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Home » Research » Review of Research

Review of Research: Social Studies and Citizenship Education in Singapore

This article provides a summary of the key social studies and citizenship education research studies that have been conducted in Singapore.

 

Like many other countries, social studies and citizenship education in Singapore is faced with the challenge of balancing group, national, and supranational identities. Ho (2009) analyzed the upper secondary social studies curriculum and shoed how the curriculum has managed to incorporate global perspectives while simultaneously addressing the nation-state and its priorities.

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One key tension highlighted by Tan (2007, 2008) is the complex relationship between religion and national citizenship. Tan (2007) argues that it is crucial for citizenship education in Singapore to consider the difficulties faced by religious believers in managing and reconciling their national and religious identities. Similarly, Nichol and Sim (2007) call for greater empathy and appreciation for cultures and religions in the curriculum.

 

Numerous scholars have examined the central role of the state in curriculum development, implementation and reform in Singapore. Both Tan & Chew (2004) and Sim & Ho (2010) observe that the principle of economic pragmatism is central to values and citizenship education in Singapore. Koh (2004; 2005) writes about how education reform in Singapore has been influenced by globalization and the state’s desire to create a national identity through the media and National Education.

 

Studies that have explored teachers and students’ perspectives of social studies and citizenship have also identified numerous tensions and contradictions. Examining teachers’ responses, Baildon and Sim (2009), Sim (2008) and Sim and Print (2005) note several issues that constrained the teaching of social studies in Singapore, including an uncertainty over the out-of-bound markers, self-censorship, and the presence of high stakes examinations.

 

Teachers’ beliefs also influence how citizenship education is taught in Singapore schools. Wang et al (2006), for example, argued that different types of patriotism influenced trainee teachers’ perceptions of citizenship education and values. Few students and teachers contested the central narrative of meritocracy, progress, and racial harmony. In her case study of three Singapore secondary schools, Ho (2010) observed that both students and teachers consciously avoided addressing controversial issues due to a combination of a climate of censorship and high stakes tests that serve to stifle democratic discourse in the classroom.

 

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