Is the teaching of racial harmony in schools effective?

by Marie

I am appalled to find out that as much as our country’s leaders continuously boast in mainstream media and even international media about how Singapore is a racially and religiously harmonious society, such may not be true on ground.

A friend of mine who works in the education sector mentioned that this was nowhere true, especially in schools whose school population mostly consist of the majority race. While it may seem to most that it is not a major issue and minority students are still being allowed entry into such schools, truth to be told, how many of our minority students would want to be in an environment where they are most likely to be ostracised for being different? It struck me hard when my friend mentioned that it is not only just a couple of students who may have such a mindset that they are not sensitive enough about people from minority group, but it exists even within the system itself. Little did I expect would come from one of the school leaders, a person whom the public trust to be the one to uphold the education system and the values that we would want to inculcate in our future generation.

Her version: As an educator from the minority group in one of the self-proclaimed best schools in Yishun, it was hard for her to adapt and fit into the school culture. She have colleagues who would converse with her in Mandarin, thinking that she would understand, when her name itself is a giveaway that she obviously isn’t. She would need to go for overseas school trips to China, knowing well enough that she would need to source around for her own food that suits her dietary requirements. And with the recent Mid- Autumn festival celebrations, she was informed that one of her school leaders informed that there isn’t a need to source for halal mooncakes and instead to just purchase the normal mooncakes which are usually non-halal. Note that this school do have students from minority groups, and yet their needs are being pushed aside, making it seems like it is not worth considering at all. Another observation made would be that other festivities other than the majority’s festivities aren’t even celebrated.

In my opinion, even if the majority of the school population consist of the majority race, there is a need to educate the students of the existence of other racial groups other than their own. If such isn’t taught at the level where there should be guidance to shape their thinking, who are we to blame them when they go out into the society, growing up to be ignorant and unaware of other cultures and groups that exist in society? We pride ourselves with Singapore’s education system being one of the best in the world, but we fail to realise that if left unchecked, it would be the breeding ground of a population of ignorant and racist individuals.

And if such should be done in schools, one way forward would be to educate such educators and school leaders who may be living in a bubble, oblivious to the multi-cultural social fabric that Singapore is very much proud of.