Impact of race and income distribution on student performance

Published Date: 02 October 2017 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Ang Mo Kio GRC


To ask the Minister for Education (Schools) (a) what percentage of the racial and household income distributions of students in the primary and secondary schools differs from the national racial and income distributions; (b) whether such differences have an impact on the schools' results; and (c) what measures are in place to assist schools where there is a negative impact from the difference in racial and income distributions.


1. While all our primary and secondary schools deliver the national curriculum, they may vary in terms of the distinctive programmes they offer, their culture and other characteristics. Together, these factors influence parent and student choice, and contribute to variations in ethnic and socio-economic profile of students in each school.

2. Today, about 1 in 10 schools differ noticeably from the national norm in terms of racial distribution, excluding the SAP schools which would naturally have a much higher proportion of Chinese than the national norm. The numbers have remained stable over the last few years. MOE currently does not collect information on students’ household income across the system.

3. Worldwide, socio-economic status, or SES, is known to correlate positively with students’ academic performance. As for ethnicity, while we see differences in the performance of students from the different ethnic groups, the performance of Malay students at the national examinations has improved over time, closing the gap with the students from other ethnic groups.

4. However, SES and ethnicity are not the key determinants of student performance. Many other factors contribute to student achievement, including student motivation, as well as support at home and from the broader community, and the quality of school experience.

5. What is more important is that MOE is committed to provide a quality education for our students regardless of their background. All school leaders and teachers undergo quality and continuous professional development and good practices are disseminated across schools, with high quality curriculum resources are centrally provided. MOE also resources schools based on their needs and student profiles. For example, depending on the profile of the school, more manpower may be provided for counselling and student support and levelling-up programmes, such as the Learning Support Programmes and the School-based Dyslexia Remediation Programme. Financial assistance has also been enhanced to ensure that needy students can continue to access education. MOE also partners with the community, including Self-Help Groups (SHGs), to reach out to families or students who need additional assistance beyond MOE.

6. Through these efforts, our schools have shown results in enabling their students, regardless of their background, to excel and perform beyond expectation. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a series of international studies conducted by the OECD, Singapore consistently has one of the highest percentages of resilient students (i.e. students from disadvantaged background but achieve good performance in school) among the participating countries. MOE will continue to ensure that an education in our schools remain accessible to all Singaporeans and that no one will be left behind.

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