Singapore—The country’s Education Minister, Ong Ye Kung, emphasized how important it is that schools are communities that give students ample opportunities to meet and interact with pupils from various races, since this is reflective of the multicultural nature of Singaporean society.
Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, in particular, he said, need to make sure that their students are exposed to people from different backgrounds.
Mr Ong said this on Thursday, April 11, at a film premiere of From Victoria Street To Ang Mo Kio at the Capitol Theatre. The film was helmed by Eva Tang, a former student of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, which is a SAP school.
The film is a docu-drama that honours former teachers from St Nicholas and is set in the 1950s. It tells the story of two pupils in relation to the people who educated them at the school, and shows interviews with former and present students and staff at St Nicholas.
Over 900 people attended the premiere, with many graduates, students, and staff present.
Mr Ong made this distinction about SAP schools since they primarily focused on Chinese culture and language, and non-Chinese students are usually the minority in these schools.
SAP schools were instituted 40 years ago, after enrollment in Chinese-medium schools had dropped, forcing many of these schools to close. Hence, SAP schools were established in 1979 to keep the environment in traditional Chinese schools alive.
The Straits Times reports the Education Minister as saying that exposure to various cultures should go further than one-time events as Racial Harmony Day.
“We will need to find platforms for deep, regular and meaningful engagements; for example, partnering other schools to offer outdoor learning, Values-in-Action programmes or even joint co-curricular activities.”
He underscored how important SAP schools still are.
“We have to remember the historical context of setting up SAP schools – which is to uphold the traditional Chinese school cultural environment, at a time when English education had become very popular and Chinese schools were closing down rapidly. If we had not had SAP schools, we would have lost an important part of our culture,” he said since they are part of a “larger eco-system.”
Moreover, these schools also encourage the learning of mother tongues, he said.
He added, “We want our students to be multilingual and multicultural, ready to embrace a future where we must be anchored to our roots and confident to face the world.
More than ever, knowing multiple languages and cultures will become a competitive advantage. All around the world, people are learning new languages and cultures, and we cannot buck the trend at this crucial juncture and dilute our efforts.
From Victoria Street To Ang Mo Kio “documents a segment of Singapore’s education history –– the survival of the nation’s first Catholic missionary Chinese girls’ school through adversities during her formative years. It is a tribute to the arduous efforts and contributions of a generation of admirable educators who persevered in delivering the education of love with resilience and steadfastness.”
According to the school’s website, “The mission of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School is the creation of a Christ-centred school community where all work together for the promotion of truth, justice, freedom, and love, with special reference to the needs of persons who are disadvantaged in any way.”Follow us on Social Media
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