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An analysis of the Singapore Social Studies Secondary curriculum. Does it meet the needs of a globalised world?. Overview.

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An analysis of the singapore social studies secondary curriculum

An analysis of the Singapore Social Studies Secondary curriculum

Does it meet the needs of a globalised world?

Overview curriculum

  • Kelly to introduce, and provide a summary of thinking schools learning nation, the 21st century student, inquiry into global issues and skills in perspective consciousness.

  • Terh Ling to critique the current social studies curriculum in Singapore.

  • Kehinde to provide recommendations and conclude.

Report by singapore moe

A report by Singapore’s Ministry of Education, “Education is about preparing our people for the future. To thrive in the world in 2015, Singaporeans need strong analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills. They have to be more risk-taking, entrepreneurial, and able to tolerate greater ambiguity. Most importantly, they need to continuously learn, unlearn, and relearn to remain relevant in a dynamic environment.”

Singapore social studies curriculum and the 21 st century student
Singapore Social Studies Curriculum and the 21 curriculumst century student

  • The “teaching schools learning nation” (TSLN) concept was promoted since 1997 TSLN is the blueprint for Singapore schools in the 21st century. “Critical thinking is promoted as an effective strategy to teach school students to be critical and creative thinkers.” (Koh, 2002)

  • The current social studies curriculum has excellent aims and has created a syllabus with the goal of educating global citizens able to compete in a global economy. This comes from the government’s need to capitalize on it’s only resource – people. The market needs creative thinkers so the government is trying to educate 21st century learners to be creative.

What is worldminded citizen
What is curriculumWorldminded citizen?

Merryfield’s criteria of worldmindedness, the thinking of “Us” as a global society based on Lawthong’s (2003) list.

  • Knowledge of global interconnectedness

  • Inquiry into global issues

  • Skills in perspective consciousness

  • Habits of the mind: Open mindedness, recognition, stereotypes and exotica

  • Cross-cultural experiences and intercultural competence

    Merryfield (2008)

Merryfield on learning about citizenship
Merryfield curriculum on Learning about Citizenship

  • Merryfield explains in her article “Worldmindedness: Taking off the Blinders” that inquiry into global issues and skills in perspective consciousness are essential traits for learners in the 21st century social studies classroom. This concept applies very much to a globalised-Singapore.

  • Merryfield says when teaching global issues, they should be significant and enduring to the lives of persons in many parts of the world and cannot be adequately understood and have no immediate answer.

  • She also defines skills in perspective consciousness as the understanding of the outcomes of globalization that gives voice to people without power. Empathy.

How effective has social studies been in developing 21 st century citizens
How effective has social studies been in developing 21 curriculumst Century citizens ?

  • Our Focus on 2 key elements:

  • Inquiry into global issues

    • The Singapore Secondary Level Social Studies Curriculum covers global issues such as globalisation, the Sri Lanka conflict, Northern Ireland and terrorism. Do these case studies sufficiently develop interest in global issues?

  • Skills in perspective consciousness

    • We would like to discuss whether Social Studies teach better understanding of the points of view of those with differing degrees of power to the Singapore student.

  • What are we doing right
    What are we doing right? curriculum

    • Merryfield’s two elements are well-reflected in the curriculum

      • Core idea – Living Global

      • Aims

        • Learn from the experiences of other countries

        • Develop into citizens who have empathy…..multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

        • Develop into responsible citizens with a global perspective

      • Knowledge and Understanding

        • To understand the global interconnectedness and interdependence among world societies

        • Recognise the need to adapt to the changing world environment

        • To study the past through varied socio-cultural perspectives over time and space – put things in context

    What are we doing right1
    What are we doing right? curriculum

    • Skills and Processes

      • Critical inquiry, investigation and reflection

      • Information literate – acquire, manage and use information creatively and effectively

      • Possible and preferred future and evaluate alternatives

      • Reflected in assessment objectives – source-based skills

    • Values and attitudes

      • Examine issues in society, locally and globally

      • Respect and value diverse perspectives

      • Appreciate the importance of living in an interdependent community with increasing global connections

    What s the problem
    What’s the problem? curriculum

    • Implementation

      • Teaching resources

      • Teacher capacity

      • Assessment

    Constraints teaching resources
    Constraints – teaching resources curriculum

    • Textbook and Teaching Guide

      • Focuses on content but not linkages to larger issues as seen in syllabus document.

      • Learning outcomes are directed - hence, room for inquiry is limited.

      • E.g - Globalisation topic – compartmentalised

        • Learning outcome – explain the need for diversification and establishment of niche industries to maintain competitive edge – textbook example – Singapore’s response.

        • Are there grey areas open for discussion and inquiry?

        • Is there one correct answer?

      • No deliberate-teaching of concepts – how to then apply them? Concept development allows for inquiry

    Constraints teacher capacity
    Constraints – teacher capacity curriculum

    • Time

      • A juggling act - Grappling with content and skills

  • Can teacher meet the syllabus objectives with the current resources provided?

