(Re)constructing the Nation? Representations of Public Housing in School Geography Textbooks, pp. 4 of 14

Hopkin (2001) suggests that school geography textbooks in the UK reflect prevailing policy and curricular stances, and provide students with very limited views of the world. For instance the textbooks produced for the 1991 national curriculum limited students’ knowledge of less developed countries (especially African countries), while the 1995 series focused mainly on the UK. These representations are important, as noted by Hopkin (2001), because of the centrality of textbooks to teaching and learning in schools, and also because of their status as a “repository of legitimated, or ‘authorised’ knowledge” (p.50). Morgan (2003) similarly examined the influence of school geography textbooks on students’ geographical imaginations of the UK. He suggested that textbooks reinforced notions of national space, and notions of a homogenous unit called “Britain”, even in the face of changing political, economic and cultural geographies on the ground.

In the Singapore context, the role of education in Singapore’s economic development has been paramount, with researchers noting how education “features in many national strategies” and is “always adjusting to align with national directions” (Ng, 2008, p. 2). Yip et al., (1997) and Gopinathan (1997) discuss these major reforms and alignments in Singapore’s education system in the first 25 years of independence from a focus on rapid quantitative expansion of education facilities, which included a technical bias in the school curriculum, to meet the needs of a rapidly industrializing economy in the 1960s, to the current emphasis on critical thinking, creativity and national commitment which acknowledges the contemporary knowledge-driven and globalised economic environment. The power of the Singapore state in setting education policies and determining what is valuable knowledge is clear. Scott (2000) suggested that policy documents do not necessarily translate into implementation without a high level of prescription, central control of policy implementation and funding, and the use of regulatory bodies. In the Singapore education context these factors do indeed exist and representations of the nation through school textbooks are firmly within the purview of the state through writers from the then Institute of Education in the 1970s, the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS) in the 1980s, and the Curriculum Planning and Development Department (CPDD) from the 1990s to today.

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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