MOE to train teachers in discussing race, language, religion issues: Ong Ye Kung

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·2-min read
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung participating in a discussion with Tampines Secondary School students in commemorating Racial Harmony Day. (PHOTO: Ong Ye Kung/Facebook)
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung participating in a discussion with Tampines Secondary School students in commemorating Racial Harmony Day. (PHOTO: Ong Ye Kung/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) will train a team of specialist teachers to facilitate and guide discussions on race, language and religion, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

In a post put up on his Facebook page on Thursday (16 July), Ong said that an important part of the journey to racial harmony is learning how to have such conversations “openly, knowledgeably and respectfully”.

“Perspectives of race, language and religion change with each generation. When I was young, my friends and I would probably feel awkward talking about such sensitive topics. Racial harmony meant a friendly silence,” he wrote in his Facebook post.

“Now, young people want to talk about race, debate it, understand it. In schools, we do this through CCE (Character and Citizenship Education). MOE will train a team of specialist teachers to facilitate and guide such discussions.”

Context key in discussions on race, religion

On Thursday, Ong joined Tampines Secondary School students in an early commemoration of Racial Harmony Day, which will fall during school term break on 21 July.

Speaking to media after his visit, he said that context is important in discussing race and religion. For example, race and religion issues in Singapore would be different from those in the United States, and Ong feels that it is important to differentiate the issues.

"The starting point has got to be our own conversations and dialogues,” he told reporters.

“You are bound to discover that students are reading things on the Internet, getting ideas that are more ‘Americanised’, for example, and when you bring it up, then you can have a contestation of ideas respectfully, and then that’s how students get to internalise them.

“Just telling students, sending them reading material is not going to help. You need that engagement.”

During the Parliamentary debate on the ministries' budgets earlier in March this year, it was announced that schools would engage secondary school students fortnightly on contemporary issues such as bullying, using social media, and race and religion.

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