Teaching Cultural Diversity and Sense of Identity in the Primary Two Social Studies Classroom in Singapore: Analysis and Critique

Abstract

According to Rose (2016), images display the world in particular ways through “made meanings” or representations that are socially and culturally constructed. Visual images form part of teaching resources used in classrooms and hence play an important role in the construction of knowledge for children. This paper examines how cultural diversity and identity are taught in Singapore in order to understand the extent to which it fosters or hinders the understanding of the complexities of cultural diversity and identity through a curriculum critique of the reader New Girl in Town which is used within Primary Two classrooms as a teaching resource for cultural appreciation. Through semiology as critical visual methodology, this study examines how dominant ideologies of cultural diversity and identity as defined by the state are represented and reinforced through the images presented in the reader. Key findings from this study highlight the implications of representing cultural diversity and identity as static and non-complex constructions of individuals and the extent to which it hinders the understanding of cultural diversity and identity.

Introduction

This paper explores the way visuals used as part of instructional materials in the social studies curriculum embody ideologies of diversity. This perception is based on views held by key thinkers within visual culture methodologies, such as Gillian Rose who asserts that “images offer views of the world; but this rendering…is never innocent” (Rose, 2016, p. 2). According to Rose (2016), images display the world in particular ways through “made meanings” or representations that are socially and culturally constructed.

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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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