While meritocracy has its downsides, it is still the best way to organise our society, and Singapore can improve it and turning it into a compassionate meritocracy, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.
“We cannot abandon meritocracy, but I believe we can improve it and make ours a more open and compassionate meritocracy,” he said to union members on June 28, 2022, at the launch of the Forward Singapore exercise, which was first mentioned by the DPM during the May Day Rally this year.
In his 26-minute speech, he gave Singaporeans his thoughts of the exercise, which will be led by him along with the 4G team, and focused on renewing the nation’s social compact to take Singapore forward.
Meritocracy is needed in Singapore because encourages people to strive and to make the best use of the opportunities available to them and preserves upward mobility, he said.
One way to turn Singapore’s meritocracy into a more compassionate one is to start early.
“One way is to do more early in the life of every child, especially those from less well off families. So that the circumstances of their birth do not determine their future in life. We are already investing in preschool education. I believe more can be done in the early years, including from ages one to three, and especially for those from lower income families. And this way we can better ensure that all Singaporean children no matter their social background, can fulfil their potential,” he said.
Another approach is to broaden the conception of merit, focusing beyond grades to recognise and develop talents in diverse fields and give Singaporeans opportunities to advance at multiple stages of their lives, he added.
“The most important change is not something that the government can legislate into reality. Because we must all as a society learn to value the contributions of every worker in every profession and every field,” he added.
He then urged people to recognise and treat many unassuming essential workers such as cleaning workers, food delivery riders and security officers with dignity and respect.
To get a glimpse of a Singapore under the stewardship under DPM Wong and the 4G team, look no further than this.
“So this is my deepest belief: I hope to see a society and a system that benefits many, not a few; that rewards a wide variety of talents, not a conventional or narrow few, that values and celebrates all individuals for who they are and what they can achieve; and provides all with opportunities to do better throughout their lives.”