  • Does the teacher have much time to explore other resources to allow for inquiry and learning perspectives?

  • Outcomes

    • Can the teacher appreciate the objectives of the syllabus while aligning with examination results?

    • Affects pedagogy

    • What are teacher’s idea of citizenship? National vs global context?

  • Constraints teacher capacity1
    Constraints – teacher capacity curriculum

    • From The State, Teachers and Citizenship Education in Singapore Schools by Jasmine B-Y Sim and Murray Print.

      “……Even if nationalistic intention of the government’s policy and implementation of citizenship education was tacitly agreed by teachers, as state employees, their understandings and classroom practice demonstrated an independence of citizenship education landscape, despite the appearance of tight controls. …..Teachers are the key figures in implementing education policies.”

    Constraints curriculum

    • Teacher buy-in to develop citizens with 21st C elements is important.

    • There is a need to develop teachers and in order to develop citizens with 21st C elements.

    Assessment curriculum

    • Attempts at developing inquiry into global issues and skills in perspectives consciousness

      • Formulaic approach – where is the thinking process and inquiry skills? Limited because of the content approach to teaching and testing.

      • Sources in SBQ are too short for more comprehensive inquiry

      • Time-based – too little time for enough critical and creative thinking.

    Possible solutions

    Suggested teaching resources
    Suggested Teaching Resources curriculum

    • The 21st century teaching resources could include:

      • Student-centric instructional approach. Resources that will promote active learning in students and encourage ‘culture of inquiry.’ Resources that allow for many different answers.

      • Timely resources, the kind that will enable students to understand local issues and at the same time draw global implications.

      • Heavy usage of ICT. e.g. Computers, ePals, PDAs, Media Players, GPS etc.

      • Independent learning and constructive collaboration from online peer groups. Web 2.0 tools, wikis, Facebook

      • Materials that will promote students engagement in controversial issue.

    Teacher capacity
    Teacher capacity curriculum

    • Teachers professional development could

      • Involve the learning of teaching to concepts

      • Involve balanced direct instruction and project-oriented teaching method.

      • Demonstrate how a deeper understanding of subject matter can actually develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and other 21st century skills – issues approach

      • Promote knowledge sharing among communities of educators, using face-to-face, virtual and blended interactions

      • Make possible 21st century professional learning communities for teachers that models the kinds of classroom learning that best promotes 21st century skills for students

    How to increase teacher capacity
    How to increase Teacher Capacity curriculum

    • To enhance teachers’ productivity in line with the 21st century goals: The MOE should:

    • Re-examine the time teachers spend on academic and non-academic assignments.

    • Support curriculum that is flexible enough for teachers to input their own creative pedagogy.

    • Introduce and train teachers on the use of alternate teaching strategies.

    • Work on changing teachers’ perspective with respect to the manner in which the text-books are construed as the only source of knowledge.

    Assessment curriculum

    • Encourage performance-tasks. We need to know how students apply content knowledge to critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical tasks throughout their education, so that we can help them hone this ability and come to understand that successful learning is as much about the process as it is about facts and figures.

    • Make students’ thinking visible. The assessments should reveal the kinds of conceptual strategies a student uses to solve a problem.

    • Generate data that can be acted upon. Teachers need to be able to understand what the assessment reveals about students’ thinking. And school administrators, policymakers, and teachers need to be able to use this assessment information to determine how to create better opportunities for students.

    • Formative and Summative. Assessments should provide frequent opportunity for feedback and revision, so that both teachers and students learn from the process.

    • Assessment should be an ongoing process that is well-aligned to the target concepts, or core ideas, reflected in the standards.

    Things to know
    Things to know………. curriculum

    • “There isn’t a school, district, or state that doesn’t start with teacher quality, but part of being a quality teacher is knowing how to teach and assess with 21st Century skills.”

    • ‘We must move from primarily measuring discrete knowledge to measuring students’ ability to think critically, examine problems, gather information, and make informed, reasoned decisions while using technology. In addition to posing real world challenges, such assessments should accept a range of solutions to a task. For example, one possible assessment of 21st century skills would focus more on a student’s operational skills, such as her expertise in using multiple sources appropriately and efficiently, rather than on whether or not a correct response was submitted.

    • ‘Twenty-first century learning is about the process of integrating and using knowledge, not just the acquisition of facts and procedures’

    Sources curriculum

    • Merryfield, M., Tin-Yau Lo, J. , Sum Cho Po and Kasai, M. (2008) “Worldmindedness: Taking off the Blinders”, Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, January

    • Koh, A. (2002) ‘Towards a critical pedagogy: creating ‘thinking’ schools in Singapore’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 34: 3,255-264




    • Thornton, S.J (2005). Teaching Social Studies That Matters. Curriculum For Active Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

    • Sim, J.B-Y and Print, M. (2009), The State, Teachers and Citizenship Education in Singapore Schools, British Journal of Educational Studies, 57 (4), 380-399