Sunday, 6 September 2015

With 40% non-citizen population, we still don’t know the outside world.

First published

We have a very high non-citizen population, maybe the highest in the world. And yet, we only know the world inside Singapore and not outside Singapore.

4 in 10 persons in the streets of Singapore are not citizens. We see foreigners, we encounter them, we meet them every few seconds and yet we don’t know them.  Foreigners work beside us; live next doors; go to the same wet markets, super markets, hawkers’ centers, take the same bus or train; and even attend the same schools, concerts, libraries, and museums.      

Why do we know nothing about the outside world? A skewed non-citizen population may explain this strange outcome. But this non-citizen population is big.  We are talking about millions of people. This big non-citizen population is big enough to have foreigners coming from all major countries, from all continents, and from different language and religion backgrounds.

These are rich resources to know about the outside world - a world outside Singapore. A world that PM Lee wanted Singaporeans to know.  

Speaking at an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), he wanted Singaporeans to pay attention to the outside world through traditional media.   

”I fear that Singaporeans are not paying enough attention to what’s happening outside of Singapore, as more people are getting their news not from reading newspapers or watching the television news…but from one another or through the social media.” #1

Interaction with foreigners in Singapore is one channel. Getting information from social media is another channel on top of the mainstream media.  Visiting and studying abroad can also broaden our understanding outside Singapore. Our schools are aggressively promoting overseas enrichment programs and joint education programs.  Are these still not enough?

The foreign students population in our universities is more than 20%. We even have Yale-NUS college and MIT-led Singapore University of Technology and Design.  While all these still cannot  match PM Lee’s expectation.

Lee believes that it is important to have a more global view because, it “sets own issues in perspective”.#1

What types of global views do we want Singaporeans to know, to learn and to understand? Arab Spring, Occupy Central, Orange Revolution; or World Economic Forum, G20 Meeting, APEC Meeting; or Social Good Summit, Human Rights Conference.  

PM Lee gives his ‘political right’ guideline - get your news from official  newspapers and television#1.  It was not surprised that he considered the documentary film “To Singapore, With Love” was not objectively enough.  He is trying to convince Singaporeans to read the objective news from the mainstream media.  And through these ‘political right’ channels, Singaporeans will get the objective and balanced global news and developments outside Singapore.   

With this ‘political right’ suggestion, he can only comment the Occupy Central as ‘a very careful watching’ from Beijing.
I’m quite sure there’s a large team on the Chinese side in Beijing watching this very carefully … very, very carefully.” #2

It is not sure whether there is also a large team in Singapore watching very carefully the movements of Singaporeans.  What do they read? What are their interest? What do they say in social media? And of course, what global news do they read?  

Accordingly to PM Lee, Singaporeans are not reading enough global news and fail to pay enough attention to the development outside Singapore.  If this is true, can it be related to the past 50 years of the ‘political right’ education? We don’t even know our history objectively.  We don’t even bother to take advantage of the foreigners living in Singapore to broaden our knowledge in global news.    

Only when we have a good understanding of Singapore history as well as the objective global news, we then can move forward as an individual and as a team. Carefully watching the ‘political right’ is not a solution for Singapore.

However, an objective global news and a clear picture of past history will speed up the change in Singapore.  This is why we are also very sure that the PAP government also has a large team overseeing the reading habits of Singaporeans like the large team in Beijing team watching over Occupy Central.



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