Foreign workers know their rights; Singaporean students don’t

So there was that NIE survey that showed that most Singaporean students didn’t know about their rights nor about citizenship nor how this country is run. Never mind that the survey’s methodology wasn’t particularly solid or that the way they presented their results was odd – almost anyone can tell you that Singaporeans below the age of 18 are generally not clued in to civic issues. Our childhoods (mine, at the very least) did not include such “unimportant” issues – can you feed yourself with democracy? Will rights give you straight ‘A’s and a scholarship?

On the other hand, Law minister K Shanmugam’s visit to a FW dorm this evening in the wake of the Little India Riots was part of a well-run PR campaign to convince watchers that our FWs were not rioting against the G (not specifically anyway). Somewhere in the mix was the assertion that “foreign workers knew their rights” and knew how to seek official redress for their grievances.

Of course, not having any itemised payslips for now doesn’t help some of the process much, but hey, at least they know. (Or perhaps if you’re cynical, at least they know how deep the s*** is that they’re in.)

How do we build a nation if our children are not given an indication that citizenship is an important issue for the common man? How can our democracy be effective if so many don’t have a clue about how it works? Where will justice and the defence of the downtrodden spring from if ignorance of our common rights has become the rule?

We may have been raised and trained to be good at exams like PISA or at being a factor of production, but surely life is more than just that.


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