Singapore Kindness Movement

by Koh, Lay Tin

The Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) was launched in 1997 in response to the then prime minister Goh Chok Tong’s call for Singapore to become a gracious society by the 21st century. The objectives of the movement are: “to encourage Singaporeans to be kind and considerate; to create public awareness of acts of kindness; and to influence and raise standards of behaviour and responsibility”. The SKM is managed by the SKM Council and comprises members from educational institutions and private organisations.1

Activities and programmes
Singapore Kindness Week
One of the major activities of the SKM is the Singapore Kindness Week, which is held every year to promote and raise public awareness of the importance of small acts of kindness. The first nation-wide Singapore Kindness Week was launched by Goh on 8 November 1998 at the Istana.2 The SKM Convention was at the World Trade Centre Auditorium the following day. Some 800 delegates comprising primary and secondary school principals and teachers attended the convention to hear speakers from Japan, USA and Canada share their experiences in running the Kindness Movement in their countries.3

Graciousness Index
In 2009, the SKM management committee commissioned a survey titled “The State of Graciousness in Singapore” to look at gracious behaviour in five areas: public places, home, work, school and on the roads. Conducted annually, the survey also asks respondents to rate themselves and their fellow citizens in terms of their level of graciousness. The results of the survey are subsequently reflected in the Graciousness Index. In 2013, the index fell to a five-year low with respondents reporting that they performed and experienced fewer acts of kindness and graciousness.4

The Kindness Gallery
The Kindness Gallery was opened on 8 March 2012 at the former MICA Building (also known as the Old Hill Street Police Station) to chart the origins of the SKM and its relation to the National Courtesy Campaign. Artefacts on display at the gallery include campaign posters, old newsletter clippings and roadshow merchandise, which together showcase the various stages in which acts of kindness were encouraged and practiced in Singapore.5

Related campaigns and awards
Courtesy Campaign
On 1 March 2001, the National Courtesy Campaign was officially subsumed under the SKM. Courtesy programmes previously organised for the courtesy campaign continued to be run under the umbrella of the SKM.6

Friend of Singapore Award
This annual programme was first started in 1991 to give recognition to courteous and considerate students. It was initiated by Youth Challenge together with the Ministry of Information and the Arts and the Ministry of Education. Under this programme, schools are invited to nominate students who would submit proposals for projects that promote kindness.7

Retail Courtesy Gold Award
The Retail Courtesy Gold Award was launched in 2001 as an SKM initiative supported by the Singapore Retailers Association and the Retail Promotion Centre. The GST formula (Greet, Smile and Thank You) was introduced to promote courteous behaviour among retailers, service staff and consumers.8

Transport Gold Award
The Transport Gold Award is given out by the Land Transport Authority and the SKM to recognise the exemplary courteous behaviour of frontline staff in the transport service industry.9

Keep Left escalator etiquette
In 2002, SKM supported SMRT’s efforts to promote courtesy by encouraging train passengers who are not in a hurry to keep to the left of the escalators so that other passengers are able to overtake them on the right side.10

Tray Return Movement
The tray return scheme was first tried out by the National Environment Agency (NEA) at hawker centres in 2003 but it was dropped after six months. In 2008, SKM supported the Tray Return Movement initiated by the management of Suntec Fountain Food Terrace. NEA subsequently revived the tray return scheme at various hawker centres.11

Good Neighbour Award
The Good Neighbour Award was first introduced as part of the Courtesy Month in 1983. Since 2009, the Good Neighbour Award has been organised by the Housing & Development Board (HDB) and People's Association (PA), and supported by SKM.12


Koh Lay Tin & Mazelan bin Anuar

1. Singapore Kindness Movement. (2013). About SKM. Retrieved from Singapore Kindness Movement website:
2. PM urges "Kindness" revolution for Spore. (1998, November 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chin, S. F. (1998, November 10). ‘S’poreans rude on road and MRT’. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ng, E. (2009, March 12). Gracious, really? 90 per cent of Singaporeans think so. Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Goy, P. & Cheng, J. (2013, April 10). Graciousness in Singapore hits five-year low: Survey. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
5. Singapore Kindness Movement. (2015). The Kindness Gallery. Retrieved from Singapore Kindness Movement website:
6. Soon, courtesy will be part of kindness. (2001, January 13). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Kee, J. (1997, February 4). It pays to be kind if you are in Sec 1 or 2. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. It will be service with a smile at 1,444 retail outlets. (2001, October 13). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, U-W. (2001, October 19). You’ll welcome this GST. Today, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. 181 Transport Gold Awards. (2003, December 4). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Going the extra mile with heartfelt acts. (2005, November 12). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tung, C. (2002, January 25). Right to keep left. Today, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ooi, B. K. (2008, July 16). Singa promotes social graces at Suntec. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wong, A. & Teo, J. (2008, September 17). Lets tr(a)y it again....Today, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Environment Agency. (2013). Tray return initiative to roll out to all hawker centres. Retrieved from National Environment Agency website:
12. Housing & Development Board. Good Neighbour Award 2013. Retrieved from Housing & Development Board website:; Nominate your neighbour. (2009, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Further resources
Lee Tzu Pheng (Ed.). (2000). Always in season: A harvest of kindness stories. Singapore: Singapore Kindness Movement.
(Call no.: RSING 177.7 ALW)

Lee Tzu Pheng (Ed.). (2007). Always in season: A second harvest of kindness stories. Singapore: Singapore Kindness Movement.
(Call no.: RSING 177.7 ALW)

Singapore Kindness Movement. (2005). Constitution: Singapore Kindness Movement. Singapore: Singapore Kindness Movement.
(Call no.: RSING 177.70605957 SIN)

Singapore Kindness Movement Council. (1998). 300 Nuggets on kindness: Inspire graciousness through kind sayings. Singapore: Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) Council.
(Call no.: RSING 177.7 THE)

The information in this article is valid as at 4 July 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


National campaigns
Events>>National Campaigns
Conduct of life
People and communities>>Social behaviour
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