In 2015, ESM Goh Chok Tong said that “..it is important that Singapore continues to uphold meritocracy but offset its negative effects with compassion..” and that “I believe in meritocracy, but we have got to understand the negative impact of a meritocratic society, for individuals…”
The context of the above is that Singapore’s meritocratic system is also a highly competitive one. A large proportion of baby-boomers generation has benefited from this system and moved up the income ladder. But this also means that they can use the accumulated wealth to give their children an additional advantage through private tutoring. The end result is that those who do not reap the benefits of private tutoring will face a harder time competing with those who, resulting in a vicious cycle where the beneficiaries can afford even greater edge in learning for their children.
The nature of classroom teaching and private teaching are significantly different. For one-to-one private tuition, there is an immediate loop of instruction-response-feedback. A good tutor can deliver clearer teaching as students are less distracted. Students are also more likely to check their understanding through questioning as compared to being in a classroom, and the tutor can provide immediate feedback as well as check for understanding. This loop is much more efficient in a one-to-one tuition setting.
The next best compromise is thus small-group tutoring, ideally capped at four students, so that the feedback loop can be maintained. Even for a class-size of ten students, it is nearly impossible to have a seamless loop of instruction-response-feedback. Some students are bound to lose out on the response/feedback, which is extremely crucial to get meaningful understanding of the concepts and content taught.