Multicultural Singapore is no stranger to diversity. Since the beginning of the country’s post-independence history, Singapore’s mainstream school system has sought to accommodate the needs of the country’s ethnic Chinese, Malay, and Indian populations. This has proven to be a remarkable undertaking given that most of the world’s school systems practice systemic forms of cultural chauvinism that elevate one group over others.
However, there is a growing realisation that Singapore’s publicly funded schools, while already diverse by world standards, may not be keeping up with the growing cultural heterogeneity that has resulted from the country’s leading role in globalisation. Thus, there has been an increased demand for educational options that offer even more diverse learning environments.
Compellingly, there is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of a diverse educational background, particularly in early childhood. In particular, a meta-analysis of educational diversity studies by The Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank, associates student exposure to a variety of different perspectives with better learning outcomes. Here are some of the many benefits of diverse learning backgrounds according to current scientific understanding.
Diverse Learning Environments Help Build Confidence
Putting students from an outsider culture in a homogenous learning environment may impair their self-esteem and consequently degrade their ability to overcome various challenges. School systems that encourage diversity can help students from various backgrounds maintain and cultivate their self-confidence, ultimately allowing them to pursue their development on their own terms.
Students in Diverse Communities Feel More Understood
The feeling of being understood is important for a young person’s sense of identity, mental health, and ability to become a fully formed individual. This is especially important for young children of expatriate families, as many will struggle to fit in the kind of environment present in local school systems meant to accommodate native cultural diversity.
Fortunately, Singapore is now home to a variety of international schools that offer a wider multicultural experience that’s appropriate for children in the expatriate community. Expat parents can easily now find choices for an American school in Singapore as well as schools catering to other nationalities.
A Multicultural Environment May Stoke Lifelong Curiosity
The underlying sameness of a homogenous school community can often lead children to make assumptions that their experiences are universal. This may, unfortunately, make them less curious about their surroundings than they would be, otherwise.
On the other hand, children in a diverse school community will often develop a curiosity about cultures different from their own. Once developed, their curiosity will often manifest in other parts of life, providing a firm foundation for their intellectual development and academic success.
An Education Steeped in Diversity Teaches Inclusion
Students who have contact with peers and educators from backgrounds different from their own may develop a positive attitude toward inclusion. A positive perception of inclusion is highly beneficial as it helps mould children to be accepting, respectful, and empathetic individuals. This can help them profoundly later in life as they interact with people from different social and cultural backgrounds.
Diversity Helps Young Children Learn How to Socialise Appropriately
Individuals who have a homogenous cultural upbringing often struggle when they’re placed in different social and cultural contexts. Education in a safe multicultural environment can do much to mitigate these kinds of challenges. Children who frequently interact with peers from different cultures are often better at understanding different social norms, making them more capable of navigating a wider set of social situations. Thus, children who have inclusion as one of their values may be better equipped to thrive in an increasingly globalised environment.
Children Feel Safer in a Diverse School Community
Children from outsider cultures often feel less safe expressing themselves in a homogenous learning environment, as their differences can be misjudged and make them targets of bullying. In contrast, a diverse learning environment may allow students to be true to their own cultures without fear of negative consequences, making it easier for them to develop a positive attitude toward learning.
Diversity Sparks Creativity
Being part of a diverse community exposes children to different ideas and more ways of doing things. The increase in the number of potential inputs makes it easier for children to draw unexpected connections when they generate their own ideas. Additionally, diversity allows for more cross-pollination of different ideas, potentially creating a richer pool of ideas and further stoking more creativity in the school community.
Multicultural Education Helps Prepare Students for the Real World
It’s often said that school environments do not resemble the real world, and this is much truer for homogenous learning environments. Without frequent exposure to people from diverse backgrounds, students can develop a skewed view of the world around them, which may make it more challenging for them to thrive outside of their school.
A more diverse learning environment, on the other hand, can help students acclimatise to divergent value systems and thought processes, making it easier for them to understand experiences outside of school. This makes it easier for them to build positive lasting connections with others from different social and cultural backgrounds.
There Is Strength in Diversity
Diverse school communities bring together children and other individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, creating a rich and engaging backdrop with which to frame educational experiences. Having your child enter a school with a culturally and socially diverse community is likely to not only help them academically, but also assist in their holistic growth, moulding them into tolerant and outstanding individuals even when outside the school system.