Forum: Young Singaporeans should exercise empathy and humility to build bonds in S-E Asia

I agree with Professor Lily Kong that Singaporeans have a misguided sense of superiority towards South-east Asia (Young Singaporeans abroad and their misguided sense of superiority towards S-E Asia, Nov 22).

Parents here prefer that their children take up job opportunities or internships in Western countries rather than with companies in the rest of South-east Asia, believing that they will gain more knowledge and more useful experience.

When travelling in the region, many Singapore tourists exclaim loudly about how cheap the products are, as the Singapore dollar is relatively stronger than the currencies of our South-east Asian neighbours.

These outbursts of joy may be unintentional, but they reflect badly on our sense of empathy and humility, and may alienate the local population. 

As Prof Kong observed, many overseas school trips have a charitable dimension. Although building sanitary facilities for underprivileged families and improving ageing infrastructure are worthy causes, the impression that other South-east Asian countries are lacking in basic needs may be imprinted in the minds of some students.

I hope that when schools organise such trips for young Singaporeans, they also involve local students in the projects. 

It would be a good bonding experience for our students and local students to come together for a good cause. 

Foo Sing Kheng

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