Thu, Nov 27, 2008
The New Paper
Eurasian? Caucasian? It's a mystery

TO motivate himself to study for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), 12-year-old Samuel Wittberger set himself a challenge - to be the top Eurasian student in this year's cohort.

Samuel made it - he scored A*s in English, Malay, Mathematics and Science, and a distinction in Higher Malay, with a T-score of 277.

He sees himself as the latest top Eurasian PSLE scorer. Problem is, someone else is listed as the top Eurasian in the Education Ministry's website - Ahmad Ashraf Muhammad Johari.

The website did not list Ashraf's T-score. Samuel found out about Ashraf's T-score of 271 only when he read The New Paper the next day. Ashraf's score was six points below Samuel's.

Samuel was puzzled. Wouldn't that have made him the top Eurasian student instead?

I am Eurasian, the Anglo-Chinese Junior School (ACJS) student declares.

He says his father is Austrian and his mother, Singaporean Indian.

European + Asian = Eurasian.

Correct? Not quite.

Samuel is not listed as a Eurasian in the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s records. To them, he is Caucasian.

Samuel's birth certificate indicates that his father is Caucasian and his mother is Indian. It does not indicate what his race is.

He holds a Singapore passport, which, likewise, does not indicate his race.

So what is Samuel's race? Officially, it remains a mystery.

When The New Paper asked MOE, we were directed to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which in turn directed the query to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

ICA was unable to respond at press time.

Samuel said: 'It seems like students are classified based on their father's race. But I looked up the definition for Eurasian in the dictionary, and it said 'somebody of mixed European and Asian descent'.'

Racially, it is clear-cut: He is Eurasian, the Eurasians say.

Mr Gerry De Silva, former president of the Eurasian Association, said there is no question that Samuel is Eurasian, as he is of mixed European and Asian parentage.

Proud to be Eurasian

'This is especially so, since he is proud to be classified as Eurasian,' Mr De Silva said.

In 1995, the Eurasian Association amended its constitution to include children of inter-marriages, which were on the rise.

Both Eurasian boys have more in common than their high scores and heritage, recognised or otherwise.

Both boast a long list of achievements.

Ashraf was, among other things, vice-captain of Chongfu Primary's hockey team and its head prefect.

Samuel was a member of the ACJS school bowling team, a school prefect and an award winner.

Finally, the two claimants to the same title may end up as classmates - both intend to attend Raffles Institution next year.


Additional reporting by Navin Vijay Wadhwani, newsroom intern


This article was first published in The New Paper on 25 Nov 2008.

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