Inclusivity is top concern among youth here: Report

The youth of today want society to look beyond identity categories like race and social class, and they value the opportunity to be exposed to varying perspectives.
The youth of today want society to look beyond identity categories like race and social class, and they value the opportunity to be exposed to varying perspectives. PHOTO: ST FILE

Initial findings from engagement exercise also show they value exposure to different views

Inclusivity has emerged as the top issue that young Singaporeans are concerned about, according to an ongoing conversation to engage them on national issues led by the National Youth Council (NYC).

The youth of today want society to look beyond identity categories like race and social class, and they value the opportunity to be exposed to varying perspectives, including those that may be uncomfortable for them, said an interim report on the conversation.

They also want the definition of success to be broadened, so as to cater to people with different aspirations and ambitions.

These were the preliminary findings that emerged in the first phase of the Youth Conversations engagement exercise, based on more than 1,400 online survey responses from participants aged between 15 and 35, collected in April and May.

Launched by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Youth Conversations dialogue series aims to inform the young about important national issues, and help them work out differences in opinion by listening to one another, negotiating and finding solutions together, and with the Government.

The finding on inclusivity comes amid a concerted push by the fourth-generation political leadership to address growing concerns about inequality and to create multiple pathways to success.

TAKING IN DIVERSE VIEWS

We didn't want to enter an echo chamber, and wanted people to know that there is a range of diverse positions on a topic. Discussions can then help to forge a more cohesive social compact.

NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL CHIEF EXECUTIVE DAVID CHUA, whose agency is spearheading the dialogues.

The issue was a key theme in the President's Address in May to open the second half of the parliamentary term.

Among the policy measures the Government has said it will take to tackle the issue are: raising the quality of pre-schools, ensuring school admissions remain open to students from a diverse range of backgrounds, and targeting help at lower-income families.

The Youth Conversations survey uncovered other widely held concerns, such as the environment and sustainability, Singapore's future leadership, job opportunities, the cost of living, mental health, marriage and parenthood.

Since the conclusion of the online survey, 10 face-to-face dialogues involving about 50 youth participants each have been held, to discuss the top themes that emerged during the survey.

Inclusivity, the top concern in the survey phase, was also the topic that garnered the most sign-ups in the face-to-face sessions, with more than 300 registering for dialogues planned between last month and the next.

Taking in both online views and those shared on the ground ensures that the discussions are reflective of a broader spectrum of society, said NYC chief executive David Chua, whose agency is spearheading the dialogues.

"We didn't want to enter an echo chamber, and wanted people to know that there is a range of diverse positions on a topic. Discussions can then help to forge a more cohesive social compact," he told reporters yesterday.

A fuller report on the outcomes of these conversations will be released in a year's time. The conversations will continue to run for two to three years.

Teacher Daphne Li, 32, who attended a conversation on how Singapore can move towards becoming a zero-waste society, said it was helpful to have representatives from the Government and the private sector engaging participants during the session she attended.

"(But) talk is cheap, and it'll be good to know if any concrete action will come out of the dialogue based on suggestions that were offered," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Inclusivity is top concern among youth here: Report'. Print Edition | Subscribe