I considered two questions when writing this blog and wanted to draw on my experience of harmony at it’s finest.
What can we learn from multi-cultural societies about living in harmony with each other?
How do we create harmony in our schools?
Peace and harmony are what many of us strive for, especially when life is busy and stressful (our current climate, for example!) and we often long to be somewhere else, away from it all, preferably on a beach with a cocktail, (or is that just me?!) What we are really craving of course, is that sense of calm and alignment, where we feel that all aspects of our lives are balanced and moving forwards at a pace that is manageable. We want those around us to have a sense of harmony too.
Is it possible to create harmony when we have so much social inequality in our society? Surely, this is something we should strive for. Harmony is humanity at it’s best.
So, what can we learn from other cultures that pride themselves on living harmoniously? Let’s look at Singapore as an example of a country that treasures harmony. Singapore is a multi-racial and muti-ethnic country and is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Despite it’s population equating to only 0.08% of the total world population, the country sees diversity as it’s strength, with an eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasians within the diverse community.
Religions don’t just co-exist together, they thrive together. A stroll down South Bridge Road reveals temples, mosques and synagogues side by side. I’ve walked these streets and there is a feeling of respect and acceptance, there’s no segregation and it feels like ‘the norm’. It’s magical to see such a mélange of people with diverse beliefs all going about their business in harmony.
Despite being multi-cultural, Singaporeans observe events and festivals together as one. Whether this is Chinese New Year, Deepvali or Christmas, there is no divide or segregation, just humans celebrating together. The citizens even have a mutually understood language – Singlish – that is used to keep everyone connected! Even the signage seen on the MRT promotes respect and equality with firm boundaries. There is also a national Racial Harmony Day to celebrate the nation’s success in being a racial harmonious country.
Singapore is also known for it’s commitment to environmentalism and is known as Asia’s greenest city, with award winning vertical gardens (If you ever get the chance to visit Gardens by the Bay then you’ll be astounded!) and self sustainable eco systems within the city, despite it’s high population density. The forward thinking dedication to the environment reflects the respect the country has for it’s citizens mental health as well as it’s impact on it’s surroundings.
What can we learn from all this and how can we use it to create harmony in schools?
As school leaders, we serve whole communities, not just the pupils within the walls of the school. We care deeply about our families, we make connections with local businesses, we take part and contribute to local events. We have a responsibility to influence to create harmony there too, because this impacts positively on our children.
When you look at the values that are associated with a harmonious culture, you can see that there is a great deal of respect and empathy for those within the community, as well as the environment. So creating a school which is based on values and relationships, where children are actively taught the importance of respect and compassion, helps nurture more empathetic citizens and creates a sense of harmony within the school.
Creating a culture where children celebrate difference and diversity and have a love for one another is paramount to a harmonious environment. Inclusion is fundamental. Educating the children about different relationship preferences, different ethnicities and beliefs, abilities and disabilities, for example, gives them the opportunity to empathise, understand, and become curious about equality. It also helps children to compile their own set of values and evaluate these, which is key aim of a an ethical curriculum. A curriculum steeped in values promotes a pedagogical philosophy based on valuing yourself, others and the environment as well as developing character traits to become forward thinking and globally minded citizens. Imagine a school community so eclectic that everyone fits in!
In nurturing a harmonious work culture within the school, the emphasis is on building trusting relationships with the team. Giving humble but clear feedback and an emphasis on ‘high challenge – low threat’ support is highly effective. Investing time and sincerely caring deeply about your colleagues helps them feel valued and, when everyone feels like they are valued and that they have a voice, these become firm foundations for a harmonious workplace.