Cultivating racial harmony in schools

Every year, my two children talk about the events and things they do in school for Racial Harmony Day.

To celebrate this day, the children go to school dressed in their traditional costumes. Food and games stalls representing the various ethnic groups are set up.

On the flip side, my children also relate their experiences about bullying and conflicts between schoolmates which, in the worst cases, end in fights.

Although the cause of conflict may not be the same in each case, there is one universal reason why a small petty quarrel escalates into a major fight - the inability to accept and tolerate the differences between people, which lead to the deeper feeling of hatred.

There are two major triggers of racial disharmony - the outward expression of insensitivity, and the intolerance to the differences in cultures and spiritual beliefs.

The key to creating a responsive, loving culture is humility. The product of humility is tolerance and forgiveness, which are critical ingredients for harmony.

So why don't we focus our resources on cultivating the positive values of love, like kindness, empathy, forgiveness and compassion, in schools on Racial Harmony Day?

Teaching our children the differences in the cultures of various ethnic groups is only a superficial act that does not address the core of the problem.

It will take more than what we are doing today for a better tomorrow.

So, teach the children of Singapore to love their neighbours like they love themselves - this is the solution to true racial harmony.

Victor Lim Kok Hwa

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Cultivating racial harmony in schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe