Since coming to power in Singapore in 1959, the People’s Action Party, which has enjoyed uninterrupted rule for over five decades, has instituted as one of its key governing tenets, the importance of meritocracy as a ‘founding myth.’ This meritocracy was to go hand in hand with another tenet, that of multiracialism, in a bid to provide equality for all citizens in an ethnically diverse new nation. One of the key pillars in the meritocratic system was the education system, in which students would supposedly be rewarded almost solely on the basis of their academic merit, as demonstrated through individual performance in a series of high-stakes national examinations, as a basis for social advancement.

The chapter discusses the strengths and limitations of this meritocratic system as it has evolved over the past five decades. In particular, it illustrates how the concept of merit has been widened and how both elitism, as well as a parentocracy, have emerged to threaten the very basis of the meritocracy. Notions of equality and fairness are thrown into focus.