Sunday, November 05, 2006

The role of SAP schools and Madrasahs in Singapore

Since i am still at the question of integration, one topic that has always bothered me is about SAP CHINESE schools and Madrasahs in Singapore. I went to an English speaking high school in Singapore and had absolutely no problem in interaction though i must say when i reflect I do recall having problems in primary school which was a neighbourhood school. Then when i graduated to predominantly Mandarin speaking Temasek J.C. it was a big culture shock to me as I mingled and mixed with many students from SAP schools which are actually Chinese schools. I did make friends with many though I must admit I never quite enjoyed making friends with them then. However a decade later after they went through university and national service, we still remain friends but better ones and we are able to interact and communicate better. It is the lack of exposure to the minorities in SAP schools who are almost non-existent in the SAP Chinese schools that contribute to this inability of its students to integrate with minorities when they reach junior college. Again it is the opportunities for them to meet and interact with minorities in j.c. , national service and university that makes them more capable of interaction with minorities a decade later. I am pretty sure this is the case for Madrasahs in Singapore too which sadly dont even cater to non-Malay speaking Muslims where they too will logically have difficulties integrating with other ethnicities till at a later age.

The remedy for this is not to shut down SAP chinese schools and Madrasahs or populate them with other ethnic students. Both will not resolve the problem of integration. What is required is to integrate SAP schools, Madrasahs and other schools in a such a way that they come together for academic and extra-curricula activities where they can afford to do so without compromising on the SAP and Madrasah school framework. For instance for english, mathematics and science subjects, the neighbouring SAP, madrasah and normal schools can twin to hold combined classes. SAP school students can remain within the schools for their mandarin and chinese literature classes while Madrasah students can remain within their campus for arabic, quranic classes etc. The above proposition will require some level of travelling, logistics but undeniably it is worth all the effort and trouble to provide opportunities for students to learn interaction and communication. I remember champions of current system love to generate statistics to show that SAP school students integrate well and Madrasah students may not. Its just naive to say that and more naive to expect us to believe. The question of integration is present in both systems.Without opportunties for a Singaporean student within a SAP school or madrasah or in different circumstances in a normal school to interact and communicate with other students of different ethnicities, religion, language on a daily basis, how can one convince me or anybody that that student can indeed be capable of interaction.

I gained so much through my interaction with graduates of SAP schools in my junior college and they gained so much through their interaction with me. Indeed if we both had opportunities to interact on a daily basis while during our high school days we both could have benefited from each other's experiences, backgrounds etc. This gain will be in academics and interpersonal skills and extra curricula activities and sports. As i mentioned in my earlier posts, diversity is a mercy of God and the curse of it is to divide it or uniformize it.


At 3:12 AM, Blogger saedah said...

Currently.. both the madrasahs and SAP schools are aware of the problem and making consious efforts to provide students with more opportunities for integration. Interestingly.... there are also greater partnership between madrasahs and the mainstream schools now. But there are still plenty of 'spaces' for improvement. :-)


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