Sense of community up to each and every one of us: MCCY
It takes efforts from everyone to build a cohesive community, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) in response to a study that shows a clear class divide in Singapore.
"A strong sense of community is ultimately up to each and every one of us, who have to build it one encounter, one relationship at a time," its spokesman told The New Paper yesterday. "Social capital does not just materialise. It takes work by all of us."
The study found that those who studied in elite schools are less inclined to form social relationships with those from non-elite schools. Private home dwellers are less likely to be close to those living in public housing.
In response to TNP's queries, the MCCY spokesman said one of the ministry's key efforts was fostering community and pointed out its efforts to promote social mixing.
It highlighted the deepening of community bonds through the arts, such as the PAssionArts festival and community Heritage Institutions, and sports, such as the GetActive! Singapore initiative and the ActiveSG Academies and Clubs.
Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser, who worked on the study, said that while these provide a platform for people to do things together, individuals also need to adopt a community mindset.
He said: "It is important that the mix of people see themselves as coming together as equals involved in co-participating and collaborating in activities or projects that are of common interest, and eventually be bonded to form a cohesive community."
MCCY also highlighted how Outward Bound Singapore promotes "camaraderie with peers from different schools through challenging experiences".
To encourage more interaction, the Education Ministry said all affiliated secondary schools must reserve 20 per cent of its Secondary 1 places for incoming students who are not from affiliated schools from 2019.
Prof Tan said such efforts are a necessary first step and more can be done.
"Beyond that, the schools would need to encourage social mixing, so that co-presence could lead to collaboration and integration," he said.
Another researcher, Dr Gillian Koh, said Singapore needs to find ways to resist the temptation to separate its people based on status or socio-economic class.
"The key thing is whether we allow these to get in the way of forming social ties, caring about each other in the community and at the national level - that is a choice we can make," she said.