I’m always quite wary when there are hints of religion being brought into the public sphere in Singapore. Certainly, I do not wish Singapore to become like the USA where people think it’s fine to impose their religious values onto others. Thus, when I read this letter in the ST Forum (reproduced below), I was a little concerned.
Firstly, I have little to no knowledge of Catholicism at all. Secondly, I have nothing against mission schools – I myself came from one, although I have to admit the only thing that resulted from my attendance there is a greater disbelief and distrust of religion. Lastly, I don’t actually believe there is some conspiracy in Singapore to ensure Catholics become our leaders.
Despite the above, it bothers me to read about how people feel that our future leaders should embody values from certain religions. When you encourage schools to take in students because you feel that there is a need to infuse your religious values into the country’s leadership, it makes one start wondering if you would expect these leaders to impose such values in society as well. Take for example the Catholic stance on birth control. Would these Catholic leaders feel a need to stop the use of birth control in Singapore? Of course, this appears somewhat extreme in Singapore’s context but if we come to a time when our leadership is comprised of a majority of people of a particular religion, I think this might well become a concern.
Chance to groom future leaders in De La Salle values
I WOULD like to respond to Mr Benny Ortega’s letter “If SJI goes elite” (April 1).
His lament is understandable; many Josephian alumni feel increasingly alienated from their alma mater. For my part, my PSLE score of 229 would not have gotten me into the school that I love dearly to this day.
Mr Ortega is justified in saying that SJI’s higher entry requirements deviate from the spirit of the De La Salle education. However, I would like to add two points to this discussion.
First, SJI is not alone in driving the mission of John Baptist de La Salle in Singapore. St Patrick’s School, for example, is also run by the LaSalle Brothers and accepts students from all four feeder primary schools. Today, schools under the De La Salle umbrella in Singapore increasingly function as a cooperative family, catering to the wider spectrum of students’ needs.
As the students progress onwards, the De La Salle values stand a higher chance of taking root at the upper echelons of government, industry and society. Within the family of schools, it is imperative that one taps into the upper tier of the academic cohort. In meritocratic, qualification-obsessed Singapore, good academic results remain one of the prime factors for career success.
My second point is about mindsets. Mr Ortega rightly observes that De La Salle’s original schools were revolutionary. They challenged the entrenched notion that education was the exclusive domain of the rich and nobility.
Likewise, a LaSalle education today cannot remain stagnant, clinging dogmatically to tradition. De La Salle’s heritage to us today is not merely to educate the less fortunate, but to be courageous and embrace those educational trends that will benefit society in the long term. I am satisfied for now that the spirit of his mission remains alive and well in Singapore.
Which would be a greater injustice to SJI’s (and De La Salle’s) heritage? To leave out some students every year due to higher entrance standards or to lose out on grooming future leaders in the De La Salle values? For me, the answer is the latter.