Social Studies guidebook causes controversy online; MOE says book not on approved textbook list

Complete Guide to GCE O-Level Social Studies Volume 1 by Rowan Luc features a contentious section about socio-economic class in Singapore.
Complete Guide to GCE O-Level Social Studies Volume 1 by Rowan Luc features a contentious section about socio-economic class in Singapore.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/AHMAD MATIN

SINGAPORE - A social studies guidebook containing contentious content which makes sweeping generalisation about people from the various socio-economic classes in Singapore is not on the Ministry of Education's (MOE) 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 (SES) that members of the public have found offensive. The book is targeted at Secondary Three students.

One such generalisation that garnered the most criticism suggested that Singaporeans of a lower SES would use "Singlish or different dialects", while those of a higher status would use "formal English".

Another one said that people of a higher economic status play sports like golf or tennis at an exclusive country club while those at the other end of the spectrum play football or basketball in HDB estates.

Businesswoman Madam Chan Sook Fun, 52, feels that this is not the way to educate children. "Fifteen-year-olds are still easily influenced," said mother of four, who has a daughter in Secondary Three.

Pictures of the guidebook were posted on Facebook on Monday (March 12), and havegarnered 5,656 shares and 333 comments on the original page as of Wednesday evening.

The pictures were uploaded by Mr Ahmad Matin, 38, who works at Invictus Capital.

 

"I was appalled," he said, adding that he wanted to alert people to the fact that a book expressing such views was in circulation.

Mr Matin found the book at a prominent Singapore bookstore.

In response to the outrage, the distributor of the guidebook, MarketAsia, said that the particular 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 social studies syllabus, introduced last year, about diversity in Singapore. It also deals with topics like race and religion.

A teacher, who declined to give his name, said the book was careless in the presentation of the topic.

"This chapter is quite sensitive, and easily controversial if it is not taught properly," said the teacher, who has two years of experience teaching social studies.

- Additional reporting by Charmaine Ng