28 February 2015
Recent debates on meritocracy raise questions as to what Singapore regards as merit. Several concepts have emerged reflecting how meritocracy is evolving in the Singaporean context, such as ‘compassionate meritocracy’, ‘trickle up meritocracy’ and ‘meritocracy through life’.
The 50th anniversary of independence is an opportune time for Singaporeans to deliberate how they understand the country today and its driving forces, including the idea of meritocracy.
Described as a national core value, meritocracy has been justified as a practice that rewards the hardworking and deserving with economic success and social mobility. Meritocracy is said to have provided equal opportunities to all in Singapore’s multicultural society.
But recent debates highlight the negative side-effects of meritocracy in Singapore, which include a widening income gap and growing elitism. These issues largely revolve around how the term merit should be understood and whether the effects of meritocracy are congruent with Singapore’s desire to be an inclusive society.
In Singapore, meritocracy largely rewards academically-inclined individuals. These individuals are rewarded economically in the workforce and socially in terms of status, as academic excellence plays a large role in determining career trajectories.
…Nur Diyanah Binte Anwar is a Research Analyst with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
CENS / Online
Last updated on 23/11/2015