Well-being and Humanities Education in Singapore , pp. 7 of 11

The report includes working papers that provide more information about each domain with the sources used to support findings. The working papers can be found at http://www.nvpc.org.sg/knowledge/social_health_project.aspx.

The picture this report provides is one of Singaporeans being under a high level of stress, despite the high standard of living Singapore affords for most people. In fact, the high standard of living may be one reason Singaporeans experience so much stress. The emphasis on economic development and growth, competitiveness, high levels of productivity and performance, and the pragmatic results orientation set by the Singapore government and manifested in many of its policies may actually contribute to the dissatisfaction and anxiety many Singaporeans experience.

Uncertainties posed by foreign labor and a growing population, high levels of competition in education, changing family patterns, challenges managing work-life balance, and increasing costs of housing and healthcare were also found to contribute to a sense of unease and anxiety. Positive findings from the report, however, suggest that Singaporeans are developing the political will to directly confront these issues and have particular social resources, such as strong family and social ties and a high level of education that can be mobilized to promote well-being. The report also points to Singaporeans taking greater interest in politics and civil society, the arts and culture, and heritage.

Well-being and Humanities Education

Humanities education can play an important role to further develop these resources. It can also focus on issues central to each of the domains listed as determinants of well-being reported by Boarini, et al (2012) and highlighted in the Singapore Social Health Project. Humanities education can encourage students to ask important questions about the quality of their own lives as well as the lives of others, the kinds of lives they want to live, and the kind of society desired. As noted by the editors of HSSE Online in an earlier issue, Humanities education “can provide spaces and tools for considering matters of individual well-being, social connectedness and cohesion, culture and values, and civic participation. It can provide opportunities for people to find meaning and satisfaction in a sense of the places they encounter (geography), their understanding of the past (history), deliberation over important social issues and policies (social studies), and in the inspiration and insights that literature offers” (Baildon & Ho, 2013, n.p.).

Seligman (2011) utilizes a signature strengths test to measure individuals’ capacities for well-being. These signature strengths are strongly aligned with the kinds of qualities that we often associate with the best kind of Humanities education. They include scales of curiosity and interest in the world, a love of learning, the ability to use judgment and critical thinking, and open-mindedness. These strengths also include a sense of humility and kindness or generosity toward others as fundamental attributes of well-being. Seligman argues that these strengths promote well-being because people draw on these in ways that empower them to create meaning in their lives, connect with others, and engage with the world. 

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

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!