t make it to a “better” stream.