Singaporeans are going to get to help shape the mandatory curriculum for those looking to become fully-fledged citizens.

On Thursday (16 January), the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) launched a recruitment drive for volunteers to form a workgroup which will give suggestions and input for the Singapore Citizenship Journey programme. Singaporeans can apply online to be part of the workgroup until 21 February. MCCY is looking for 100 volunteers.

The Ministry said that the group will be diverse and reflective of Singapore’s society.

The Singapore Citizenship Journey programme was introduced in 2011 to help hopeful future citizens deepen their understanding of the country’s history and culture via online modules on subjects like national symbols, policies, history, culture as well as experiential learning programmes like visits to museums.

All citizenship applicants aged 16 to 60 who have been granted in-principle approval by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) have to undergo the programme, which they are given two months to complete.

Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, speaking at the ministry’s annual year-in-review session, said that the review of the programme is timely, as it comes just after the national Integration Council’s 10th anniversary last year.

While the ministry has considered feedback from citizens over the years with regards to this citizenship programme, this is the first time it is forming a workgroup for more direct input.

Ms Fu said, “It is a good process for us to engage Singaporeans and (to) have a common understanding of what a new Singaporean would look like. So we have decided to have an engagement and co-creation process.”

She added that Singaporeans have plenty to say on this subject. For example, they feel that becoming a citizen is more than just marrying a Singaporean. Some of the feedback the Ministry has received include that new citizens should understand the social norms here, whether they’ve been long-time students or residents here or if they’ve have served their national service.

Ms Fu explained that participants of the workgroup will be involved in several discussions between March to July this year and that their suggestions could be integrated into the program at the end of the year.

The current programme includes a community sharing session where new citizens get to meet fellow residents and grassroots leaders from their constituencies. They also reflect on their journey to citizenship and share their aspirations and hopes for the country’s future.

When asked by reporters if English would be considered a hallmark of Singaporean identity, Ms Fu said that it will continue to serve as the country’s working language to ensure that social and recreational settings remain inclusive.

She added that unlike other countries where the native language of the major race is implemented as the national language, Singapore uses a common language to facilitate communication between all races.

“But we also affirm the rights for each of the races to have full access to its own language, through our schools and cultural institutions, because we believe Mother Tongue is the best way to access important values passed down by generations,” she added.

“Also, heritage values are carried through the language.”

Between June 2017 and June 2018, a total of 32,759 new citizenships were granted. By June 2019, another 29,004 new citizens were granted, bringing the population of citizens up to 3.5 million out of a total population of 5.7 million.

In the last decade, about 270,000 new citizenships were granted (2010 to 2019), according to data from the Department of Statistics.

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