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History education and 'Asian' values for an 'Asian' democracy: the case of Singapore

Han, Christine; (2007) History education and 'Asian' values for an 'Asian' democracy: the case of Singapore. Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education , 37 (3) pp. 383-398. Green open access

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Where some of the papers in this volume deal with nation building in the democratising former East European states in the wider ideological context of liberal democratic thought, this paper aims to present a view of values and democracy from an alternative, ‘Asian’ perspective. South East Asian nations, such as Singapore, have attempted to articulate and practise forms of ‘Asian’ democracy as a response to, and in rejection of, Western liberal democratic models. In these countries, there is not so much a programme of reform and liberalization, as an attempt to evolve a form of democracy suited to an Asian society. To this end, efforts have been made by political leaders to articulate what ‘Asian’ values are, and some countries have also promoted sets of values that are considered to be congruent with their form of ‘Asian’ democracy. Singapore is an example of how a government has set about developing a form of ‘Asian’ democracy. By examining the history texts used in Singapore schools, and comparing the different contexts in which European and ‘Asian’ values are embedded and used, the paper shows that there is indeed a distinctive form of values and democracy that is taught. But, while this is referred to as ‘Asian’, there is in fact a lacuna in terms of the wider values framework and context, and children are in effect being socialised into accepting a rather passive conception of citizenship and a notion of democracy that are arguably distinctive to Singapore. What that Asia stands for is far too diverse, and perhaps there is also, on the part of Singapore and its political leaders, an inclination to make ‘Asian’ values in their own image, as it were.

Type: Article
Title: History education and 'Asian' values for an 'Asian' democracy: the case of Singapore
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: I am informed that this article is one of the ten of the most downloaded articles in the journal Compare in 2008. This is an electronic version of an article published in Han, Christine (2007) History education and 'Asian' values for an 'Asian' democracy: the case of Singapore. Compare, 37 (3). pp. 383-398. Compare is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/03057920701330271
Keywords: Citizenship , Singapore , History
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10003016
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