SINGAPORE: The Government is exploring introducing a national programme where, over time, students of a certain cohort will visit Singapore’s art and heritage institutions.
Ms Fu said the programme would be similar to plans announced by the Education Ministry last year, for all Secondary 3 students to undergo an Outward Bound Singapore programme from 2020 onwards.Currently, all Primary 5 students also attend the National Day Parade preview shows as part of a wider national education programme. Ms Fu said details will be announced during the ministry’s Committee of Supply (COS) debate in March.
Ms Fu highlighted the ministry’s focus over the coming year in three areas - nurturing a caring people, fostering a strong and cohesive society, and building a confident nation.
She said having a structured programme for students to appreciate how Singapore has evolved as a nation would go towards building a more cohesive society, in which youths have a deeper understanding of their shared heritage and values. The programme could allow them to visit museums or cultural events. Sports, Ms Fu said, would be another way to bring society together.
In setting out her ministry’s broad plans, Ms Fu said she envisioned 2017 to be “a more challenging year” amid a changing political climate in the United States and Europe, a more assertive China, as well as a heightened threat of terrorist attacks in the region and the rest of the world.
“We’ve been described as a small 'sampan' in a big ocean,” she said. “In 2017, we expect that ocean to be a very turbulent one. The weather is not going to be kind. We hope that MCCY will provide the ballast that will keep people together and give Singaporeans reasons to be confident and optimistic about the future.”
A GROUND-UP HERITAGE PLAN
Singapore’s celebration of 50 years of independence in 2015 saw a surge in the support for arts and culture, with a boost in funding from the Government, individuals and corporations. This has translated into more community engagement programmes. Visits to museums and other heritage institutions also increased.
Ms Fu said this showed that Singaporeans feel strongly about conserving and being a part of documenting one’s heritage. She added that the Government has plans to draw up a comprehensive plan to take stock of the nation’s heritage assets and more details will be announced during the COS.
Ms Fu was also asked about her thoughts on preserving the soul of Little India, a discussion that has taken centre stage in the last few months, after a forum letter urged authorities to spruce up the bustling neighbourhood.
She said the “strong heritage” of the area is something people cherish but a balance should be struck between keeping it comfortable for visitors on the one hand, and retaining its authentic experience on the other.
“I think there's a balance that we can strike to keep it comfortable, to keep it hygienic, to keep it orderly not just for tourists, but also for Singaporeans and Indians who go there, because it's always good to upkeep the place but it has to be a place that's authentic and organic, otherwise it would lose its character.”
BRINGING ARTS INTO THE COMMUNITY
Ms Fu said the Government’s funding for arts groups has also grown over the years. Going forward, the Government’s priority will be to make such programmes more accessible to the public. “How do we make the artwork accessible to the man on the street, to the six-year-old kid, it’s really my priority,” she said.
“I want Singaporeans to have a part to play, to understand what we have in the National Gallery or in the museum. It’s not just a nice place to look (at) from afar. It must be something we feel a sense of endearment towards- that I have been there and had a good experience, that I have an emotional attachment to the work, the work speaks to me, and I understand the work.”
She said engaging communities is something arts groups can help the Government to develop. In return, the Government can look into how to support these groups better, for example through having a training arm that supports the arts groups’ technical demands, and building their capacity.
Ms Fu also addressed challenges facing the traditional arts scene, which has been struggling to attract audiences. She said she was encouraged by the fact that some of these groups are engaging local communities by going into schools, as well as making their art form more accessible to a younger audience - be it through assimilating digital backdrops, subtitling and even changing-up the music.
She acknowledged that there was scope to better support the journey of groups who are able to stay relevant.
She added the Government has ideas for more arts spaces, details of which it will announce at a later date.