A day known by many of us in Singapore where culture and religion are shared between one another, Racial Harmony Day has been the day where Singapore celebrates its success as a racially harmonious and secular nation, where the different races consisting of Chinese, Malay, Indian as well as Eurasians that are citizens of our country!
How did Racial Harmony Day begin here?
A rather spectacular event whenever it starts, it will always begin with words from the leaders of our nation, President Madam Halimah Yacoob and Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Long.
Our current President has stated in a Facebook post:
“We want our children to be aware that we live in a diverse society and that our difference is a strength and a cause to celebrate. By exposing them to such values at a young age, we hope to build a strong foundation for their empathy and understanding of the different races in our society throughout their lives.”
While the Prime Minister of our racially diverse nation has noted that this day every year, it is to commemorate the fact we have coexisted peacefully, yet “not to proclaim that Singapore has ‘solved’ this problem, but to remind ourselves this is something we need to continue working hard on.”
How do we celebrate this day?
As a Director of Ilham Childcare, I personally feel I am at the frontline of this cause. Being surrounded by children in my everyday life, I have to shape their outlook to the different cultures surrounding them.
By introducing the children to other languages early within their lives, a more positive outlook to the cultures associated with those languages could be fostered, where they can start to understand one another more clearly and without any misunderstanding. This is an experience they might have missed in a setting where they are not exposed to the different cultures in Singapore.
It is worth noting that researchers have shown that the learning of a second language tends to boost problem-solving, critical thinking, and the listening skills of our children. This also includes the improvement of their memory, concentration, and ability to multitask. I have also noticed that the children who are proficient in other languages tend to show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility not usually present to those with limited language capabilities.
From this, you can understand how important it is for Racial Harmony Day to be celebrated, and how beneficial it would be for our children to continue to celebrate and endorse this. We understand that certain languages will come in handy for our future, whether in business or otherwise. Instead of the usual language of English and Malay that is common here, we also provide Mandarin and Arabic language classes as compulsory programmes for the children, which in turn makes us the only child care to initiate and maintain such a program thus far.
What further steps do we take to promote Racial Harmony Day?
Furthermore, our holistic approach in curriculum revolves around themes that help in promoting not only their language skills, but their cognitive, motor, and social-emotional skills. The students and teachers were encouraged to dress up in a different ethnic costume, to further bridge an understanding between one culture and another. Some students even shared what they were wearing by having a fashion parade as well as show and tell, where they can further progress into the understanding of the different cultures. The teachers were even enjoying themselves by taking a photo or two with the students! It fosters even more unity between not only the different cultures we have but be more accepting of the different looks of other cultures.
For tea break, we have decided that instead of the normal food that we tend to have, we instead have brought in food from different cultures. From red bean pau and kuaci known to be enjoyed by our Chinese friends, to our Malay delicacies of epok-epok and kurma, from the traditional Indian food of muruku and chapati and finally, the desserts thoroughly enjoyed by our Eurasian population of Sujee Cakes, sometimes known as Butter cake.
After the children have enjoyed this, a session for fun and games can begin to further promote their understanding. The teachers begin sharing a few games that they have played together to socialise back in the days where technology has not prospered yet, games like batu seremban, congkak and chapteh. This would enable the children to grow closer with the activities that were happening as it has been with the old days. For those who are unable to get involved in this due to their age, they instead got into some racial harmony crafts, where they would be able to showcase their unique understanding of different cultures.
This showcases the success we have as we continue to grow in our diverse nation, ensuring our children foster good relations with one another, especially with those of different cultures. It ensures the reason why we celebrate this day will continue ongoing for the rest of their lives, and continue understanding one another in the coming future.
How can you help in promoting Racial Harmony Day?
By consistently reminding the children that every culture and religion are different and they should be respected, it would ensure the continued growth of their understanding as they grow older in life. Being different doesn’t mean we are separate from one another, but being able to unite under the differences will make what our Prime Minister and President aim to achieve, a united nation with a diverse culture!