Spur youth to mix with other races

I cannot agree more that we, especially the younger generation, should learn more about one another's cultures ("Tharman: Reinforce multicultural identity"; last Thursday).

Building relationships with people from many different cultures is the main key to building truly diverse but inclusive communities.

Children need to learn that people can be different, yet still have much in common.

Such realisation helps them to accept and respect people from all cultures and backgrounds when they become adults.

It is, therefore, imperative that our youth - of all races - need to have more opportunities to learn and play together in both formal and social settings.

In the 1970s, it was a common sight to see children of different races playing football together in open fields and basketball courts.

Such social groups are rarer now.

Also, it is not uncommon today to find young people who do not have bosom friends of other races.

It is even more critical for our future leaders, especially those in the top schools, to have plenty of chances to make friends with people of other races.

Therefore, we should seriously consider tweaking our current admission systems to secondary schools and junior colleges to allow a better mix of races in a classroom setting.

This not only promotes intercultural learning for the sake of multiculturalism, but also trains our future workforce - especially professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) - to have the requisite skills to operate in an international marketplace, which increasingly requires people to work with people of different racial, language, ethnic or economic groups.

Although we may lose something by tweaking the admission systems, if we sincerely believe that every school is a good school, then my suggestion will bring about more long-term benefits to the nation and better prepare our students for life in the 21st century.

Edmund Lam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Spur youth to mix with other races'. Print Edition | Subscribe