Asian Pedagogies: Investigating Singapore as a Microcosm

Project Number
OER 07/13 MEM

Project Duration
November 2013 - March 2017


Hogan et al. (2013), reporting on a system-wide study of pedagogical practices in Singapore mainstream schools, claimed that Singapore teachers profess no cultural or tribal loyalty to East Asian or Western traditions in their pedagogies. However they did not specify what was considered ‘East Asian’ or ‘Western’ pedagogy. By contrast, the research strand on the Chinese learner (e.g., Watkins & Biggs 1996, 2001; Chan & Rao 2009) claims that there are inherent differences between non-Western and Western pedagogical constructs owing to dissimilarities in culture and education systems. This research will explore the repertoire of pedagogies introduced into Singapore since the Teaching Schools, Learning Nation initiative in 1997, distilling their cultural and philosophical genealogies, as well as elucidating the transfer, translation and transformation processes (Cowen 2009) that those pedagogies have undergone within the local system. The study will initially undertake a quantitative analysis of international assessment data (PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS) and the Singapore Core Research Program data (obtained from a system-wide comprehensive baseline research project) in order to identify specific patterns in pedagogical practices in the world, within Asia and East Asia, and within Singapore, and their relationships with student engagement and achievement. In order to seek socio-historical explanations for the emergent patterns in Singapore from a systems perspective, a qualitative approach will be taken, employing document analysis and literature review, complemented by focus group discussions with teachers in mainstream schools and semi-structured interviews with key education policy makers. This research aims to contribute to the scholarship on the dialectic of cultures and pedagogies research in Asia, by building upon and expanding the work on the Chinese learner in the multicultural context of Singapore. It likewise aims to contribute to the amelioration of the Singapore education system by identifying ‘signature pedagogies’ (Shulman 2005) not only for high achievers, but also for improving the learning of low achievers.

Funding Source

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