Implications for the teaching of NE, from a friend in the teaching profession
Received this email from a friend in the teaching profession (in Singapore):
I have been wondering as an educator if it is time for us to re-evaluate--not NE per se, but reviewing the current six NE messages that are used as a guide for National Education activities. I think regional engagement and global mindedness need to be incorporated into the NE messages in some way. If you read our NE messages, they still point somewhat towards a sort of siege mentality, and these messages are.. what? 6 or 7 years old? [Ed: If memory serves, NE was started in '99]In a different email from the same friend:
When NE was introduced...I for one felt it was important because for the first time, because of it, I felt people began to be more conscious of Singapore's ability to survive and do well, because the message that the SAF was not a peanut in the region was sent out clearly, and it was well supported by sound facts. Public perception before that tended to be: Singapore is so small, "kenna attack only liao already la..." sort of thing.
The key mindset at the time was to give people a sense of belief in our ability to safeguard our country, and to instill confidence in our survivability at a time when the highs of double-digit economic growth had taken quite a battering; and of course, a new generation of school going kids could not relate to our post-colonial nation building experience, and may not even have had living relatives who experienced the Occupation.
However, the world has moved on, and since Sep 11, Singapore has more openly aligned itself with U.S. interests because of compatibility of national interests, and the wisdom/prudence in openly doing so. In the light of our overall well-being, and our evident ability not just in handling the bird-flu and SARS crises, but in leading the region in doing so, I think it's time for Singapore to review the six NE messages which emphasises confidence-building in our country so we will be prepared to fight for its survival.
I think the time has come now not merely to see ourselves as being able to survive in a potentially hostile neighbourhood (baggage from the immediate post-colonial developments) but to actively engage our neighbours. To this end, (as callous as it sounds, and I certainly don't mean this in a heartless way, but the reality is the reality) the Tsunami incident provides an opportunity for engagement which we have taken.
What I'm trying to say is, we need to update National Education to see ourselves not as needing to defend what we have in a potentially hostile neighbourhood, but to see ourselves as having the means, and therefore, bearing the responsibility to participate and engage in regional issues. The government has been doing this, ASEAN, development triangles, etc, etc... but we should be teaching our students to have a global consciousness. NE should reflect that is what I'm saying.
Anyway, the six NE messages as it stands now are:
1. Singapore is our homeland. This is where we belong. We want to keep our heritage and our way of life.
2. We must preserve racial and religious harmony. Though many races, religions, languages and cultures, we pursue one destiny.
3. We must uphold meritocracy and prevent corruption. This provides opportunity for all according to their ability and effort.
4. No one owes Singapore a living. We must find our own way to survive and prosper.
5. We must ourselves defend Singapore. No one else is responsible for our security and well-being.
6. We have confidence in our future. United, determined, and well-prepared, we shall build a bright future for ourselves.