SINGAPORE (Jan 11): Education in Singapore has long pivoted on the principles of meritocracy and equality of opportunity. The narrative is that upward mobility is achievable through hard work within the formal education system.

Once a meritocratic channel for moving scores of Singaporeans up the socio-economic ladder, the national education system may be helping to transmit privilege across generations, which has ramifications not just for disadvantaged children but also for overall social cohesiveness.

Four decades of the early streaming of children through high-stakes exams has spawned a shadow tutoring industry worth more than $1 billion, as well as so-called parentocracy, where children gain success more from their parents’ wealth and social capital than their own merit. More worryingly, experts warn that inequality is starting earlier than ever in childhood and is in danger of persisting across generations.

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