Economic Pragmatism and the ‘Schooling’ of Girls in Singapore, pp. 9 of 21

It should be noted, however, that in spite of the stress on need for “womanpower” to contribute to economic progress, the re-structuring of the curriculum to encourage girls to take up technical education, domestic science remained an essential subject of study for girls while boys were exempt from it. This was made clear by Ong in the same speech when he announced the re-structuring of the school curriculum to include technical subjects (Ong, 1968):

Domestic Science will be a compulsory subject for all girls. However, for girls who are also taking technical subjects, Domestic Science will not be an examination subject and a modified syllabus will be followed [Emphasis added]

Ong also made the point that girls would have to study domestic science as a compulsory subject so that “the girls who leave our schools will have an adequate knowledge of home economics and be able to contribute to better health and better living conditions of our society as a whole”(Ong, 1968). The compulsory study of domestic science was a clear signal to girls about their continued domestic role in Singapore. In spite of the rhetoric about girls being as able as boys in taking on technical subjects and the emphasis on women being important in the economic development of Singapore, the official discourse and educational policy, which had significant influence on the construction of femininity in the school, persisted in upholding the traditional domestic role of women in the home. 

The experiment of providing technical education for girls was short-lived. By 1977, the policy of having 50% of lower secondary girls study technical subjects was changed to allow girls the choice of taking either technical studies or home economics. Boys, however, would continue with technical workshop practice and were not required to learn home economics (Straits Times, 1976, December 28).

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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