The Significance of Mass Migration, and How to Better Talk about it, pp. 6 of 10

Other changes in profile of migrants who came could be seen from the opening of an increasing number of schools across all community groups in colonial Singapore, and the appearance of the first non-European publications such as the Chinese Lat Po (1884) and Sing Po (1891), and the Malay Jawi Peranakkan (1876). [xiii] These were all signs of a growing number of literate migrants, and of children - specifically, signs of settlement and the gradual integration of different communities.

Therefore, what these two changes hope to achieve is to give our students a greater sense of the historical diversity of the migrants who came to Singapore, and the changes and continuities in the profiles of the migrants who came to Singapore during the 19th century. It also encourages students to view the current wave of migration as a part of this ever-changing profile of migrants arriving in Singapore. While it goes beyond the simple CMIO model, it does not supersede it, it merely unlocks a new level of nuance and understanding for our students. Through this process, hopefully students would be able to see that the added function of migration is that Singapore served as a vital melting pot, combining worlds previously separate.

Talking about the globe on the move

The second sub-inquiry question examines the global context of why people were on the move before the Second World War. This is also the weakest link in the syllabus due to the three factors that were explicitly identified: (i) the industrial revolution, (ii) the opening of the Suez Canal, and (iii) the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These factors proved to confuse more than it aids in students’ understanding of the era of migration as they are geographically and chronologically distant from Singapore. Furthermore, they are all surface symptoms of greater changes in the world during this period.

The three factors identified were so distant from Singapore that students would find it difficult to make the connection as to why those factors influenced why the world was on the move. Attempts to make the link between the 1807 abolition of the slave trade, the 1833 abolition of slavery, and Chinese or Indian migration to Singapore while possible, would prove to be too convoluted for a history classroom of Secondary One students. Imagine making the link: the abolition of slavery in the Americas in the 1830s created a demand for wage labourers in the Americas, which used to rely on slavery. As a result, Chinese and Indians moved to Singapore in the 1860s to fill the growing number of jobs in mines and on plantations. There was no plausible link that does not require significant mental gymnastics on the part of the teachers and students. There were obvious missing connections that the course book does not talk about.

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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