"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Monday, February 25, 2019

SAP Schools - "institutionalised racism designed to keep out non Chinese from moving up to the core of upper social strata"?

A perennial bugbear about education in Singapore is Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, where some traditionally Chinese schools are designated to promote Mandarin and Chinese culture through special programmes and similar initiatives.

An article in Yale-NUS's Equality & Democracy goes so far as to call it "Singapore’s own bumiputera policy", which shows a shocking and fundamental misunderstanding of what the bumiputera policy entails.

A full takedown of the Yale-NUS article is beyond the scope of this blog post, but among other things, it:

- ignores the historical context of SAP schools being a concession to the Chinese community by the Singaporean government after smashing the Chinese school system (which was so extensive as to include "the first and only Chinese university established outside China and Taiwan"; imagine if the government had seized your land in 1950 and promised to pay you token $1,000 a year in perpetuity [far below market value] and some ignoramus had come along in 2000 and complained that your annual $1,000 payment was unjust to other taxpayers)
- takes an inequality of result to be proof of inequality of opportunity
- doesn't understand what affirmative action (as evoked by mention of the bumiputera policy) entails
- ignores government funding and support of racial minorities (for example, education for Malays in Singapore is free, and the GRC system enshrines minority representation in Parliament)
- fails to consider a control group. I am unable to find statistics on minority representation in non-SAP top schools, but a Mendaki paper reports that among students in Raffles Institution, "Few of them belong to the minority races". This suggests that in the counter-factual of SAP schools not existing, minority representation at the top would not increase appreciably (indeed, one must consider that SAP schools actually increase the number of minorities in non-SAP top schools, since the non-SAP top schools will take in the minority students who are unwilling and/or unable to attend SAP schools)

Another wild claim is that:

"It is institutionalised racism designed to keep out non Chinese from moving up to the core of upper social strata.

To understand the impact, look at

1) The entrance requirement for SAP primary schools.

2) The cut off points for SAP secondary schools.

3) The IP pathways and affiliates for SAP secondary schools.

4) Special bonus points to affiliate JCs

5) Rejection of DSA application from non SAP schools candidates at affiliated JCs.

SAP system practically removes a strata of capable students who has not the permission to offer Chinese as Mother Tongue at Primary Schools. The spectrum of exclusion limits school choices of non Chinese students with PSLE score of 230 - 250. The SAP IP programme and affiliate system gives students whose raw score would not qualify for top tier JCs special 2 bonus points just for being affiliated. SAP is a system that discriminates to exclude real competition from just as academically strong non chinese thus lead toward a compromised eventuality by those structurally excluded...

When a non chinese student with a lower raw score is denied entry to a school and a chinese student from an affiliate school with a higher raw score than the non Chinese student were enrolled by a window of 'affiliate bonus points'... It is outright racist.

Trail that back to SAP Primary schools, there is no cut off points, just PURE Eugenics reasoning of Mother's Tongue."

To test this claim (which overlaps with some of the Yale-NUS article's wild accusations) empirically I decided to look for some data.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find even archived information on official school rankings. Presumably it's been too long since MOE abolished them in 2012, so the information is no longer online.

So to see if SAP schools are really instruments to "keep out non Chinese from moving up to the core of upper social strata", one approach is to look at unofficial school rankings.

Salary.sg has one which ranks 155 school cutoffs (Secondary School Ranking (based on cut-off for 2018 intake) | Salary.sg - Your Salary in Singapore) so we have 147 schools in all.

Given that Singapore had 159 secondary schools in 2017 we can be confident that the Salary.sg list is very extensive (we don't know about the rigor of their methodology, but that's a limitation that we'll have to live with).

Here are the top 20 rankings by PSLE cutoff (numbers skip due to duplicates), or roughly the top 14% of secondary schools in Singapore:

1. Nanyang Girls’ High School IP SAP (girls) – 264
2. Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary) IB (girls) – 260
3. Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary) IP (girls) – 260
4. Hwa Chong Institution IP SAP (boys) – 258
5. Raffles Institution IP (boys) – 257
6. Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) IB (boys) – 256
7. CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School IP SAP (girls) – 256
8. National Junior College IP (co-ed) – 256
9. Dunman High School IP SAP (co-ed) – 255
10. Cedar Girls’ Secondary School IP (girls) – 254
12. Catholic High School IP SAP (boys) – 253
14. St. Joseph’s Institution IB (boys) – 253
15. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School IP (girls) – 252
16. Victoria School IP (boys) – 252
18. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary) (girls) – 250
19. River Valley High School IP SAP (co-ed) – 250
23. Temasek Junior College IP (co-ed) – 249
25. Anderson Secondary School (co-ed) – 245
26. Bukit Panjang Govt. High School (co-ed) – 244
28. CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) (girls) – 243

Only 6 of the top 20 schools in Singapore are SAP schools, which is less than a third. Interestingly, we also see SAP schools as far down as 42nd place.

So clearly, having SAP status is far from being either necessary or sufficient to being a top school in Singapore.

Another way to analyse this issue is to look at the PSC scholarship recipients in 2017.

School breakdown of President's Scholarship recipients (this is a subset of the 2 groups below - this is the most prestigious scholarship so we would expect to see it full of SAP school students):

RI - 2
ACS - 1
NJC - 1
SOTA - 1

That's a grand total of 0 from SAP schools

SAF Scholarship/SPF Scholarship (SAFS/SPFS):

RI - 3
NJC - 1
HCI - 2
ACS - 1
RVHS - 1

That's a measly 2 from SAP schools, meaning only a quarter of SAFS/SPFS recipients in 2017 came from SAP schools.

Public Administration:

Dunman High - 1
HCI - 9
NJC - 2
PJC - 1
RI - 13
RVHS - 1
SJI - 1
SOTA - 2
TJC - 1
VJC - 1

That's only 11 from SAP schools out of 38. Which is less than a third and similar to the figure we get from the other methodology (which suggests that both methodologies have some level of rigour). This replicates the 2016 numbers, as reported by the Yale-NUS article.

So in conclusion the institutionally racist country of Singapore is a miserable failure in its machinations of using SAP schools to oppress the non-Chinese, and needs to work harder at excluding racial minorities from its upper echelons.
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