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Character Education in Singapore: Bridging Economic Discontinuities, Maintaining Political Continuities

Chee, AL; (2018) Character Education in Singapore: Bridging Economic Discontinuities, Maintaining Political Continuities. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Character Education (CE) is an amorphous subject. It has been recontextualised in various forms, depending on the goals of particular programmes as well as the prevailing ideology. CE is therefore, by definition, political. Using Bernstein’s ‘pedagogic device’ as a conceptual tool, this thesis critically analyses how a neoliberal-developmental state (where a strong authoritarian State single-mindedly pursues economic development) recontextualises CE. The purpose of this study is twofold: first, to explore Singapore’s conception of CE and second, to investigate how CE has been differentiated in the mainstream and gifted education programme (GEP) in two Primary schools. It involves critically analysing how CE has been recontextualised by both the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the two Singapore schools. By framing my analysis around the complexity and multiplicity of factors involved when different pedagogic agents interpret, translate, recontextualise and enact CE as an education policy, the criteria for the prioritisation of knowledge/skills/values comes to the fore. Unlike other studies which adopt an a priori conception of CE, I have used a naturalist-interpretive approach and employed multiple data collection methods. These approaches and methods allow a triangulation of my empirical findings. In terms of policy, this study reveals that the MOE’s decision for mainstream CE to be taught in the Mother Tongue languages has resulted in the provision of two starkly different discourses being transmitted to mainstream and GEP students. The didactic and communitarian orientation of the mainstream CE curriculum coexist in direct contrast with the GEP curriculum which emphasizes student needs and individuality. Additionally, the untapped ‘relative autonomy’ in the two schools studied suggest a subliminal acceptance of State-defined good citizenry. I argue that CE and the values it promotes aim to socialise students into accepting the changing neoliberal economic realities, specifically the declining levels of social mobility and increasing levels of inequality. These findings raise questions about CE’s potential to impart critical thinking and to nurture strong and independent individuals, or at the very least, serve as a provocation to think and act in relation to a precarious future.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Character Education in Singapore: Bridging Economic Discontinuities, Maintaining Political Continuities
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Keywords: Character Education, Bernstein, recontextualisation, politics of knowledge, curriculum differentiation, Singapore.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10050296
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