July 21, 2022

Students discuss racism and racial stereotypes to mark Racial Harmony Day

By brit

SINGAPORE – Students are more open to questioning racial stereotypes and racism, and teachers can help create a safe space in school for such discussions to take place.

Mr Benjamin Fwah, 34, a Kranji Secondary School teacher who teaches character and citizenship education (CCE), also said educators must be aware that students are increasingly exposed to social media and the viewpoints of their friends. 

He said: “There are many preconceived ideas among such sources. We want students to understand where these ideas come from and if they are baseless, and what are the next steps they have to take?”

Mr Fwah was speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue session held at the school on Thursday (July 21).

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who visited the school on Thursday, also took part in the dialogue, which was held to mark Racial Harmony Day and involved about 1,000 students and 30 teachers. 

It touched on issues such as people judging others based on their skin colour, racial stereotypes and how to deal with such situations.

Alya Marsya Mohamad Effendy, 13, a Secondary 1 student, said: “It is important to talk about stereotypes, as I have faced people assuming that I am Chinese because of how I look. 

“I feel racial stereotyping still exists, but everyone must play a part to ensure we live harmoniously together.” 

Another student, Chua Zheng An, 16, said he found the scenarios posed in the discussions relevant as he was made fun of for his skin colour.

“It helped us see how we can approach such problems from a different angle and find a way to change perceptions.”

Every year, schools in Singapore mark Racial Harmony Day by holding activities aimed at educating students on race and values like respecting differences. 

Students now have more opportunities to hold in-depth discussions on racism and stereotypes during CCE lessons since the syllabus was refreshed in 2021, according to the syllabus found on the MOE website.

The updated syllabus, which includes topics such as bullying, online media, and race and religion, was rolled out to lower secondary students last year and extended to upper secondary students this year.

CCE teacher Ang Peiyi, 36, said she is open to having such conversations because students might want to discuss such issues regularly in school.

However, she added that even with racism and stereotyping being included in the CCE syllabus, the discussions are still dependent on teachers. 

“I think different teachers have various levels of comfort with such topics. This depends on them,” she said.