Teaching Cultural Diversity and Sense of Identity in the Primary Two Social Studies Classroom in Singapore: Analysis and Critique, pp. 3 of 13

The following paragraphs in this paper will contextualise diversity and education in Singapore. This is followed by a short methodology section that explains the theoretical framework employed in the critique of a part of Singapore’s Primary Two Social Studies formal curriculum in an attempt to highlight problematic and simplistic constructions of cultural diversity and identity perpetuated within the curriculum. Its implications are then discussed in the findings and discussion section before suggestions and key takeaways for educational practice in classrooms are presented in the concluding parts of the paper.

Literature review

Diversity has emerged as one of the key issues in contemporary society today. As classrooms mirror the complexities of broader society, the increasingly rapid movement of people and cultural groups across the world has resulted in a concomitant rise in diversity within classrooms. This changing demography of student population has implications for educators as well as students. As a result, there has been rising prominence of multicultural education that addresses the complexities of diversity and teaching for the understanding of differences. In Singapore, underpinning the state’s definition of diversity is the ideology of Multiracialism, which according to Benjamin (1976), is the “reflex of a functioning national Singaporean culture’ that has resulted in consequences to the social and cultural organisation of the nation” (p. 119). Therefore, the construction of diversity in Singapore is closely tied to the construction of race. As a political philosophy, multiracialism has been used to manage diversity and difference in Singapore (Lian & Hill, 1995). Thus, due to the way diversity is presented and understood in Singapore, the following discussion inevitably involves the discussion on race because race is a key feature in public discourse on diversity issues (Lee et al., 2004). In this paper ‘race’, ‘ethnicity’ and ‘culture’ are used interchangeably even though they are recognised to be distinct and separate concepts.

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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