Government concerned about lack of diversity in some schools, housing estates: Grace Fu

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu pointed out that Singaporeans are mixing through sport, arts, volunteerism and at the workplace. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The lack of diversity in schools and housing estates is of concern to the Government, which is keeping a close watch on it, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu has said.

The situation, however, does not alarm the Government because "the diversity in many other aspects is actually very good", she added.

Ms Fu was commenting on the findings of an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey last month that found people from elite and non-elite schools and residents in public and private housing are not mixing.

"Are we concerned? Yes, like (for) all surveys we watch these trends carefully," said Ms Fu.

"Are we alarmed? I'll say 'no' because if you look at the survey results holistically, you will find good diversity in our social network."

She pointed out that Singaporeans are mixing through sport, arts, volunteerism and at the workplace.

The IPS survey shows that the more people play sport and take part in cultural activities or voluntary groups, the more diverse are their networks.

Ms Fu's response to the survey findings was made on Wednesday (Jan 17) at a press conference held to recount her ministry's achievements in 2017.

She identified three areas of accomplishment: nurturing a caring community, fostering a cohesive society and building a confident nation.

  • MCCY's major accomplishments in 2017

  • - 680,000 Singaporeans took part in various National Day activities
    - 14,000 members in Youth Corps Singapore, the national movement to encourage youth to volunteer
    - 6,000 youth took part in Education Ministry-Outward Bound School programmes
    - 5,000 secondary school students took part in performance arts-based learning
    - 3,200 primary school pupils attended hands-on classes in museums and art galleries
    - 700 people attended dialogues to draw up a national heritage masterplan

She cited such accomplishments as the formation of the national SG Cares movement to promote volunteerism, a $150 million boost to the Cultural Matching Fund for arts groups and a new One Team Singapore fund to support athletes.

Two gyms for people with special needs were set up and a sports festival was organised for them. "Through these efforts, we have made our facilities a lot more inclusive and accessible," she said.

To foster a cohesive society, the ministry has in place several initiatives to build understanding and trust among communities, she said, noting how socio-economic challenges are pulling communities apart in many countries. The challenges include imbalanced economies and nationalistic fervour.

"On the religious side, sometimes we often see extremist views as well," she added.

Last year, the ministry expanded the Inter-Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) network by teaming up with the Home Affairs Ministry's SG Secure movement to involve Singaporeans in the fight against terrorism.

The aim of this joint effort is to reach out to organisations that are not in the IRCC network, Ms Fu said.

One challenge confronting her ministry is Islamophobia, and among the measures it has taken is bringing Muslims and non-Muslims together through dialogues and sport.

"Regardless of your background, your religion, you come together every week to play soccer, for instance. That's a good way for us to know each other," she said.

On building a confident nation, Ms Fu noted that Singapore's successes at the SEA Games and Asean Para Games last year boosted people's sense of confidence and belonging.

She also said a national heritage masterplan being drawn up will safeguard Singapore's cultural heritage.

The various achievements are not a "one-off" affair, but "part of a long journey".

As for this year's plans, Ms Fu said they would be unveiled during the annual marathon Parliament sitting in March to debate the budgets of the various ministries.

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