Students’ Judgments of Historical Significance in Singapore Schools: Positionalities and Narratives
Yeo, Angeline Jude Enk Sung
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Research has established that students’ ethnic, community, and national identities can influence their judgments on historical significance. Furthermore, it has demonstrated that students’ identities may incline them towards appropriating or resisting particular historical narratives when considering historical significance. In Singapore, little is known about how students think about and make judgments of historical significance as well as which aspects of their identity they draw upon to make these judgments. Using a qualitative case study approach that relies mainly on individual and focus group interviews, this study investigates how 15 secondary school students define their identities in Singapore and examines how these identities influence their judgments of the historical significance of persons and events in Singapore’s past. The key findings indicate that students in Singapore tend to position and locate themselves as multiracial Singaporeans and draw upon a narrative template that complies with the official Singapore narrative to make judgments of significance. The study also reveals that the use of this narrative template has resulted in the development of reductionist views of the past among students. The findings of this research echo those of other research studies that have stressed that unless we attend to students’ interpretive frames at the point of their sense-making process, any effort made to promote and deepen their historical thinking might be negated by the misconceptions already engendered. The need to mediate this tension is particularly urgent in Singapore, where the task of educating the young regarding Singapore’s past coexists with the emphasis on developing their skills of historical inquiry.
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