Volume 3, Issue 1 2014

A Note from the Editors

It has almost become a cliché to claim that the humanities subjects are integral to education for young people. While many people pay lip service to the importance of subjects such as history, geography, and social studies, in practice, this is not been consistently reflected in the actions and choices of educators, policy makers, parents, and students in Singapore and elsewhere. Thus it is timely that this issue includes an article written by Mark Baildon reminding us of how the humanities subjects are essential for the well-being of both the individual and society. 

Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggest that teachers frequently deem these subjects to be too challenging for weaker students. As teacher educators, we have heard too many teachers proclaim that this content or these skills are too difficult for their students and make claims that their students will, for example, not be able or willing to engage in thought-provoking inquiry activities or tasks. These deficit views seem to shape the pedagogical choices of these teachers and as a result, students may be presented with a severely limited and simplified version of the curriculum. Linda McNeil calls this kind of teaching, "defensive teaching," and this, she argues, has negative implications for the kind of education these students (who are frequently less privileged) have access to. 

We argue that it is important for all teachers to be advocates for a powerful and equitable humanities education program in schools. Teachers need to be conscious of the intent of the curriculum, be convinced of its worth in promoting the well-being of the individual and society, and to take active steps to challenge deficit views or negative stereotypes of their students.

Li-Ching Ho
Mark Baildon
Editors, HSSE Online
May 2014

Leading Classroom Discussions About Population Policy in Singapore

"In January 2013 the Singapore government released a Population White Paper titled A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore, which proposed a plan to steadily increase the population from roughly 5.3 million in 2012 to 6.9 million by 2030. The primary rationale for the plan was to deal with the declining birth rate and rapidly aging population in Singapore. The white paper generated significant response from Singapore citizens, including protests, such as the event organized on Saturday, 16 February 2013, at Hong Lim Park, where an estimated 5,000 people gathered to express disapproval of the plan. "

Teaching Venice in Schools

"This paper aims to briefly survey advances made in the field of Venice studies and explore how these can help enhance the teaching of Venice in schools. Focusing on the early modern period, this essay will discuss issues related to Venetian politics as well as government and society. The issues for discussion are sub-divided into: 1.) Republicanism and related systems; 2.) Political system and corruption as a reason for decline of Venice; and 3.) The wider social / social-political organizations or arrangements as a stabilizing (or destabilizing) force of Venetian society. The choice and clustering of these issues are partly based on the content survey on Venetian studies and partly based on the survey of similar issues of concern occurring in contemporary Singapore society"

The Beacon of Civic Conduct? Teaching Character and Citizenship Education in Singapore

"The purpose of this short opinion piece is to impress upon readers that while the teaching and learning of good character and citizenry is noble (with clear desired outcomes) as highlighted by Mr. Heng , the instruction of intrinsic “good-ness” in the classroom ignites an age old question in academic discourse – who or what should be the “beacon” of civic conduct? Given the width and breadth of a topic that has failed to reach a common consensus amongst educators and policy makers on the teaching and learning of Character and Citizenship Education (CCE), this article will limit its discussion to the following issues: 1.) the role of educators in CCE; 2.) stakeholders and their relationship with CCE; 3.) challenges educators might face when tasked to conduct CCE lessons."

A Preliminary Study on the Development of Pedagogical Content Knowledge among Economics and Primary Social Studies Student Teachers in Singapore

"In this preliminary study on the development of pedagogical content knowledge among student teachers in the National Institute of Education, Singapore, Economics and Primary Social Studies student teachers self-report their progress in their professional development upon exit of teacher training using a survey instrument adapted from Ho’s (2003) pedagogical content knowledge development model. "

Well-being and Humanities Education in Singapore

"In February (2014), I was invited to Nagoya University (Japan) to participate in a symposium on well-being and education in the ASEAN region. Participants from ASEAN nations shared the state of well-being in their nations and considered the role education can play to promote well-being. My participation in this symposium led me to think about well-being in Singapore and the relationship between Humanities education and well-being."

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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