“The survey was administered to about 74,000 pupils and students in Primary 4 and 6, Secondary 2 and 4, and second-year junior college to gauge their feelings towards and perceptions of Singapore” (Most Youths Will Defend Singapore: Innovative Approaches Necessary To Reach Young, Mr. David Lim).
The report “Most Youths Will Defend Singapore” (November 3, 2010) by Mr. David Lim presents a set of facts and figures from a National Education (NE) survey conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE); shared by Education Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen at the Connexion Seminar. The assortment of key findings from the survey does paint a rosy picture of how young Singaporeans positively perceive the state of the country, and corroborates with the purported success of the NE programmes; nonetheless, Dr. Ng’s reference to the surveys have brought about more questions than answers.
Was it a single survey or a collection of studies across different careers and age-groups? The references made by Dr. Ng and the various news agencies have been considerably confusing. By lumping together an assortment of individual surveys conducted with varying target audiences, the results presented are hardly convincing for discerning readers. For instance, were pre-tertiary students asked whether they were proud to defend Singapore? Would sentiments be more accurate if the respondents had served – or are serving – National Service? What was the composition of the respective studies done with full-time national servicemen, NSmen and members of the public?
Where can the public find more information about the 2008 and 2010 National Education research, as well as the corresponding findings? A simple search on the MOE website draws up no reference or official release of the findings of the NE survey. Many Singaporeans are interested to comprehend the methodologies of the study, the actual presentation of the questions, and how the researchers went about administering the surveys. Was it done immediately after a NE presentation, was it done under strict teacher supervision et cetera: these are significant concerns that remain unanswered. More information on the 2008 survey should also be released.
Should the numbers be directly attributed to the National Education programmes and curriculum per se? Was there an attempt on the part of the administrators or committee to determine whether the eventual results should be directly attributed to the “success” of the NE programmes? One recommendation would be to compare individual results between a sample group of institutions, to determine whether NE does play a pivotal role in fostering national consciousness. This would be constructive in directing future efforts, and evaluating whether current materials and presentations are too antiquated or pedantic.
Why were qualitative approaches – such as stratified interviews and focus group discussions – not adopted as part of the National Education survey? Numbers and figures can only tell so much. It would have been beneficial for the MOE to selectively interview select students or student-based groups to garner more wholesome responses on NE, and the questions of commitment and patriotism in general.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.