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Conversations on Singapore Spirit

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SUMMARY

COVID-19 has seriously impacted peoples and countries all over the world. How nations respond determine their ability to emerge from the crisis. What is the Singapore Spirit, and how has it changed since COVID-19 hit? NYC organised a series of four conversations in the lead up to National Day, to hear what youths think is the Singapore Spirit, and what are the shared values that can help the country emerge stronger from the pandemic.


WHAT WE HEARD

Conversations on Singapore Spirit (Session 1 – 8 June 2021)

The first in a series of four conversations on the Singapore Spirit was held on 8 June 2021 via Zoom, involving 50 students from various Madrasahs and the following panellists:

  • Mr Alvin Tan – Minister of State (MOS) of Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • Ms Shahira Abdullah – NYC Council Member and Nominated Member of Parliament
  • Mr Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau’ddin – Singapore Youth Award (SYA) recipient and three-time Silat World Champion
  • Ms Nurul Syafiqa a.k.a. SYA – SGAG Influencer

Here are the key insights of the conversation raised by the students:

Racial harmony is a key attribute of the Singapore Spirit

    • Embracing racial and religious diversity – Participants said that multiculturalism was one of the key distinguishing qualities of the Singapore Spirit. They observed that Singaporeans did not discriminate against other races or religions and were keen to know more about cultures outside their own, including different cultures’ food and festivities.
    • Combating incidents of racism – Participants acknowledged instances of racism and xenophobia in society and called for Singaporeans to remain united against such threats to our racial harmony. Minister of State (MOS) Alvin Tan recognised that the struggle against racism was long-standing and further amplified by social media. He emphasised the need to take action against racism and highlight stories of racial and religious harmony within Singapore. SGAG influencer Nur Syafiqah concurred and said that instances of racism should be called out, and addressed to maintain racial harmony in Singapore.

Emerging stronger as a nation

Resilience, care, inclusivity and being future-ready are crucial for Singapore to emerge stronger from the pandemic.

    • Caring for everyone in society – Participants said we should uplift and assist all segments of society through the pandemic, and ensure that our vulnerable groups are not left behind. Participants cited examples of citizens donating technical devices to help lower-income students with Home-Based Learning (HBL), and helping buy food from elder hawkers who are less tech-savvy with food delivery platforms. The central role of care and inclusivity in the Singapore Spirit was echoed by MOS Alvin. NYC Council Member and Nominated Member of Parliament Shahira Abdullah said that youths have the ability to create change, and she encouraged participants to seek available resources and funding to take action to care for the community and society.
    • Being resilient to overcome change – Participants said that in spite of the discouragement Singaporeans might feel due to the pandemic, it was important for the Government and citizens to continue working in tandem so that the nation could progress toward a new normal together.
    • Preparing for the future – Participants recognised that technological advancement would enable us to be future-ready. Ms. Shahira emphasised that being future-ready also included the exploration and discovery of oneself in addition to being able to tap on resource networks.

Competitiveness may not necessarily be a negative trait of Singaporeans

    • Participants questioned whether competitiveness is a good trait to have as part of the Singapore Spirit. Three-time silat world champion Mr Farhan shared that a healthy dose of competitiveness was beneficial to motivate and better oneself, but also cautioned the detriments of being overly competitive.

 

DETAILED NOTES FOR 8 JUN 2021

 


Conversations on Singapore Spirit (Session 2 – 15 June 2021)

The second session of the conversation series was held on 15 June 2021 via Zoom, involving 100 students from various Polytechnics and the following panellists: 

  • MOS Alvin Tan
  • Ms Yip Pin Xiu – NYC Council Member and Team Singapore Athlete
  • Mr Aiken Chia – Actor, Content Creator of Night Owl Cinematics
  • Ms Veronica Shanti Pereira – Team Singapore Athlete

Here are the key insights of the conversation raised by the students:

Racial harmony should never be taken for granted 

  • Participants said that multiculturalism was the foundation of our national identity and were concerned about the recent spate of racist incidents. While participants noted that pandemic-induced stressors might have caused these incidents, they were aware of the resultant negative impacts to Singapore’s social fabric. They called for Singaporeans to condemn racist incidents and work to undo biases that contribute to such behaviour.
  • Participants affirmed that inclusivity exists in Singapore and many shared their experiences of intercultural interactions such as sharing food and playing sports at the void deck with neighbours from different cultures. They further underlined the need to understand different races and maintain racial harmony. Ms Pereira shared that although Singaporeans have improved and become more inclusive, it is still a continual process that we need to work on as a nation. 

Uniting as a nation during the pandemic 

  • Including people of all stripes Participants said that it was important to be inclusive towards all members of society. While they acknowledged the efforts made to increase inclusivity (e.g. via support schemes or accessibility features on public transport etc), they noted that there was still room to improve.
  • Safeguarding our mental health – Participants acknowledged the isolating effects of the pandemic and the resultant toll on mental well-being. They said there was a possible link between deteriorating mental health and increased societal strife.

    Ms Yip emphasised the importance of mental health awareness and support to encourage people to seek help when needed. MOS Tan echoed this, and called for participants to stay connected through other means given physical distancing measures.
  • Maintaining racial harmony through sharing food, arts and culture – Participants said that people from different backgrounds should learn about each other’s cultures, and asked what more could be done to maintain racial harmony.

    Mr Chia shared his experience trying paru (beef lung) after being encouraged by a nasi padang aunty, and said he learnt a lot about different traditions and cultures in the process. MOS Tan agreed that food was a powerful unifier, along with sports, arts and culture.

Singaporeans have shown care for others amidst the crisis 

  • Participants said that while the pandemic revealed negative behaviours such as hoarding or intolerance, there had also been an outpour of care and generosity, and cited various initiatives to encourage healthcare workers and support migrant workers. They also observed that these acts of quiet kindness were often small and unnoticed as compared to the virality of sensational negative incidents online. 

 

Detailed NOTES FOR 15 JUN 2021

 


Conversations on Singapore Spirit (Session 3 – 16 June 2021)

The third session of the conversation series was held on 16 June 2021 via Zoom, involving 100 students from all the 3 ITEs and the following panellists:

  • Mr Eric Chua – Parliamentary Secretary (Parl Sec) of Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development
  • Mr David Hoe – NYC Council Member & Director of I am Talented
  • Ms Sylvia Chan – CEO of Night Owl Cinematics
  • Mr U.K. Shyam – Singapore 100m Record Holder

Here are the key insights of the conversation raised by the students:

There are multiple pathways to success 

  • What “a good life” means to youth – Participants said that their vision of a good life involved stability and being able to support a family without worrying about finances. They also envisioned a Singapore that is both accepting and safe for all. Parl Sec Chua encouraged participants to have hope and work together to turn dreams into reality.
  • Overcoming stigma Participants said that negative perceptions of ITE students were prevalent, and shared personal experiences of discrimination they faced.
    • Mr Hoe shared his experience coming from the Normal Technical stream and defying societal expectations to achieve his dream of being an educator. Ms Chan and Mr Shyam encouraged participants to recognise their self worth in spite of labels, and to be proud of their identities.
  • Broadening the definition of success – Parl Sec Chua acknowledged that despite improvements to the ITE system over the years, students still faced stigma. He said that this revealed the need for a societal mindset shift on the definition of success. 

Seize opportunities that come along 

  • Opportunities to succeed – Mr Shyam said he was proud to be Singaporean because despite his humble background, Singapore’s meritocratic education system provided him with opportunities to build a life he is content with. 
    • Ms Chan said that she recently received her Singapore citizenship, and agreed that Singapore provided the chance for people from all walks of life to achieve their dreams. Participants also affirmed the need for inclusivity in the Singapore Spirit, which involves providing equal opportunities for all.  
  • Pursuing personal growth – Participants asked panellists for advice on personal development. Mr Hoe said that it was important for participants to find their purpose and have the courage to pursue it. Parl Sec Chua said that mentoring was a leveller in society, and encouraged participants to find mentors they could seek advice from.  

Resilience and future-readiness are needed for Singapore to emerge stronger from the pandemic

  • Preparing for the future as a nation – Participants said that resilience and future-readiness were the top qualities needed for Singapore to progress, and anticipated that change was inevitable. They suggested that youth could keep abreast of technological advancements to ensure that they did not fall behind in the future.

 

DETAILED NOTES FOR 16 JUN 2021

 


Conversations on Singapore Spirit (Session 4 – 3 July 2021)

The final session of NYC’s Conversations on Singapore Spirit was held on 3 July via Zoom. In this session, youth share ideas, shared values, and actionable on how to keep Singapore strong as it emerges from the pandemic.

The panellists for this session are:

  • Mr Edwin Tong – Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law
  • Mr Brian Liu – NYC Council Member & Senior Vice President, People, Lazada
  • Mr Fauzi Aziz – Host & Personality, from The Smart Local
  • Ms Annette Lee – Influencer and Content Creator

 

Here are the key insights of the conversation raised by participants: 

Embracing diversity and differences in a multicultural society

  • Multiculturalism is a defining trait of the Singapore Spirit – Participants said that multiculturalism was a key trait of the Singapore Spirit. They shared their lived experiences of mutual respect and racial harmony in Singapore, and their interactions with different cultures. Mr Fauzi said that Singaporeans displayed gotong royong (mutual assistance), as shown in recent incidents of people coming together to help each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Moving towards greater empathy and inclusiveness – Participants disapproved of the recent spate of racist incidents and emphasised the need for greater acceptance of differences. Minister Edwin agreed with participants’ call for society to be more inclusive. He encouraged Singaporeans to move beyond tolerance, to embrace diversity. 

More conversations are needed to build mutual understanding

  • Fostering intercultural engagement – Participants called for more conversations on social issues and education to build intercultural skills among youth. They said that increased opportunities to engage with other cultures would instil awareness and appreciation for different cultures in Singapore.
  • Connecting through respectful conversations – Panelists agreed that building nationwide empathy and acceptance begins with individual conversations. Ms Lee said that everyone has a unique perspective, and mindsets can be broadened by having meaningful interactions with those around us. Mr Liu agreed that rather than reacting in anger, youths should have the courage to call out problematic behaviour in a respectful manner. 

Strengthening the Singapore Spirit together, from the ground up

  • Supporting mental well-being – Panelists said the pandemic had resulted in social isolation and worsened people’s mental well-being. They called for the stigma surrounding mental health treatment to be removed. Participants discussed how experts, parents, teachers and peers could be better equipped through training to ensure holistic mental health support.
  • Co-creating policies – Participants asked for more opportunities to co-create policies, and greater citizen involvement in the shaping of Singapore’s future. Minister Edwin acknowledged that the Government could do better in communicating the intention behind various policies, such as the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) that aimed to achieve interracial interaction and harmony. He affirmed participants’ aspiration of becoming a post-race society and acknowledged that it was a long-term goal for everyone to work towards.

Large group sharing infographic:

 

Panel discussion and closing infographic: 

 

DETAILED NOTES FOR 3 JUL 2021


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