A recent survey by Singapore's Institute of policy Studies (IPS) has shown that there is very less social diversity in the city-state. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Grace Fu has said that this is a matter of concern, but not alarm for Singaporeans.
The study found that elite school students do not like to form social relationships with those they consider below their standard, that is people belonging to non-elite schools. Similarly, private home dwellers do not like to associate with people living in public housing.
Fu noted that the survey also shows good diversity in social networks, hence the results have to be considered holistically. She also said that these surveys are for MCCY to comprehend the results and merely "tells us something about the diversity of social networks of Singaporeans."
According to Fu, MCCY will offer opportunities to people belonging to different backgrounds to mix with one another. This can happen most efficiently through sports, arts and volunteerism. One such initiative is the Outward Bound School (OBS) programme which brings students from different schools together so that they can know each other.
"Regardless of which school you go to, we're hoping that as you go through your education, you have exposure to our galleries, museums, performing halls and groups," she said. "And if that opportunity is not available at home, the schools, MCCY and the institutions will be there to provide these opportunities."
Fu says that divides on basis of race and religion have always been dealt with gravely in Singapore. Other factors such as income inequality and local-foreign differences are also important enough to be paid attention to.
"You need to first know and understand each other before you can engage in deeper conversations," she said. "So we have to do that in cross-segments of society." MCCY is making this easier by encouraging interaction through sports and other socio-cultural activities.
Fu is positive that this little beginning will pave the way for people from different backgrounds to know each other and form leaders who are capable of having deep discussions about theology and "the position that each religious organisation takes on issues."