Malay/Muslim dialogue tackles issues like low-income families, Stem subjects

The session was attended by DPM Lawrence Wong (centre) and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad (right). PHOTO: YAYASAN MENDAKI

SINGAPORE - The issue of over-representation of Malay/Muslims among lower-income groups and strategies to get more students from the community to join the science sector were among the issues discussed at a dialogue on Saturday.

The session was part of the #MakingConnections event organised by Yayasan Mendaki as part of the self-help group’s 40th anniversary celebration.

It was held in conjunction with Mendaki’s annual month-long Raikan Ilmu (Celebrate Knowledge) festival. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad attended the session.

About 300 Malay/Muslim professionals from public and private sectors, including the education, technology and sports fields, participated in the event at Fairmont Singapore.

Before the dialogue, they sat in different groups and were encouraged to tackle questions such as where they thought the Malay/Muslim community is headed and how they can contribute as an individual and as a group.

Speaking to the media after the session, Mr Zaqy said that a lot of the discussion was about the community’s views on how the social compact can evolve and how they can get involved in Forward Singapore.

The nationwide engagement exercise is a road map that will set out policy recommendations and how various parts of society can better contribute to the nation’s shared goals.

“I think there were good conversations... ranging from social compact, employment opportunities and even how we can help the seniors age comfortably here in Singapore and live beyond retirement too,” said Mr Zaqy.

“And these are... important questions not just for Singapore but for the Malay community too – to see how as a society we can contribute and progress together with the nation.”

It was suggested in the dialogue that encouraging more lower-income families to send their young children to pre-school will help them break out of the poverty cycle.

The need to break the stereotype that only boys do science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) and that minority groups are not adept at those subjects was also highlighted.

DPM Wong said the Malay/Muslim community’s progress over the years has mirrored that of Singapore, and the community will be integral to the changes that Singapore hopes to make for the next decade and beyond.

These changes include lowering income inequalities and ensuring that mobility remains high, he added.

Addressing those present at the session, DPM Wong said: “If you continue with (efforts) among the community with the help of the Government, if you continue with that strong spirit of volunteerism among so many of you... and importantly, if you continue to emphasise the spirit of learning, excelling in everything you do, I have every confidence that the community will continue to do even better.

“And when you look ahead in the next decade and beyond, we will be able to see many more Malay/Muslims excelling across all the different areas of the economy, and we can do much more to uplift the lower-income and disadvantaged groups too.”

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