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A critical study of academic acceleration in the early years in Singapore

Chua, MLD; (2016) A critical study of academic acceleration in the early years in Singapore. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In Singapore, there is an extensive shadow system of commercial enrichment schools and tuition centres that provide extracurricular lessons to young children. Unfortunately, acceleration has often been associated with negative perceptions. It has been described as stressful or developmentally inappropriate. There have been concerns that it contributes to intergenerational social immobility too. In this dissertation, I undertook a qualitative study to examine and analyse academic acceleration in the preschool years in Singapore. 12 sets of parents and children across three socioeconomic groups were interviewed, as well as 10 of the kindergarten teachers who taught these children in their regular preschool settings. Lessons in 5 out of 7 of the enrichment centres attended by the children were observed as well. Using Foucault’s notion of “governmentality” and Bourdieu’s conceptions of “habitus” and “capital”, the study found that meritocracy and pragmatism are widely referenced in Singapore. However, socioeconomic class mediates the extent and manner of ideological uptake across individual families and children. At the same time, the neoliberal ethos that has given rise to the free market of enrichment schools in Singapore has contributed to a perpetuation of socioeconomic inequalities. Enrichment centres have themselves become geospatial sites for the performance and reproduction of “habitus” and various kinds of symbolic “capital”. Although alternate possibilities exist, especially in the light of human agency, reforms to resolve these issues are constrained by the deeply embedded assumptions and political “technologies” that have led to the present sociocultural and educational context for parents, young children and kindergarten teachers in Singapore. Whilst parents resisted ideological tenets occasionally, their resistance was primarily verbal and not enacted. Kindergarten teachers tended to maintain a silence about acceleration practices, even though they disapproved of them in private.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: A critical study of academic acceleration in the early years in Singapore
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
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/1521017
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