SINGAPORE (Nov 5): When did conversations about the so-called elite class and elitist attitudes in Singapore first surface? Some have argued that it was as far back as in the 1880s, when the British colonialists created the Higher Scholarships in Singapore. A special course was developed for the students at a school that would become Raffles Institution. According to a Mothership article in June, the grant — which later became the Queen’s Scholarship, and then evolved into the current President’s Scholarship — sparked criticisms of how it fostered unhealthy competition among students and parents, and concentrated a disproportionate amount of resources on a select group of students.

Then there was the hullabaloo in 2006, when the teenage daughter of a Member of Parliament had commented rather uncharitably on her blog about the problems of job security and age discrimination that another much older blogger had raised. The girl, who at the time was a scholarship student at Raffles Junior College, had written “get out of my elite, uncaring face” — a phrase that possibly earned her lifelong notoriety.

Earlier this year, Raffles Institution came out to dispute its label as an “elite school” following concerns that the school had become “insular” and “less diverse”, according to the school’s former principal Chan Poh Meng and Singapore Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, respectively. Taking issue with the term “elite”, current principal Frederick Yeo told TODAY newspaper in an interview that, “once you use the word elite, you divide, you separate, you segregate”.

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