Important for young people to feel sense of belonging

A university student wearing safety gear talks during a strike on the first day of school at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019.
A university student wearing safety gear talks during a strike on the first day of school at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019.PHOTO: AP

When the protests in Hong Kong turn violent, one cannot help but feel saddened by the situation. Hong Kong and Singapore are like sister cities, both former British colonies that have become major Asian financial centres.

It is noticeable how these protests seem to be led primarily by younger Hong Kongers still in school or freshly graduated.

Singapore's former foreign minister George Yeo said at a recent dialogue organised by Hwa Chong Institution that in Hong Kong, the school curricula are still British-based and academia largely encourages students to advocate Western values instead of embracing Hong Kong's status as part of China.

Add to this skyrocketing housing costs, wage stagnation, poor job prospects for fresh graduates and lack of social mobility, and Hong Kong does become a tough city for young people to eke out a living, and you have the perfect ingredients for social unrest that shows no sign of abating.

Singapore can take lessons from the situation in Hong Kong as it gears up for a general election.

Political parties have their work cut out for them as we live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

The challenge is to ensure that concerted efforts to forge a society that stays strong, harmonious and cohesive never stop, while driving the country forward economically in a world increasingly divided along religious and racial lines.

A curriculum that imbues our young with a strong sense of belonging and identity is a good place to start.

Political leaders must have a strong sense of what makes Singapore tick and what makes it unique.

Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Important for young people to feel sense of belonging'. Print Edition | Subscribe