The “New” Multiculturalism: National and Educational Perspectives, pp. 8 of 11

[O]ne of the virtues of Singapore’s government has been its ability to think technocratically. Policymakers have been able to “do things that are right, not popular.” However, the political context in Singapore is changing. In the current political climate, people in Singapore will increasingly question the government’s decisions. As such, the government needs to build institutions that allow for resilient and adaptable governance.

In this, the preparation of future global citizens for a hyper-globalised world demands a full deconstruction of the complexities of diversity that includes not just mutual respect and common dignity but also the pursuit of social justice through global citizenship: an aspiration not just for a small nation state but for any sovereign state, ethnic community or single individual. Correspondingly, the interconnectedness of the global community and the expanding multicultural narratives of differences and its numerous impacts need to be incorporated for an enhanced critical understanding of terminology, practices with associated dangers in duplicating the “dominant” and “subordinate” power status. Global education needs to address diverse global realities which are sometimes structurally embedded as a result of the legacies of geography, history, politics, economics and even an unofficial and invisible privileging. The urgency is to go beyond the obnoxious answers of cultural deficiencies or the inevitability of Social Darwinism. Crucially, there is a need to go beyond a “curriculum of pity” (Bigelow & Peterson, 2002, p. 5) or the self-assuredness of “safe volunteerism.” The acknowledgement of the uneven impact of the globalisation movement, cognisant of the global justice movement and of global citizenship could, and should, be part of diversity education where “everything is connected’ (Bigelow & Peterson, 2002, p. 3). Such a challenge is not for Singapore alone, but is of eternal relevance to the global community.

For Singapore, with its unique multicultural policies and noteworthy economic growth, this successful strategy is borne not just by the continual balancing of the various domestic and global forms of identity and the demands of economic and political imperatives but also by the act of managing “difference” with a sense of goodwill. While the motivating title of the national anthem, Majulah Singapura (Onward Singapore) continues to be a much-loved rallying cry, diversity education in Singapore has without doubt evolved progressively within the strictures of political, economic and social demands of national policies and objectives.

Undeniably, the challenges of a diverse world with conflicting issues of respect, affirmation, recognition, inclusion and justice will continue to be of global concern. For Singapore, the challenge is to develop a coherent, integrated and resilient response to a new “politics of difference” (Taylor, 1994) and dignity on multiple fronts. This paper reiterates that whilst pursuing a “new multiculturalism” that goes beyond difference marked by race, the deconstruction of the complexities of diversity should continue to incorporate concepts of social justice through global citizenship especially in this current brave new world: a pursuit underlined by a form of Singapore’s resilience and hopefully executed [with] dengan semangat yang baru.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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