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. 

Population policy is a complex topic because it involves or is tied to a range of issues, including those related to overcrowding, foreign and migrant labor policies, increased competition for resources (e.g., university positions for students), and, more generally, about whether there is sufficient infrastructure to accommodate the population increase (e.g., have affordable health care). The topic of population policy is also emotionally-charged and elicits a range of different perspectives about what can or should be done about Singapore’s population. All of this makes the topic of population policy ideal for classroom discussions with students.

In this article, we consider how teachers might lead an inquiry-based activity (Damico, 2013) about population policy in Singapore – given the purpose of an inquiry approach is to “use the mind well… to read, write, and think critically about something” (Parker, 2012, p. 1). There is a host of potential inquiry questions about the topic of population control in Singapore, yet here we will focus on an “authentic and contemporary” policy question (Hess, 2009, p. 41) to consider the issue-based question, How should Singaporeans respond to the White Paper about population policy?

We outline this inquiry activity in three parts, each with opportunities for students to discuss their ideas and for the teacher to play an essential part in shaping these discussions. We also offer approximate time estimates for each part, which can be modified (extended or shortened) due to time constraints in classrooms.


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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