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Racialised Education in Singapore

Abstract

The Singapore education system plays a central role in the mythology of the young country’s nation building project. The education system is portrayed as the cradle of Singapore’s multiracialism, fostering racial harmony and understanding. Yet this historical study of primary school English textbooks from the 1970s to the present reveals that since the beginning of the 1980s they have been systemically designed in such a way that they evoke high levels of racial consciousness, and at their worst have displayed a pro-Chinese bias that has deprived non-Chinese children of inspiring role models. This study helps to explain the results of recent sociological research that has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Singapore education system as an instrument for promoting racial harmony.

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Textbooks Cited

  1. 1970s

  2. English this way book 1 special Singapore edition. (1970). London: Collier Macmillan International.

  3. English this way book 2 special Singapore edition. (1970).

  4. English today as second language for Singapore primary schools. (1976, revised edition 1977). Singapore: Academia Publications.

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  9. New primary English 2A. (1972). Singapore: Longman.

  10. Primary English for Singapore EL2 2A. (1976). Singapore: Preston Corporation.

  11. 1980s

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  15. Primary English programme [PEP]Textbook 1A. (1982). Singapore: Longman and Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore.

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  17. PEP textbook 4A. (1983).

  18. PEP textbook 4B extended. (1982).

  19. PEP textbook 4B. (1983).

  20. PEP textbook 6A extended. (1984).

  21. PEP textbook 6B extended. (1984).

  22. PEP textbook 6A. (1985).

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  24. 1980s and 1990s

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  35. NESPE course book 6B extended. (1983).

  36. NESPE course book 6A. (1984–94).

  37. NESPE course book 6B. (1985–94).

  38. 1990s

  39. Primary English thematic series [PETS] 1A. (1991). Singapore: EPB Publishers and Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore.

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  41. 2000s

  42. In step: A course in English for primary schools 2B. (2001). Singapore: Pan Pacific Publications and approved by the Ministry of Education.

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  44. My pals are here! English 6A. (2005).

  45. Treks. Setting off: Interactive English for primary levels course book 1A, (2000). Singapore: SNP Publishing.

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Correspondence to Michael D. Barr.

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Barr, M.D. Racialised Education in Singapore. Educ Res Policy Prac 5, 15–31 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10671-005-5692-8

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Keywords

  • English textbooks
  • ethnicity
  • multiracialism
  • pedagogy
  • primary school
  • race
  • racism
  • Singapore
  • stereotyping
  • teaching English