The ubiquity of the internet has made the world a much smaller place. These days, people can get acquainted with values and practices other than their own by reading articles, watching videos, or listening to podcasts online. Consumers who are yearning for exotic flavors can easily satisfy their cravings by ordering authentic ethnic or international food and beverages through their phones, and their meal will arrive in minutes. In a highly cosmopolitan city-state like Singapore, it’s easy to develop an appreciation for diversity and the fact that people from different backgrounds can exercise their cultural identities while working together for the benefit of the entire community.
Embracing a cosmopolitan worldview, however, can be a drawn-out process, even in a place like Singapore where there are people from different ethnicities. People are naturally drawn to the idea of a collective identity or a sense of “we-ness” that can be attributed to characteristics that are shared or contrasted with other people. Digital technology can be a double-edged sword when used to amplify this concept; in as much as it can expose people to a variety of cultures, it can also be used to promote cultural singularity.
Singapore-based parents who want their family to adopt a cosmopolitan perspective must actively guide their children in developing a more inclusive stance toward people and cultures that are different from the ones they’re familiar with. Here are steps to do just that:
Enroll Your Child in an International School in Singapore
Schools are more than just academic institutions; they also provide students and families with a community. Finding a spot in some of the best international schools in Singapore ensures that your family will be able to interact with a diverse community. Your child will learn with students who come from different backgrounds and understand the values they share with their classmates despite the apparent differences. Your family will have every opportunity to share your culture as well and develop an appreciation for that of others.
For example, Stamford American International School, which has recently bagged the silver award as the International School of the Year in the Singapore Education Awards 2021, puts diversity at the forefront. The school’s faculty and student body have representatives from 75 nationalities. As such, if you choose this international school, you will make it easy for your child to look beyond stereotypes. Because they’ll be spending a good chunk of their time getting to know their classmates as real-life individuals and not just online caricatures, your kids will be less likely to make or adopt unfounded assumptions about unfamiliar cultures and practices.
Understand Your Own Biases and Adopt a Multiculturalist Perspective As Well
In itself, cosmopolitanism is a highly contested term. Consensus has yet to be reached about the exact meaning of the word, but cosmopolitanism is a concept that is rooted in the thought that humans have inherent worthiness regardless of their location and that all of humanity is part of a single community. In a way, this definition puts cosmopolitanism at odds with the concept of the nation-state, which insists on a population’s homogeneity in language, religion, and ethnicity. Singapore is built through the hard work of early immigrants, and its current population is made up of different ethnicities. As such, a multicultural approach to education is central to ensuring the country’s social cohesion and continued progress.
How can you reinforce this multicultural approach to education in your own home? First, you need to become more cognizant of your own cultural lens and biases and be open to the idea that you have much to learn about multiculturalism yourself. This will help you become more conscious of the attitudes and approaches that you are modeling to your child during your interactions with others. Reflecting on these encounters will help you point out concrete issues and present practical and inclusive solutions to your child should they come face to face with similar situations in the future.
Develop Your Child’s Sense of Community and Empathy
There are plenty of issues that people collectively experience regardless of their ethnicity or even location, and becoming more aware of these shared challenges can help your family build a sense of community with people from different backgrounds. Instead of zeroing in on your differences, you and your child can focus on your collective goals and see your community’s ethnically and culturally diverse background as a valuable resource in tackling common challenges. Rather than adopting a “me-versus-you” approach toward online bullying, the effects of climate change, or the spread of illnesses, for example, you can direct your child to think about collective and community efforts to address and resolve these issues.
To prepare your child to succeed in and contribute to a highly diverse community, there are times when you need to step out of your comfort zone and confront uncomfortable ideas yourself. Remember, though, that it takes a village to raise a child with an inclusive worldview. Part of raising a child with a cosmopolitan perspective is ensuring that your family is actively working with a diverse and accepting community, and that community, in turn, will play a crucial role in widening your child’s perspective and helping them become a global citizen.