I agree that perceptions held by Singaporeans of fellow ASEAN countries must change in line with significant developments in the region in the past decade. Just as Singapore has grown into the international city that it is today, the rest of our ASEAN neighbours have also developed in tandem. Failure to recognise this is not just ignorant but would also create an environment of misguided complacency which leads us to be able to compete effectively, leading to decline.
However, how can we blame our youngsters for living in a bubble when the government is constantly bombarding us with how great we are in comparison with other countries. Our values are touted as superior to those of unknown western countries while our apparent lack of corruption and glowing success are a shining beacon to the rest of South East Asia. Indeed, this is the message that the government is always shoving down out throats, whether directly or indirectly.
I understand that this is done because the government wants to remind us of all they have done over the years and how it is due to their governance that we have manged to attain the coveted first world status that we have today. However, by constantly bigging up Singapore and its government, the government may have unwittingly created a generation of Singaporeans who are conditioned to believe in the innate superiority of Singapore, unaware that the rest of Asia has developed and whose citizens are far hungrier to compete.
While I believe in learning about our country and being proud of it, I believe that such a process should be organic and less staged. There is a difference between being patriotic and being blindly unaware of the reality of the world. When I was growing up and in the education system., I certainly don’t remember any of our school syllabus teaching us about the accomplishments and achievements of our neighbours alongside ours. Have things changed and if not, will they?
Education is a great way to teach Singaporeans about our neighbours, to think about them less as developing countries and more as partners and/or healthy competition. Perhaps for the future generations to change their perceptions, a more holistic outlook of our neighbouring countries should be incorporated into our syllabus. No point asking Singaporeans to change their outlook if it is not also accompanied by a landscape to help change that mindset. These changes can’t happen overnight.