Teachers, experts welcome change

Students taking a literature class at Tanjong Katong Secondary School.
Students taking a literature class at Tanjong Katong Secondary School. PHOTO: ST FILE

Educators and experts welcomed the change in the upper secondary social studies syllabus, noting that it is forward-looking, more topical and promotes critical thinking.

Mrs Angela Chew, who has taught social studies for about 10 years, said: "The topics are issues that students can relate to because they read about these in the media, or may have talked about them in conversations with their parents."

The North View Secondary School teacher said: "It is important that teachers facilitate discussions about these issues too because, outside the classroom, students may not have a broader perspective of the topic."


Topical issues rarely or never discussed in social studies previously include the role of individual citizens and groups in governance.

Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, said: "It is encouraging to see some acknowledgement of the role NGOs (non-governmental organisations) play in shaping society, even though the Government still needs to view groups that champion human rights with less suspicion."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said raising current issues in the classroom encourages students to evaluate diverse views, whether in the mainstream or social media, instead of "being passive, unthinking consumers of media content".

Teachers are also expected to hold more classroom discussions about the issues in the syllabus, and some are keen to improve their skills in doing so.

"It would be great if we can have more courses on how to facilitate discussions. Kids talking randomly is different from kids having a meaningful discussion where they learn something," said a 25-year-old social studies teacher who works in a secondary school.

Experts noted that recent examples in social studies texts have to be balanced with events from Singapore's history. Dr Tan said students need to have the historical context to understand new issues. "They need to have the opportunity to evaluate the past and learn the lessons that history can offer," he added.

Priscilla Goy and Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Teachers, experts welcome change'. Print Edition | Subscribe