Schools addressing issues of diversity difference and discrimination

Published Date: 11 July 2016 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, Aljunied GRC

Question

To ask the Acting Minister for Education (Schools) (a) how do schools currently teach acceptance of diversity and differences and the addressing of discrimination in schools and the community; (b) how much time in the curriculum is allocated to this; (c) what are the considerations that go into designing curricula that meaningfully and thoroughly address issues of diversity, difference, and discrimination at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels; and (d) how does the Ministry intend to improve upon current efforts to address these issues.

Response

1. Values such as respect, care and harmony, are core to our national curriculum. Complementing our emphasis on values education, we also develop in our students social and emotional skills that will enable them to appreciate diversity, empathise with and demonstrate respect for others, and build positive relationships with others.

2. To achieve this, educators role model the values, and we provide students with varied learning experiences through platforms such as Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) lessons, Social Studies and History lessons, Values in Action programmes and Co-Curricular Activities.

3. In CCE lessons, younger students learn the core values and related appropriate social behaviour through stories depicting everyday interactions in schools and with the community. Teachers use relevant resources from mainstream and social media to engage older students in discussion. In this way, teachers help students to see real life issues from different perspectives and how their values shape their actions. Students are also taught skills to uncover stereotypes and prejudices they may have and re-shape them, and ways to demonstrate respectful behaviours.

4. This learning is reinforced by the inquiry approach adopted by Social Studies and History teachers, where teachers use authentic and relevant lesson resources to engage students in discussing real-world issues, such as diversity in society. For example, in the lower secondary History curriculum, students learn about the riots in post-war Singapore and the importance of managing race, religion and socio-economic challenges with sensitivity. In Social Studies, students learn that Singapore is, like many parts of the world, becoming more diverse. Singapore today has common spaces, like schools, and common experiences that foster understanding and harmony in our multicultural society. As young citizens, students learn how they can contribute to these efforts. We review and refresh our curriculum regularly to ensure that it remains sound and relevant.

5. Through Co-Curricular Activities and Values in Action programmes, students put their values into practice. They receive feedback from teachers and peers, and reflect on them. For example, in engaging with the community in Values in Action projects, students understand the community more deeply, form ties and are encouraged to serve in the community. In addition, students in schools have been commemorating Racial Harmony Day every year on 21st July since 1997 to mark the racial riots of 1964. It allows them to reflect on and celebrate our success as a harmonious society built on a rich diversity of cultures, and be reminded of the importance of maintaining racial and religious harmony.

6. In the institutes of higher learning, students continue to gain an appreciation of diversity within and outside the formal curriculum. Beyond discussing issues pertaining to diversity through modules and electives, there are events and activities such as the Global Community Day held across all polytechnics, as well as SMU’s annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference which deepen our students’ ability to manage diversity. The opportunity to work and live in groups also provides students ample opportunities to appreciate and manage diversity.

Share this article: