Connecting/Rooting the Young.
A week ago, the Education Ministry unveiled plans to revamp Singapore's National Education Program. In Singapore, when such revamps happen, it means the previous policy has been ineffective. It is just the media and Government's lexical habits to use words like "revamp" or "rethink" to signal this.
The Great Story of Singapore's Construction. The success story. A paragon of Third World development. Intrinsically tied to the vision of one man, LKY and his political party, the PAP. The Singapore Story is one that broaches little dispute factually. Small country, no hinterland, no natural resources. Socially divided along ethnic religious lines. Politically located in a region of instability. From this template of desperation, the Singapore Story begins with all the massive programmes geared to lift us from doom. Industrialisation. Education. Socialisation. De-politicisation. In National Education, the necessary conclusion is that all these programmes were Successes. Indefatigable Logic based on facts, figures, numbers. Indefatigable Logic based on what you see around you today. The problems associated with these programmes, namely displacement, both spatially (think HDB re-location) and emotionally (think Nantah), are but little blips in the Singapore Story narrative, if you are lucky; more often than not, they do not even exist as blips. They are erased, forgotten. Because they are deemed inconsequential in the grand scheme to things.
Why revamp National Education then? To answer this question, we must understand the raison d'etre of NE. It creates the Singapore Story to instil in young Singaporeans respect for Singapore, respect for their citizenship and hopefully instils in them pride to be Singaporeans. If these conditions are met, than NE succeeds. If these conditions are met, then NE roots Singaporeans to Singapore. NE establishes you and me into the Singapore Story, we are part of the Narrative. Part of Singapore, part of Government, part of the PAP. We belong.
Except that we are seeing more Singaporeans leaving, less Singaporeans procreating and a younger set of Singaporeans who are Singapore Dreaming but dreaming in locations out of Singapore. So NE is not working out. We are supposed to belong. We belong, we belong together.
Hence, the revamp of NE. To make it stronger. To make you and me belong. To make me me again. Me in Singapore to be exact.
As Bhavani commanded, let me suggest something. Since we are revamping NE. Its time to approach the Singapore Story from another way, another angle. Rather than teach NE as an uninterrupted narrative of the Singapore Success, why don't we interrupt the narrative instead. Interruptions in the form of issues. Challenging issues. Excavate the silences of the forced displacement of Singaporeans to create the Housing Miracle. Excavate the silenced Chinese- educated generation who lost relevancy in one fell swoop when the Go English programme was launched. Excavate the stories of the lost kampungs in the seven lost islands which constitute Jurong Island today, sacrificed for our industrial edevelopment. Go listen to these excavations of our forgotten past. Listen to the alternative voices. David Marshall for example. Excavate the victory of JBJ in Anson. Excavate the story of Potong Pasir, the story of Hougang. Than confront these as issues in the Grand Singapore Narrative. Confront it head-on. Let the young Singaporeans decide. Allow them their empathies. Encourage them their queries. Let them excavate. Let them unearth truths, facts which have been forgotten or put on the wayside when the policy-makers scripted the Singapore Story.
But to do this we have to unravel NE itself. Because at the end of each NE lesson, each NE curriculum, there is a moral. There is a take-away. It is the determinism of NE in Singapore. That the Singapore Story is about perpetuating economic success through an emphasis on pragmatism, as defined by government. The institution that leads us all. The moral of NE is this. Place our trust in Government, its style of governance and it will lead us to the Promised Land as it has led us to here and today. Entangled somewhere in that lexical moral compass is the PAP. Pointing us to the future. Determined Futures. We belong.
If NE continues with that moral compass, it will always self defeat itself. And we will witness another revamp in 5 years. Because that Determined Future is increasingly blurred by how the world is connected today as it is always deferred by the NE curriculum.
But without that moral compass than it is no longer National Education isn't it? So do we want to truly unravel the NE syllabus? Or is this revamp but another jazzing up of the syllabus, to make it more hip and happening; a Singapore Story blog? So ask yourselves, script-writers of Singapore Story II, when you pen the story ... do you stay as Althuserrian state apparati or do you wish to really solve the problem? So ask yourself, PM Lee, do you dare trust young Singaporeans to really think and develop that potential for rootedness? Yuo cannot root anyone to a piece of land, but you can only develop that potential, leaving that choice ultimately to the individual. Can you do that? Can you take that political risk and give that choice to the individual? We long.
Or do you trod the well trodden path of choosing for us? Even when the world as it is is today tells you that your continued hold on that mandate of choice is illusory. Because youths are dreaming disconnected, Singaporeans have left, are leaving, will leave? And you are left with only those Singaporeans who depend utterly on you, because you have taken away every choice they have. They are left only with You :
"They will turn to you, because you're all they have. They will love you even while they despise you. They will trust you even though they know you well. They will vote for you even as you squeeze the very breathe from their bodies. They will drink what you give them to drink. They will breathe what you give them to breathe. They will live where you dump their belongings. They have to. What else can they do? There's no higher court of redress. You are their mother and their father. You are the judge and the jury. You are the World. You are God."
Is this really what you want? Because this is what your system of governance has engineered us towards. Strip to its bare naked truth, this is where the road of your governance leads to.
If this is not what you want, than lets revamp the NE syllabus indeed. Lift the crushing weight of the state-snactioned narrative from the shoulders of the teachers. Only then, maybe, maybe we can belong.
Quotes of the Day --
"To educate for the future, one must educate for the moment. Classes should sprawl beyond particular subjects. In digressions lie lessons. Expose students to possibilities. Let them know about your fondness for china, birds, tag sales, and gardening. Talk to them about economics and sociology, to be sure, but also about places you have been and things you have seen and thought. Instill the awareness that for the interested person days and nights glitter." -- Samuel Pickering, Letters to a Teacher
"In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches know-how? but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its practice?... [and] those teachers who, in dreadful conditions, attempt to turn the few weapons they can find in the history and learning they 'teach' against the ideology, the system and the practices in which they are trapped... are a kind of hero" -- Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses