Evolution of the Primary School Social Studies Curriculum in Singapore: From ‘Moulding’ Citizens to Developing Critical Thinkers, pp. 7 of 13

Developments: Preparing Citizens for the 21st Century

National Education and Secondary Social Studies

Towards the end of the twentieth century, a new approach towards nation-building seemed to be taken.On 17 May 1997, the new citizenship education initiative known as National Education (NE) was launched. The approach of NE was that the objectives of citizenship education were to be infused into the formal and informal curriculum where appropriate.  The goals were to “develop national cohesion, cultivate instincts for survival and instill confidence in our students regarding Singapore’s future” (MOE, 2007, p.i). These were to be achieved through:

  • fostering a sense of identity, pride and self-respect as Singaporeans;
  • knowing the Singapore story -- how Singapore succeeded against the odds to become a nation;
  • understanding Singapore's unique challenges, constraints and vulnerabilities, which make us different from other countries; and
  • instilling the core values of our way of life, and the will to prevail, that ensures our continued success and well-being (MOE, 1997).

The backdrop to this new initiative was the realisation that Singapore youths had little knowledge of the events leading to Singapore’s independence. Two surveys in 1996 had shown this lack of knowledge and interest in issues that relate to Singapore’s vulnerabilities and government leaders were alarmed by this as such disinterest was deemed a challenge to the nation’s continued survival in the face of globalisation and rapid change (Sim, 2005). NE can be seen as a nationwide attempt at citizenship education. The aims of NE were encapsulated and publicised in six NE messages (MOE, 2007, p.7):

  • Singapore is our homeland; this is where we belong.
    We want to keep our heritage and our way of life.
  • We must preserve racial and religious harmony.
    Though many races, religions, languages and cultures, we pursue one destiny.
  • We must uphold meritocracy and incorruptibility.
    This means opportunity for all, according to their ability and effort.
  • No one owes Singapore a living.
    We must find our own way to survive and prosper.
  • We must ourselves defend Singapore.
    No one else is responsible for our security and well-being. 
  • We have confidence in our future.
    United, determined and well-prepared, we shall build a bright future for ourselves.

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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