Singapore Junior Scholar Seminar: 4 March 2022

Can Every School Be A Good School?

Jacqueline Ho, PhD Candidate (Sociology), Cornell University

Friday, 4 March 2022, 11am-12pm Singapore time (GMT +8), via Zoom

In 2012, Singapore’s Ministry of Education stopped publishing the names and schools of top PSLE scorers and abolished the secondary school ranking system. A decade on, popular primary schools continue to be oversubscribed during the Primary 1 registration exercise. We commonly attribute this competitive behaviour to “kiasu parenting,” describing it as a problem of parents’ “mindsets.” Yet parents become, rather than simply are, kiasu. This presentation explores how middle-class parents, through the act of choosing a school, learn to be responsible for managing their children’s educational risk, and how this relates to their perceptions of school quality. Findings are from a preliminary analysis of interviews conducted last year.

Jacqueline Ho studies the cultural processes that sustain and challenge meritocratic practices of evaluation, including how moral identities legitimate meritocracy, and how people cope with the removal of quantitative metrics. She is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Cornell University.


Aaron Koh is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on International & Comparative Education, Global Studies in Education and Sociology of Education. His most recent co-authored book is Class Choreographies: Elite Schools and Globalisation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)More.


The Singapore Studies Junior Scholar Seminars are organised by AcademiaSG, an international collective of Singaporean scholars, as part of our mission to promote research on Singapore. If you are a PhD student or post-doctoral scholar with research to share, read our Call for Proposals. We also welcome essays and commentaries for our Academic Views section. Write to our editors through our contact form to pitch an idea.