When I attended a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school for my primary school education, I had limited exposure to those from different races.
My primary school was filled with Chinese pupils, and we also sang a Chinese school song every Friday.
Retrospectively, this strong exposure to Chinese from a young age increased my interest in the subject, and instilled in me strong Confucian values.
While aware of the merits of SAP schools, I wonder if there are unintended consequences of an environment where students are exposed primarily to their own race in schools – which are meant to be a microcosm of society.
When I went to a non-SAP secondary school, I was initially hesitant to talk to classmates whom I saw as “different” from me.
I was unfamiliar with the language they spoke, the accent they had and the food they ate.
It was only after a year that I started feeling more used to having classmates of different races, and being close friends with them.
It was also then that I saw many different customs being practised.
It was an eye-opening experience, and I learnt that despite our racial and cultural differences, we shared more similarities like our love for sports and long canteen breaks.
As the limitations of SAP schools were brought under the spotlight, various solutions have been suggested.
While I understand why some propose abolishing SAP schools, I find the solution rather extreme, and think it will create more problems than solutions.
Rather, I propose that SAP schools initiate programmes to expose their students to other races regularly, as well as equip their students with strong cultural knowledge.
Just as we have the Ethnic Integration Policy to encourage intermingling between different races to promote understanding, I hope SAP schools will continue to nurture bright minds, while also nurturing students who can embrace and understand people of different races.
Lee Young Kai, 19
Full-time national serviceman