The myth of meritocracy : misrecognizing structural privilege as innate ability
Date of Issue2016-03-14
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Singapore’s education system enjoys widespread acclaim. Furthermore, the education apparatus plays a significant role in the lives of many Singaporeans. In Singapore, education is employed as a differentiating mechanism at many stages, stratifying students into different streams and pathways based largely on their prior academic performances in examinations. Although such stratification creates an inherently competitive and antagonistic environment, it derives legitimacy from the state-led rhetoric of meritocracy, which “rewards individual merit with social rank, job positions, higher incomes, or general recognition and prestige” (Tan 2008). The perception that such educational stratification is fair and impartial stems largely from the procedural equality with which it is administered. However, procedural equality obscures the true bases of reward, causing a misrecognition of the benefits of ascribed socioeconomic conditions as that of individual effort. Through the education apparatus, the state thus exerts symbolic violence against its subjects.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University