After two years in which it seemed Singapore was becoming a less gracious country, one social barometer suggests it is back on its best behaviour.
Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), which has been releasing the annual Graciousness Index since 2008, revealed yesterday that the country scored 61 out of 100 this year, matching the highs it hit in 2010 and 2012. It is a big jump from last year's score of 55 and the record low of 53 in 2013.
The index measures "behaviour consistent with social standards and expectations based on the time, place and people around" and polled 1,850 people, including foreigners, between last December and February.
SKM general secretary William Wan said: "If we as a nation continue this positive trend, then kindness and graciousness can become part of our norms and national identity."
He added that more stories of kindness are being reported on social media, while mainstream media has been highlighting disaster relief efforts.
Scores for people's experience and perception of graciousness tell different stories in the index.
They were asked if they had received, done or witnessed "a random act of kindness" in the six months before they were polled.
Scores in this component fell, but were offset by improvements in the perception ratings, with respondents rating themselves and others higher when it comes to being considerate, courteous and showing appreciation.
About 44 per cent polled felt Singapore had become more gracious, up from 28 per cent last year.Asked who is responsible for making Singapore a gracious place to live in, more than seven in 10 respondents pointed to the Government. Six in 10 said themselves.
Dr Wan said the Education Ministry has an important role in fostering character development.
"I'd like to see 80 or 90 per cent of people saying 'kindness can start with me'," he said. "We must take ownership."
The SKM also studied attitudes towards neighbourliness and parenting. Over 40 per cent wanted more neighbourliness in their communities but, among this group, fear and awkwardness were cited as stumbling blocks.
Nearly six in 10 respondents, including non-parents, felt parents do not lead by example when it comes to being gracious.
Senior marketing manager Joyce Teng, 53, agreed that it is important for parents to be good role models. Her daughter, Emily, founded Blessings in a Bag, which sends donated clothes and school supplies to the needy in Asia.
Ms Teng said: "Instilling the qualities of kindness and giving when people are young is our responsibility as parents. I'm proud to see that Emily is now leading by example."
This article was first published on May 6, 2015.
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