In secondary school, my class used to be told by teachers that we were “behaving just like the NT (Normal Technical) classes”, or that we were “as bad as the NT classes”. I hold a personal grudge against the teachers who have ever said anything like that.
After PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination), Singapore students get split into three streams – Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical – according to their PSLE scores. The highest scoring students get into Express, whereas the lowest get into NT.
Because of this, Singapore has developed a very elitist mentality, and a lot of Singaporeans believe that NT students are “bad kids”, or that they are stupid, both of which are untrue. Just because someone doesn’t do well academically doesn’t make said person stupid. I know a lot of NT students, and some of them are seriously the smartest people I have ever met; I can have intelligent conversations with them and talk about things that people deem “too difficult” for NT students.
The system of streaming students was implemented with good intention, supposedly to allow each student to learn at his or her own pace. However, somewhere along the way, it birthed the NT-students-are-stupid mentality and teachers treat the NT students very differently from the way they treat Express students – NT students are always looked down upon, and they are stereotyped as irresponsible smokers who have given up hope.
Perhaps the reason why NT students are said to gave up hope is because society, by default, have already given up hope on them.