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SAP schools must expose students to peers of different backgrounds

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It is crucial that schools remain open communities that give students chances to interact with peers from different backgrounds and races and grow up in a multicultural Singapore, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

In the light of this, Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools need to make extra efforts to expose their students to those from other backgrounds, he stressed.

Mr Ong was speaking at the premiere of a documentary-drama at the Capitol Theatre. It pays tribute to former educators from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, an SAP school.

SAP schools place an emphasis on Chinese language and culture and generally have fewer non-Chinese students.

Set in the 1950s, From Victoria Street To Ang Mo Kio was directed and produced by former student Eva Tang.

It revolves around two students and their relationship with their principal and teachers. It has interviews with past and current students and staff.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of SAP schools.

These schools were established in 1979 to preserve the traditional Chinese school environment.

Mr Ong said exposure to those of other backgrounds must "go beyond the occasional or one-off events, such as celebrating Racial Harmony Day".

"We will need to find platforms for deep, regular and meaningful engagements..."

He acknowledged the SAP schools are still relevant today.

"We have to remember the historical context of setting up SAP schools - which is to uphold the traditional Chinese school cultural environment... If we had not had SAP schools, we would have lost an important part of our culture."

SAP schools are part of a "larger eco-system", and with government schools, clan-based and church-based government-aided schools and madrasahs, they make up a diverse education landscape.

SAP schools are an example of a range of efforts to promote mother tongues, said Mr Ong.

"We want our students to be multilingual and multicultural, ready to embrace a future where we must be anchored to our roots and confident to face the world."