“One student noted that Singaporeans were more likely to be kind to expatriates than to lower-skilled foreign workers, while others pointed out that negative stereotypes could cause Singaporeans to be unkind to foreigners” (Grades ‘More Important Than Graciousness’, Miss Sara Grosse).
The Singapore Kindness Movement Youth Forum and the corresponding article, “Grades ‘More Important Than Graciousness’” (November 5, 2010) by Miss Sara Grosse, come at a time when the sense of belonging of young Singaporeans has been questioned. Following a dialogue with Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, the administration has promptly asserted through a National Education (NE) seminar that an overwhelming percentage of students do feel a positive sense of attachment to the country. However – beyond patriotism and pride per se – what needs to e further comprehended is that blind understanding and acceptance would no longer be the norm; as students show increased awareness of issues and concerns, and seek to stake their claim accordingly.
Cognisant of the aforementioned developments, there needs to be a proper platform established for students, as a timely extension of NE or inter-disciplinary approaches, for such perspectives on policy issues and socio-political recommendations to be properly channelled and pondered over. The NE package, poised to pedantically educate and monotonously drown individuals with facts and information, clearly has not succeeded in genuine engagement and solicitation of feedback. Further, despite a proliferation of school forums and dialogues, there is no proper affirmation of suggestions or recommendations. Ideas are merely bounced around with no proper conclusions.
Even as the administration points to the NE committee and the national feedback agency, Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home (REACH), effective channels for policy recommendations are far and few between. The lack of awareness and outreach remain pertinent challenges. In the longer term, the NE programme presents itself to be a one-way communication, with little space to encourage discussions or responses.
The importance to educate students not to take information at face value cannot be undermined. The plethora of commentaries and articles – online and in print – require greater analytical skills to discern between fact and fiction, as well as to generate a constructive space to voice their perspectives and views. As expounded in an assortment of different forums and dialogues, youths do have great ideas that should not remain unaddressed. NE and patriotism does not mean blind compliance and acceptance of the status quo; we should embrace this increased connectivity and sense of empowerment that students are speedily developing, and play it to our advantage.
As stakeholders of the country, it is only logical for students to be part of policy feedback and formation process. If we dangerously discount these views and take them for granted, we would only be at the losing end.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.