Addressing intercultural issues and online communications

Published Date: 11 May 2015 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Nominated Member of Parliament

Question

To ask the Minister for Education:

  1. whether there are distinctions in how students of 7-12 years old, 13-18 years old, and Institutes of Higher Learning are being sensitised to intercultural issues and coached in thoughtful communication over racial and religious issues; and
  2. how are youths being educated in issues of online communication particularly the issues of online mob mentality and the social, political and legal boundaries surrounding online postings. 

Response

In schools, students are taught about intercultural issues primarily through Character and Citizenship Education but it is also found in a variety of other subjects like English and Social Studies.  Younger students learn through stories of our daily interactions with different people in school and the community.  As students mature, they discuss and reflect on current and relevant case studies from newspapers and social media, where they are encouraged to consider various perspectives and clarify their values.

Every year, Racial Harmony Day is specially commemorated in all education institutions to focus on social cohesion and racial harmony.  Learning experiences through Values in Action, Learning Journeys and Co-curricular activities (CCA) further provide our students of all ages with opportunities to engage and interact with people of different backgrounds.

Through classroom discussion and school organised activities, students understand and appreciate our major religions, how to share and maintain common spaces, and the consequences of prejudice and stereotyping others. Dialogues with community leaders and interactive drama are also programmes for older students to strengthen their understanding for social cohesion and community engagement.  

Such exposure deepens as our students progress to the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).  Within the classroom, our students participate in scenario discussions, projects and deep structured reflection.  Outside the classroom, students are exposed through experiential activities, such as community service projects, field trips, and dialogues with community leaders.  Through these experiences, our students come to appreciate the importance of respecting diversity and maintaining racial and religious harmony, and to develop empathy and the skills to achieve effective intercultural communication.  The importance of respect and cultural sensitivities are also instilled through student code of conduct which prohibits inflammatory content and emphasise mutual respect in all social interactions and online exchanges.

For online communication, students learn how to use digital technologies safely and responsibly in Cyber Wellness lessons.  These are designed based on the principles of “Respect for Self and Others” and “Safe and Responsible Use”.  Through discussions on authentic case scenarios and reflection, students practise responsible decision making in the context of online interactions. 

At a younger age, the students are taught basic netiquette and how to safeguard themselves in cyberspace.  Older students are taught to take on a more active role to promote positive online relationship management.  They learn about responsible online behaviour, the consequences of one’s online expressions and greater social and cultural awareness in online interactions. In addition, students are educated on the concerns relating to the use of social media such as mob mentality, and the far reaching consequences of online expressions and impact on lives.  They also learn the laws, regulations and ethics related to online communications.

As students move on to the IHLs, expectations regarding appropriate online etiquette are discussed via a mixture of compulsory modules, elective modules and school-wide programmes.  As students discuss the benefits of social media, they are also acquainted with how it can be misused for seditious or malicious acts.  Students also learn about the social impact and potential legal implications of their online actions.
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