Teacher in hot water after implying hawkers are poor

Photo: YT and Lim

A teacher’s ‘corrected’ response to a P6 student’s exam answer drew outrage from netizens.

The answer was part of the reading comprehension session of an English test paper where students were required to evaluate statements based on the passage.

The specific part that angered Singaporeans is below:

Photo: Lim

The student was required to analyse if the author’s family was wealthy based on the reading, to which the student answered ‘False’ with the reasoning that the “Author wanted to buy a cake but could only afford a slice”.

This answer was marked as wrong by the school teacher who then filled in the ‘correct’ one as: “The author’s mother worked in a kopitiam (hawker store).”

Mr Lim, the student’s tuition teacher who shared the image on Facebook, was angered by the school teacher’s prejudice towards hawkers.

The confused boy had shown Lim the answer, told him:

“My dad works in a hawker centre and we’re not poor… So I didn’t think that would be the answer.”

Is the school teacher prejudiced?

Maybe not. The answer that the teacher provided could be the actual model answers.

According to literature student the story, which is Grasshoppers by O Thiam Chin, is actually much longer than the passage provided for the student.

Photo: Lim

In the story, there are many factors including the protagonist having a single mother, and the setting was in the 90’s which was not shown in the exam question.

Which means the model answer would be wrong because primary school students are expected to use the passage to help them answer the question rather than the entire story.

So a correct answer would be ‘True’ because the passage mentions the Kopitiam having a large number of customers.

Sorry kid, but you’re wrong as well.

But are we missing the point here?

It is a meaningful conversation to have — that some hawkers are actually wealthy — and it isn’t shameful to be a hawker. This is a good point to make.

But the converse of that thinking is that if you are a poor hawker, then you should be ashamed.

Is no one wondering how being poor became an insult in the first place?

It’s surreal that everyone is mad at the teacher for thinking that a group of people (hawkers) are poor. However, no one seems to zero in on the fact a massive population of Singaporeans are in reality, not the filthy rich Singaporeans portrayed in Hollywood’s latest blockbuster.

Lim, the student’s tuition teacher even wrote on his Facebook post:

“At first I thought she worked as a cleaner at the Kopitiam, but it turns out she sold popiah.”


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