Teaching Cultural Diversity and Sense of Identity in the Primary Two Social Studies Classroom in Singapore: Analysis and Critique, pp. 6 of 13

“…we have to set up a Chinese committee to decide whether you are Chinese or not Chinese. I don’t know how we are going to do that, but we will do it…In the GRC system… there is a two-step test. So let’s take a Malay-Chinese…Does he or she consider himself or herself primarily Malay or Chinese?... If he considers himself Chinese, then he cannot qualify as Malay… Then there is also a committee that looks to see whether – you say you are Malay, but are you accepted by the community as Malay? So that’s the two-step criteria…”
(Cited in Lim, 2016, n.p.)

The theoretical conservatism propounded in state rhetoric reflects essentialising and a simplistic portrayal and  lack of recognition for the complexity of diversity and identity. The management of the society strictly based on the ideology of multiracialism requires the reinforcement of boundaries that need to be upheld in order to maintain CMIEO as separate racial identities. As such, hybridity in Singaporean society is seen as transgressive even though mixed-identities are common in Singapore as it highlights the “fluidity and multiplicity of ethnic, racial and cultural identities” (Rocha, 2011, p. 96).

Diversity and Identity in Social Studies

The teaching of diversity and identity through ideas on diversity defined by the state is evident especially within Social Studies, which is a subject that is employed as a vehicle of the state for citizenship education in the context of National Education for the fulfilment of national agendas (Sim & Print, 2005). Sim and Print (2005) argue that the approach taken to teach the concept of diversity in Social Studies curriculum has not been one for a true understanding of diversity but rather to socialize students to the set of core societal values that the government has perceived to be essential in maintaining a harmonious society. Others have also argued that the curriculum takes a superficial approach in understanding diverse cultures through “managed multiculturalism” (Goldberg, 1994 as cited in Poon, 2009) and “intra-racial homogenization” (Poon, 2009), which has resulted in a lack of real understanding of cultural differences.

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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