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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What makes someone Singaporean?

"If time flies when you're having fun, it hits the afterburners when you don't think you're having enough." - Jef Mallett


In the Straits Times today: What makes someone Singaporean?

Suggested answers off the top of my head:

Taking offense at differing views
A mindless obsession with National Slavery (National Service) for the guys
Princess Mentality for the girls
Thinking racial-religious ignorance equates to harmony
Instinctively preferring foreign cultures

Note: what makes someone Singaporean is not necessarily the same as what distinguishes a Singaporean from other people. This is similar to how a water molecule needs hydrogen, but not all molecules with hydrogen are water molecules.

* - I used to have "abysmal language skills" here, but the only internationally comparable dataset I could find for English was from The Bilingual Education Policy in Singapore: Implications for Second Language Acquisition:

"The thirty-five country IEA Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2001, which tested 10-year-olds (with four years of schooling) on reading for literary purposes and reading for informational purposes... Overall, Singapore's Primary 4 (P4) students scored significantly higher than the international average and fifteen countries, not significantly different from Scotland, New Zealand and six other nations, and significantly lower than England, the United States and nine other countries. For both literary and informational purposes, Singapore performed significantly better than 15 countries, and did not significantly differ from eleven and twelve countries, respectively, including the US on reading for informational purposes. Singapore, at 43%, was one of only four countries in which less than half of their students 'always' or 'almost always' spoke the language of the test at home"

My prima facie impression still inclines towards my original response (especially since this only tested Reading, and 10 year olds too), but I will wait for better data to become available.

Original IPS list of 30 traits:

Social Markers of Integration

1. Is gainfully employed
2. Belongs to one of Singapore’s main ethnic groups (CMIO)
3. Has completed tertiary education
4. Has lived in Singapore for a period of time
5. Has retired or plans to retire in Singapore
6. Owns residential property in Singapore
7. Works for a government ministry or statutory board
8. Works for a Singapore-based company
9. Works in a field where there is a shortfall of talent in Singapore
10. Invests in or sets up a Singapore-based company
11. Completes National Service himself (for the men)
12. His/Her male child completes National Service
13. Participates in grassroots’ activities (e.g. RC)
14. Participates in the work of local charity organizations or self-help groups
15. Participates in local politics (e.g. join a political party)
16. Marries a local-born Singaporean
17. Has a social circle comprising mostly localborn Singaporeans
18. Has children who are Singapore citizens
19. Enjoys ‘typical’ Singaporean past times
20. Lives in a HDB flat
21. Attended or attends government or government-aided schools (themselves or their children)
22. Able to speak conversational English
23. Able to speak a language of one of Singapore’s main racial group
24. Able to speak Singlish
25. Respects multi-racial and multi-religious practices
26. Supports Singapore products and brands
27. Behaves like a ‘Singaporean’
28. Gives up foreign cultural norms or behaviour
29. Gets on well with workplace colleagues
30. Gets on well with neighbours

Strangely, "Helpful, Friendly, Considerate" was listed as a Singaporean characteristic by 14% of the respondents.

Also, among the top 5 characteristics of being Singaporean Foreign-Born Citizens cited were:

3. Belongs to one of Singapore’s main ethnic groups (57%)
5. Owns residential property in Singapore (55%)
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