Can we create equal opportunities for social mobility?


A child from Kampung Bukit Malut, Langkawi. (Photo by Zan Azlee)

A child from Kampung Bukit Malut, Langkawi. (Photo by Zan Azlee)

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Can we create equal opportunities for social mobility
By Zan Azlee

I come from a comfortable middle-class family. Not wealthy, but comfortable. We had enough good food and could afford nice toys and regular holidays in the country as well as overseas.

I was taught to be confident and self-assured. If I wanted to achieve something, I was shown that there would always be a chance if we worked hard enough and used a little bit of thinking ability.

Everyone in my family, from my parents to my uncles and aunties, had at least a tertiary education. And so we knew that education was very important and opportunities for it were accessible.

So I have all that to thank for whatever modest achievements I have acquired in my 37 years of living. It is really the realisation and confidence that the world is my oyster that has helped.

And for some time, I thought my situation was the same for everyone else. I thought, if only they were more confident and just grabbed the opportunities in front of them.

Then I began to learn that although it was true that anyone could make equal attempts to grab opportunities and work hard to improve their lives, that realisation wasn’t easy to come by.

You see, I was lucky enough to have parents and family around me who also had the realisation and exposure to all of this. And they were lucky enough to have had parents who were the same.

This put me in a unique position that was an advantage. It is different for someone who comes from a family that isn’t so lucky. He or she would have to work harder to gain that realisation.

He or she would be lucky to gain it. Many don’t because they see the hardships that they go through as just a natural part of their lives that they have to accept and can’t change.

I’m not trying to show off here and say that I am better than the majority of people around me because I can afford to go on holidays and buy nice toys. Far from it.

The point I’m trying to make is that it would be tremendously difficult for someone who did not have much access to what I had to realise that he or she can also achieve the things that I can.

For someone who, growing up, did not have access to books and intellectual discussions, or even a clear vision of different education opportunities, things would definitely be harder.

There shouldn’t be any judgment because there could be many reasons for this, from lack of financial resources to lack of knowledge or exposure.

Whereas I had the time and opportunity to study, read books and go for music lessons, etc when I was younger, others may not have had that opportunity.

So I believe that there should be equality in opportunities. I don’t support affirmative action in which a particular racial group gets an advantage over others.

But I do support efforts by the system and institutions to ensure that opportunities are given fairly for the underprivileged, regardless of race or religion.

Just having the opportunity to go to school isn’t enough. There needs to be affirmative action to ensure that the financial and economical situation of the underprivileged is improved.

As much as we like to believe that a person’s life can be turned around through his or her own will, most of the time reality doesn’t work that way.

There needs to be a conducive environment that will allow for this to happen. There needs to be an indicator that social mobility is a very accessible possibility and not a difficult one.

So who do you think has the responsibility to create such an environment?

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]

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One response to “Can we create equal opportunities for social mobility?

  1. “Just having the opportunity to go to school isn’t enough. There needs to be affirmative action to ensure that the financial and economical situation of the underprivileged is improved.”

    There is!!!! It’s called the NEP. Its the biggest affirmative action the world has ever seen geared towards the underprivileged Bumiputera’s.

    Like

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