MRI Forum 70

"The Elusive Goal of Nation Building: Asian/Confucian Values
and Citizenship Education in Singapore"


by Yeow-Tong CHIA

20 February 2013








Press Play to listen (Full length: 47 minutes)

Summary of the Presentation

The term ‘Asian values’ became popular in the political discourse in the 1980s and 1990s. The most vocal proponents of Asian values are Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia’s Mahathir and their deputies and government officials, as well as post-Tiananmen Chinese leaders. Most notable of all these three strands of the Asian values debate is the ‘Singapore School’, which ‘comprises leaders who have articulated a defence of the Singapore regime, either in their personal or official capacities’.

This presentation discusses the origins and philosophical underpinnings of ‘Asian values’ in the Singapore context and its relationship to civics education. First, it provides the historical context for the interest in Confucianism and Asian Values. It then looks at the role and use of Confucianism and Asian Values in Asia, before discussing the case of Singapore and Asian values. The presentation explores the interconnections between changes in history, civics and social studies curricula, and the politics of the ‘Asian Values’ discourse in Singapore which underpins these curricula, emphasizing on the 1980s. At the heart of the issue was the state’s attempt to forge and articulate a Singaporean identity, and the role of citizenship/moral education in attaining this elusive nation building goal.


Profile of the Speaker

Dr. Yeow-Tong Chia (謝耀東) is a Lecturer in History Curriculum Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. He received his Ph.D. from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto in the fields of history of education as well as comparative, international and development education. He also holds a B.A. with honours in History from the National University of Singapore, a postgraduate diploma in education (secondary) from the National Institute of Education, Singapore, and a Master of Educational Management from the University of Western Australia. Prior to enrolling for the Ph.D program at the University of Toronto, Dr. Chia was a high school history and social studies teacher as well as a ‘national education officer’ in the Singapore Ministry of Education. His research interests include history education and citizenship education in Singapore and Australia, the teaching of Chinese history in Ontario’s high schools, Chinese Canadian history in Canadian history education, and education and developmental state formation.