Contentious social studies guide not on MOE approved list

A social studies guidebook containing contentious content which makes generalisations about people from various socio-economic classes in Singapore is not on the Ministry of Education's approved list of textbooks, the ministry said.

The guidebook, Complete Guide To GCE O-Level Social Studies Volume 1 by Rowan Luc, features a section with broad generalisations about people of different socio-economic statuses that some have found offensive. The book is targeted at Secondary 3 students.

One generalisation suggested that Singaporeans of a lower socio-economic status would use "Singlish or different dialects", while those of a higher status would use "formal English". Another said those belonging to a higher economic status would play golf or tennis at exclusive country clubs, while those on the other end of the spectrum would play football or basketball in HDB estates.

Madam Chan Sook Fun, 52, a businesswoman and mother of four, feels this is not the way to educate children. "Fifteen-year-olds are still easily influenced," she said .

Mr Ahmad Matin, 38, who works in finance, posted photos of the book on Facebook on Monday. The post had, by yesterday evening, garnered over 5,000 shares and 300 comments on the original page.

"I was appalled," said Mr Ahmad Matin, adding that he had posted about the book as he wanted to alert people to its inappropriate content.

He had found the book at a prominent bookstore here.


In response to the furore, the book's distributor, MarketAsia, said that section of the book should be "read in context of the whole chapter, which discusses crucial themes pertaining to Singapore's social mobility and inequality issues".

This section corresponds to chapters four to seven of MOE's new syllabus about diversity in Singapore which was introduced last year.

A teacher, who declined to be named, said the book was careless in its presentation of the topic. "This chapter is quite sensitive, and easily controversial if it is not taught properly," said the teacher, who has taught social studies for two years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Contentious social studies guide not on MOE approved list'. Subscribe