Building bonds at school

SINGAPORE - The camps, competitions and community initiatives help students gain new insights, build character and confidence and open up to others.

But the activities also serve another purpose – to help the students from the Indian international schools here bond with local students and integrate into the community.

At DPS International School, celebrations of festivals and events such as National Day, Racial Harmony Day, Chinese New Year and the lantern festival help to educate students on Singapore’s culture, norms and values.

Students also get a chance to interact with those from local schools in scholastic events such as the National Science Challenge, the International Friendship Camp organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and sporting events like football camps, chess championships and athletic conferences.

Said DPS International School’s pro vice-chairman C.P. Kabra: “At DPS it is our constant endeavour to help our students appreciate the ways in which Singapore’s rich diversity of cultures is a source of strength and solidarity. We attempt to incorporate the best practices of local institutions and simultaneously encourage participation in a variety of outreach programmes. We are keenly aware of our role in helping children of expatriate families blend into Singapore’s social fabric.”

Said student Rahul Datta, Class 10 IGCSE: “Our school gives us the opportunity to participate in various camps and competitions where we get to interact with local schools. One such event was the International Friendship Camp where we were put into teams that were picked randomly. We were given a series of team challenges through which we learnt about each other’s cultures and traditions.”

Over at NPS International School, students forge bonds by undertaking various social initiatives that help the local community.

The students of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme at the school volunteer at Ren Ci Community Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital weekly. During the visits, they talk to the patients, read to them, spend time with them and also serenade the patients and hospital staff with songs and music. By interacting and sharing stories with the patients, the students broaden their knowledge and forge new friendships.

NPS also has a pen pal programme with East Coast Primary School, in which students write letters to each other. The pen pals also get together and take part in various fun activities during National Day.

Participation in special activities, cultural programmes and community service are some of the avenues in which Global Indian International School (GIIS) helps students at its various campuses integrate with the local community.

Said its country director (Singapore) Rajiv Vasudeva: “GIIS pioneered integration projects with the Singapore community 12 years ago and has continued to inculcate the spirit of racial and cultural harmony in its students. We proactively engage with the neighbourhood residents’ committees, CCs, homes for the elderly, SINDA and local schools in various ways. Our students cherish the universal values they imbibe from bonding with Singapore community at large.”

A student who has benefited from such activities is Johan James Alphonso, IB Year 1 at GIIS Queenstown campus. He said: “I have met and worked with students from some of the best local schools. Exchanging ideas and listening to their opinions has proved that no matter which country we come from, all of us have the same passion and dedication to contribute to society and build a world community.

“The recent experience at the Sustainable Development Youth Convention proved the point beyond doubt. Shoulder to shoulder we worked to find new solutions, creative propositions and made friendships to cherish for many years.”

Added his schoolmate Natasha Rajiv, IB Year I: “The Sree Narayana Mission charity event which involved collection of donations to support the foundation was a great learning experience.

“Going from door to door asking strangers for money despite it being for a great cause proved to be daunting at first but the enthusiasm with which we were received by the donors, made the experience rewarding. These interactions not only helped to raise funds for a good cause but also helped to boost my confidence. It also allowed me to meet with people who lived in the neighbourhood but with whom I had no previous opportunity to reach out to.”

Both NPS and GIIS also took part in the first International Friendship Camp organised by the South East CDC in November last year. The camp was aimed at cultivating friendship and better mutual understanding among the participants, who were from both local as well as international schools.

Said Malavika Muralidhar, Class 8A, GIIS East Coast campus: “Not only did the camp help us to forge friendships with local and foreign students, it encouraged us to step out of our comfort zones.”

Added Aarushi Jain, Grade 10 IG B at NPS International School: “We learned to be confident amid strangers and to form close relationships with some in just a matter of days.”

Local students who attended the camp said it gave them an insight into their international counterparts.

Said Tanjong Katong Secondary School student Shai-ann Koh, 16: “Initially, I thought that the international students are going to be very different from us, but I’ve come to realise that we actually have many things in common. It reaffirmed to me the fact that we are not so different and are still humans after all.”

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