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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Race Relations in Singapore (2002): Education, National Service and the Media

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." - Mahatma Gandhi (attr)


Report on IPS Research Forum on Ethnic Relations in Singapore (2002)

"The special position of Malays and minorities in Singapore... free education for Malays... has been criticised, by both Malays and non-Malays, on grounds that it is at odds with the Government’s policy of meritocracy and that it creates a “crutch mentality”...

Group Representation Constituencies (GRC)... signifies the end of the road for the single minority candidate in Singaporean elections...

Within the Normal stream, peer groups are ethnically homogeneous. Spatial segregation can be seen in classrooms and in the canteens. Peer groups have a strong influence on post-secondary decision making especially among the Malay respondents. Mandarin used in classrooms by teachers for instruction is perceived as discriminatory by minorities...

Respondents [even outside of the Normal stream] perceive that they live in separate ethnic worlds (i.e. religion, social interests) outside school...

Dark-skinned Children: In some instances dark-skinned children are alienated by peers and are often singled out in exclusionary ways. Such instances of rejection may have little to do with race and mainly to do with the individual’s personality characteristics. While the negative reactions of the children to e.g., a dark-skinned boy may have little to do with his skin colour, the nicknames children used are of concern...

The Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) trainees have a greater tendency to perceive Chinese as “shrewd”, and Malays as “lazy” compared to the Degree and Diploma in Education trainees. The latter groups of trainees tend to perceive others in more positive terms [Ed: PGDE trainees have more prestigious education than the others]...

Educational policies such as streaming, school ranking and the preservation of Special Assistance Plan schools have the effect of impeding more frequent ethnic interaction and integration of students...

Leveraging diversity however, is not just a ‘moral’ imperative. There are very real returns of a diversity vision to the organization, outweighing the ‘time, effort and money spent’... v) it may be a marketing strategy.

Individuals may be at different stages for different domains of diversity. Some of the interviewees have higher levels of intercultural competence with regards to inter-national cultures, but lower levels with regards to intranational cultures...

The pre-national service cohorts of young men and women do not differ significantly from each other except for the young males who report having more good friends of the opposite sex... The older female cohort reflects less cohesion in terms of socioeconomic status compared to the age-matched post national service males

[Ed: However, one paper summary reports that "With specific reference to ethnic cohesion, while the national service experience could increase understanding through cooperation, it was thought to intensify pre-existing prejudices within a hostile, competitive environment."]

... Integration of foreign talent and locals through social interaction:
• In terms of discretionary activities, social interaction between foreigners and locals is uneven:
• Foreigners’ interaction patterns tend to include locals as well as foreigners
• substantial proportion of locals have never spent discretionary time with foreigners...

Guidelines should spell out in no uncertain terms a zero tolerance policy for teachers using languages other than English during curricular times with the exception of mother tongue periods...

To facilitate ethnic cohesion in the military context, it would be useful to enlist the opinions of the ethnic minorities in planning and structuring the tasks performed within the NS context. Stereotyping of Indian recruits as “toilet I/C” is one example of a generally held (mis)perception in planning and structuring of tasks.

Posting a mandatory percentage of minorities into each army unit could further facilitate ethnic cohesion...

On local television and film

a. It is unrealistic to eliminate all ethnic stereotypes.
• Stereotypes are resilient and efficient images that help us to give order to a complex world, though such an understanding of the world is grossly inadequate.
• In film and television programmes, audiences connect more readily with characters and situations that are familiar and recognisable.
• Many successful comedies are very dependent upon stereotypes.
• The question of commercial viability cannot be ignored. The film and television industries’ bottom lines depend on mass appeal.

b. It is problematic to try to eliminate negative stereotypes and promote prositive ones:
• This strategy may encourage positive social transformations, e.g. through role modelling.
• But who gets to judge what is positive and what is negative? Such decisions should not simply be based on the values of the dominant majority.
• Also, emphasis on positive representations may in effect whitewash the real problems that ethnic groups face, and the real ethnic differences that do matter.
• Positive stereotypes can dumb-down the critical faculties of audiences who become more immune to injustices.

c. Make negative and positive stereotypes more complex and challenging"
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