I have just read this article in the Temasek Review Emeritus and I think it's necessary to set the record straight.
From time to time, I read the same furious response parents show in their blogs when the PSLE results are out and their children are unable to enter RI. RI would of course be labelled as elitist and why? Because the cut-off point is too high. As I have suggested in an earlier blog post, what parents essentially want is for their sons to enter RI and take up the places of those who have done better than their sons. That is something these parents must know to be blatantly unjust and yet they have the cheek to make their demands openly in their blogs. And as if that is not enough, they go further and accuse the government of all kinds of things when this has NOTHING at all to do with the government.
Now, let's examine this article in the Temasek Review Emeritus dated 9 April 2013. I feel I can comment because I do have a child who also applied for the same course. The writer's daughter must have done the A levels around the same year as my child. The article says that his daughter had the following results: Biology - A, Chemistry - A, Humanities subject - A, Physics - B. What the article does not tell us is what she got for GP and Project Work.
Assuming that the daughter did her A levels last year, she must have got no better than a B for GP and a B for Project Work. In order to qualify for the NUS Medical School Multiple Mini Interviews this year, a candidate must have a minimum of 3 As in H2 subjects and 1 B in an H2 subject and an A and a B in GP and Project Work (it does not matter if it's an A for GP and a B for Project Work or the other way round).
This is how it works in most medical schools in ANY respectable university. Thousands of candidates are first sieved out according to their grades leaving behind a pool of candidates who will then be selected based on the Multiple Mini Interviews. If you don't make the grades, you don't get in at the Interview stage. To expect that you be given a chance for the interview is unjust because you will actually have to deprive another candidate who has better grades than you of a place. It is that simple but I'm surprised parents don't seem able to comprehend this. It's got nothing to do with the government, please!
I know it's very sad to fall within that category of students who miss the NUS Medical School interviews by just one point but there will always be many such students in any examination. It's the same if you are applying to an overseas university. They operate by the same criteria unless they are one of the rogue universities which will take in anyone who is able to pay a high fee. And it's irrelevant if you are able to secure a place in a foreign university. Everyone knows that it's far easier to get a place in a foreign university than in a local university for any course and far more so for a course like Medicine. Again, it's market forces at work and again, it's got nothing to do with the government. Everyone in Singapore who wants to do Medicine always has the local Medical School as top priority because we all know that the teaching is excellent here and there are many other benefits of which the writer of that article himself is well aware which is why he wanted so badly for his daughter to enter a local medical school.
But there is another alternative in Singapore. NTU Medical School which opens this year accepts students with lower A-level grades. Candidates who scored the same results as the writer's daughter and a B for GP and a B for Project Work have been accepted for interviews at NTU even though they were not called up by NUS.
But there is a good reason why medical schools have to ensure that their students achieve an extremely high standard in their academic performance and lowering the standards is never the right answer. We all love our children to bits and I respect the writer of the article for selling his flat to fund his daughter's education. I fully sympathize with him and I think highly of him for this act of love. But it's nobody's fault, least of all the government's! Places must always be given to those who have done better. That's basic justice.
The Singapore government has been lambasted by many netizens for all kinds of perceived wrongs. Many of them are unfounded and totally unjust. But the truth is the Singapore government is probably the fairest government in the world when it comes to meritocracy. For all the scurrilous things that netizens have written about the government, the facts speak for themselves. No cabinet minister has his son in RI unless his son actually qualifies for it academically. That is a fact and you can look it up if you don't believe me. Not even the Prime Minister's sons. Similarly, you will never find the child of a government man however high his rank may be in a local Medical School or any coveted school for that matter unless he truly deserves the place and qualifies for it academically. That's how upright and aboveboard the Singapore government is. How many countries in this world do you know that has a system that is so committed to the virtue of meritocracy? Not even in the West can you find anything quite approaching our government's standard of unimpeachable integrity.
It may be devastating when our children do not qualify for their dream school but that is a fact of life we all have to accept. Those of us who are willing to sacrifice for our children (such as the writer of the article) are indeed exemplary and laudable. But we should not blame others, least of all the government.