Teaching Cultural Diversity and Sense of Identity in the Primary Two Social Studies Classroom in Singapore: Analysis and Critique, pp. 8 of 13


This study employs the visual methods approach known as semiology or social semiotics, which considers how meanings are made from visual materials, as part of the process of generating data to answer research questions. This approach was chosen because it serves as a useful analytical tool that allows the deconstruction of images and then connects the ideas to how they operate within broader systems of meaning (Rose, 2016). According to Rahil (2014), “the education system…needs to address uncomfortable and at times questionable notions of how diversity is understood and presented as institutionalized, dominant narratives” (p. 25). Thus, concerned with the representation of images used in readers, semiology was chosen because this particular approach recognises ideology as contained in representations that reflect the interests of power and therefore has the ability to lay “bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface” (Iverson, 1986, cited in Rose, 2016), thus revealing the ideological status of  visual material. The source of visual images was taken from the reader titled New Girl in Town (Ho, 2012). According to the curriculum, this particular reader is incorporated under the block of study that aims to emphasise that diversity makes Singapore unique. This is done through cultural appreciation of the diverse communities and their customs and traditions (CPDD, 2012). The reader is part of an important teaching resource for the introduction of the lesson.

The intention for employing visual methodology in this study follows the idea set by Rose (2016) who contends that images have to be taken seriously as they can have effects. As the reader consists of mainly illustrations, only images were analysed. Illustrations in picture books capture children’s imagination and play an important role in the construction of knowledge for children as they make meaning out of images. The images were analysed by looking at the how groups and individuals are positioned and also questioning who or what are included and excluded from being represented in order to find out the explicit and implicitly intended ideas on diversity and identity. This is done by identifying “codes” through which dominant ideologies at work can be accessed to reveal “dominant codes” within society (Hall, 1980, as cited in Rose, 2016, p. 128). 

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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