Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Search for Political Stability
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme I Chapter 2: Approaches to National Unity
Winds of change: Clashing values
In the post-independence years, the founding fathers took the lead in transforming Singapore to a highly-industrialised city-state. By the late 1970s, most of the immediate concerns had been addressed through policies like public housing and compulsory education.
However, there were growing concerns over the influx of foreign influences that threatened social cohesion In 28 October 1988, then First Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong described how Singaporeans were increasingly exposed to “Western values” that encouraged individualism.
Over the last decade, there has been a clear shift in our values….There is a clear shift towards emphasis on self, or individualism…if it translates into a “me first” attitude, that is bad for social cohesion and the country.
Every society has both these elements, but each differs in the dominance of one over the other. In Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, communitarianism dominates over individualism. This has allowed them to catch up economically with the industrial west in the last 20 years.Excerpt taken from a speech by Mr Goh Chok Tong, First Deputy Prime Minister, at the PAP Youth Wing Charity Night, 28 October 1988.
Similarly, then President Wee Kim Wee made an opening address to the seventh parliament on 9 January 1989, highlighting the importance of creating a set of shared values to counter the incoming threat of Westernised individualism that conflicted with the “traditional Asian ideas of morality, duty and society”.
…we should preserve the cultural heritage of each of our communities, and uphold certain common values which capture the essence of being a Singaporean. These core values include placing society above self, upholding the family as the basic building block of society, resolving major issues through consensus instead of contention, and stressing racial and religious tolerance and harmony.
…We need to inculcate this National Ideology in all Singaporeans, especially the young. We will do so through moral education and by promoting the use of mother tongue, by strengthening the teaching of values in schools, and through the mass media, especially the newspapers and television.Excerpt taken from then President Wee Kim Wee’s address to Parliament, 9 January 1989.
Implementation: The Shared Values
On 2 January 1991, a committee led by then Minister for Trade and Industry Lee Hsien Loong published a White Paper (i.e. White Paper on Shared Values) that outlined the five values that the President mentioned earlier in the 1989 speech. In addition to the four core values, a fifth value was included.
The set of shared values were as follows:
- National before community and society above self
- Family as the basic unity of society
- Regard and community support for the individual
- Consensus instead of contention
- Racial and religious harmony.
The proliferation of education: Civics and Moral Education
After a series of deliberation and debate, it was decided that the inculcation of such values was to carried out through the Civics and Moral Education (CME) lessons.
The CME programme was introduced on 23 February 1991. At schools, students were taught how to develop good character and become a socially-responsible citizen.
What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that education was the most significant approach in supporting the government’s efforts in forging national unity [to be discussed in class]?
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