Monday, January 25, 2010

Social Studies to be made compulsory

It is currently being discussed that Social Studies subject may be made compulsory and is to be examinable in primary school level.

I thought a conference paper titled Social Studies in Singapore: Contradiction and Control, presented in 2005, is rather interesting.

I quote two paragraphs from the paper below:

"Another confounding factor is that social studies is not examinable at the primary level. In theory, this leaves teachers free to approach social studies teaching in more creative ways. However, in addition to the limited time availability, there is a tendency not to teach what’s not assessed. That is, the PSLE exam is critically important, to the students and to each school. By not including social studies on this exam, there is an implicit message that social studies really isn’t very important. Indeed, teachers explain that as they increase there focus on preparation for the exam, they are likely to “borrow” time from social studies to work on maths and English. As one primary pre-service teacher suggested, “Social studies is treated like a Cinderella subject.” Once again, classroom practice appears to create a “hidden curriculum” that contradicts the intended curriculum found in the social studies syllabus.

On the other hand, social studies at the secondary level is examined. Ironically, secondary social studies teachers who participated in our in-service class felt that examinations constrain teachers in what and how they teach. They described the pressure they felt to teach for success on the examination. These teachers explained that they were reluctant to discuss controversial issues, or to examine primary source material, without giving their students a template, a way of thinking, that would guide them in answering challenging questions on the exam. The focus, then, is not on decision-making or exploring controversy, but on how to construct a correct answer."

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