SAP schools

Worries over racial integration unfounded

Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools have stirred up concerns over ethnic interaction and integration ever since their introduction ("Time to end SAP school system" by Mr Teo Tze Wei; Monday).

While I understand where the worries are coming from, there is little need for them at the moment.

It has been 37 years since the SAP scheme started. Comparing the social climate in Singapore back then and now, there is one significant improvement which relates to this matter - Singapore now has much better racial stability and harmony.

Even in SAP schools where the student population is mostly Chinese, Racial Harmony Day celebrations are still mandatory.

Through such events, students learn and appreciate what the other races are all about. They are also taught to be aware that even though they are of different races, they are Singaporeans all the same.

Also, after graduating from the SAP schools, chances are that the students will move on to the tertiary education level or national service (for the men).

Because the SAP scheme does not apply to those platforms, the students will definitely have the chance to mix around and interact with people of other races, even before they enter the workforce.

With the experience they gain there, they will have no issue working with people of different races in future.

In addition, schools should not be carrying the full responsibility of instilling interracial respect in our young .

In the first place, schools are not the only places where racial harmony can be cultivated.

We do not learn about interracial respect only in our student years; that can be done as early as in our childhood years.

Our neighbourhoods are where we first come into contact with people of different races.

Therefore, building up trust and friendship should start from the very beginning, at a young age.

Simply eating a meal, playing games or taking part in community events together are all examples of how racial harmony can be accomplished outside school grounds.

Ending the SAP scheme may certainly help improve student diversity and hence prevent interracial issues.

However, as of now, there is no need to do that, since there are alternative ways of inter-ethnic interaction in the community which can bring benefits to not only one ethnic group, but society as a whole.

Henry Choong Kun Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Worries over racial integration unfounded'. Print Edition | Subscribe