Revised social studies syllabus for secondary schools: Hot-button issues featured in textbook

Ms Marilyn Lim from the Education Ministry, who led the development of the revised social studies syllabus.
Ms Marilyn Lim from the Education Ministry, who led the development of the revised social studies syllabus.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - A Facebook post written by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about his views on interaction with foreigners here is now featured in a new social studies textbook.

So are topical issues that are debated in the media, but rarely or never discussed in social studies previously.

 

The new upper secondary social studies syllabus affects students taking the O- and N-level exams from 2017, including this year's Secondary 3 cohort. It has been revised to place greater emphasis on promoting active citizenship and critical thinking, with examples that are more topical for students.

Here are some examples from the new textbook:

1. Nimby (Not in my backyard) syndrome

The Nimby syndrome is cited as an example of "unequal sharing of costs", a challenge faced when deciding what is good for society.

The textbook noted that when public facilities such as new expressways are built, some residents living nearby may think the facilities are needed, while others may want these built further away so they need not bear with the inconveniences, such as traffic noise.

2. Little India riots

The authorities' involvement in the riot in Little India in 2013 is cited as an example of how the Government maintains order in Singapore.

While the textbook mentioned the "swift actions" of the authorities, it also noted that an investigation found that the Home Team could be strengthened, with improvements in communication, for instance.

3. Harassment of organisers of Philippine Independence Day celebrations in Singapore

PM Lee’s Facebook post in 2014 about this incident is featured in the textbook.

In April that year, some netizens had lambasted organisers of the event, saying that they did not want it to be held at the planned venue of Ngee Ann City.

Mr Lee, in his post, wrote that Singaporeans should be “generous of spirit” and “treat people in Singapore the way we ourselves expect to be treated overseas”.

4. Debate over need for official poverty line in Singapore

Besides discussing racial and religious diversity in Singapore, the textbook also discusses people's different socio-economic statuses.

In a textbook activity, students are asked to study different sources - from a minister, a blogger, a researcher and a news report - to understand different perspectives on whether Singapore needs a poverty line.

5. Protest held in 2013 against Population White Paper 

A section in the textbook discusses the challenges of living in a diverse society, such as greater competition for resources with the inflow of foreigners into Singapore. 

It features a photo of a crowd protesting in Hong Lim Park in 2013 against the Population White Paper.

The paper detailed plans the Government was making to prepare for a population parameter of 6.9 million by 2030 but this sparked an uproar among citizens about the lack of consultation.

6. Our Singapore Conversation

Participative citizenship is featured more prominently in the latest textbook.

The "Our Singapore Conversation" (OSC) is cited as an example of the role of individuals in influencing government decisions.

The OSC, which ended in 2013, was a national-level conversation in which citizens gave feedback and shared their dreams for Singapore.