Voices Of Youth

Many cultures here but no Singapore culture

I recently signed up to represent my school at an international youth forum in Beijing.

Participants were required to put up a small performance that is representative of their country.

My friends and I were at a loss for what to do.

Singapore prides itself on being multiracial and multicultural. This cannot be fully represented merely in a Chinese, Malay, Indian or English song.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that each ethnic group has an innate sense of superiority and pride in its culture.

They have confined themselves to it, leading to a reinforcing of racial differences and segregation into racial binaries. The education system has continued this practice.

This results in a "rojak" mix of cultures but no shared Singaporean culture.

What are students like us to do when facing the international stage? Is the answer merely to gloss over the racial differences? Perhaps we should compose a medley of local folk songs in different languages.

I hope that we, as a society, can learn to eradicate our exclusive behaviours so as to improve social cohesion as a multicultural nation.

Lola Koh Le Yi, 16

Secondary 4 student

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline Many cultures here but no Singapore culture. Subscribe