Sabado, Pebrero 25, 2012

The Critical Analysis in CHANG Chew Hung’s Is Singapore’s School Geography Relevant to Our Changing World?

By Sandro J.Rebadio
The Author
Dr. Chang Chew Hung is the Associate Dean for Professional Development, at the Office of Graduate Studies & Professional Learning,and concurrently an Associate Professor in Geography and Geography Education with the Humanities and Social Studies Education Academic Group ,National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) from the National University of Singapore. He was also awarded the National University of Singapore Geographical Society Gold Medal. He obtained a Research Scholarship from the National Institute of Education and became the first research scholar of the Division of Geography to obtain a Master of Arts Degree. He obtained his PhD in the area of web-based learning environments. As an administrator the scope of his work entails matters concerning Teacher Professional Development. As an University faculty, Dr. Chang teaches mainly teacher trainees across the undergraduate and post–graduate courses in the areas of Geography content, Geography Education and Social Studies Education.  His research interests include urban climates, global climate change, climate change education, social media & learning, the socio-cultural context of web based learning, digital libraries & learning, new technologies in geography and teacher professional development in Geography. He is also the President of the Southeast Asian Geography Association.( From:
This paper is based on the conference presentation published in proceedings, entitled “Where is Singapore’s School Geography Curriculum Heading? –A critical narrative” at the London International Conference on Education (LICE-2011) last  November 2011 by Chang Chew Hung  which is published in by Review of International Geographical Education Online,2011.The said paper intend to discussed the importance  and relevance of geography education in curriculum in Singapore and in our changing times.The content of the paper is elucidated in his abstract below:

          How school geography should be taught has been a longstanding issue for geography educators.In some countries, state or national level curriculum predicates how the subject should be taught in schools. This paper examines these questions in relation to existing frameworks of conceptualizing school geography, such as the International Charter on Geographical Education. School geography in Singapore has evolved from regional geography to thematic geography to systematic geography. A review of the curriculum in 2007 resulted in a distinct form of school geography unprecedented in Singapore’s education history. Today, school geography in Singapore is learnt conceptually with national level assessment designed to that end. To what extent is this evolution in curriculum design in step with changes in our world? In response to the changes in school geography, pre-service and in-service teacher training has also responded by focusing on conceptual learning and inquiry. This paper will explore the state of school geography curricula in Singapore today, and the curriculum of teacher training, with the intent to critically discuss the state of geography education in Singapore. Although geography has remained a disciplinary subject whose place has yet been disputed, the big question of why study geography in the first place needs to be answered to ensure its continued survival. In particular, school geography will be examined for its relevance to a fast changing world. This critique ends by offering a reason to how geography plays an important role in education for sustainable development, and its relevance to Singaporeans or even any citizen of the world.

Chang adhered that in order to determine how relevant school geography is to the changing needs of the world,the author  first examine the national curricula documents and analyse the evolution of geography as a school subject over the past few decade. In addition, the implementation aspects of the curriculum, such as teacher preparation and assessment issues  also discussed. Finally, the paper propose that for school geography in Singapore to stay relevant, that the conceptualization of the curriculum must take into consideration the changing needs of the world, such as for sustainable development.

Moreover,he suggests that in order for geography to remain relevant, it must address the issues of our time. His paper provides an overview of the historical development of  educational system  in Singapore, with a critical analysis on how it has responded to the themes in geography and in the issues that are relevant to a citizen of the world. This paper further argues that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) plays a pivotal role in ensuring that geography is able to engage our students in the knowledge, skills, values and actions that are required to respond to the unprecedented changes to our lived environment in terms of rate, scale and complexity.

            With the inherent in the concept of sustainability is the idea that development should be kept briskly so that future generations’ development will not be compromised. Humanities subject such as social studies and geography take center stage, as ESD is not present as a subject nor featured strongly in the core curriculum in Singapore.

In issues and challenges, he viewed in terms of exposure to ESD in the formal curriculum; a student in Singapore comes into contact with concepts of ESD as early as Primary 3 (9 years old) through Social Studies. The knowledge, skills and attitudes are explicitly taught at lower secondary for both geography and social studies. At upper secondary level, Social Studies is the main delivery mechanism for ESD. At pre-university level, geography becomes the main subject through which ESD on climate change is achieved. However, only when thier students move from mere awareness of sustainability concerns to interpreting, analyzing and studying the issues and then finally developing some personal opinion and attitude about these issues, can we hope that sustainability for the future can be achieved. In other words,he perceived that  action and not just inculcation is key to the successful implementation of ESD. It is important for geography curriculum in schools to address beyond the knowledge and skills of geography into the values we desire our students to develop so as to take action to ensure sustainable development in the future.On the otherhand,he also reported the mode of assessment in geography education in national level using the levels marking approach.

Meanwhile, he comprehensively give further details on teacher training for geography about the  training curriculum program in bachelors’ degree and postgraduate diploma in Singapore.

To the end of his paper he wrap up that  this is the very idea of his the paper has argued for thus far.
          Through examining the historical development of school Geography, Geography at the local Universities and the changes to the teacher training curriculum in Singapore, examples of practices that support this idea have been discussed. Conceptual learning and the changes to assessment modes provide the necessary conditions for students to take action for the world they live in. There is no guarantee that students will see this relevance or even want to do anything about climate change, for example. However, teachers are important change agents who do not just carry out the curriculum, but through their own reflective practice and beliefs, inspire the students they teach. Perhaps the first step is for geography educators themselves to model the action they would like to see in their students. Geography educators need to answer the big question of why study geography in the first place through action, and explicate it in geography curricula in schools, at the University and for teacher training. As geography plays an important role in education for Singaporeans, and even to any citizen of the world in ensuring that future development is sustainable, its relevance cannot and should not be easily dismissed.(Chang,p.154)

          The above prevailing views of Chang in his endeavor to give importance and relevance of Geography education in Singapore in our changing times should be adhered and welcome.

The geography of Singapore is a small, heavily urbanized, island city-state in Southeast Asia, located at the southern tip of the Malayan Peninsula between Malaysia and Indonesia. Singapore has a total land area of 778 km² and 193 km of coastline. It is separated from Indonesia by the Singapore Strait and from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor.With this geographical facts revealed that Singapore should have to developed and institutionalize a geography education curriculum to meet the challenges of the changing times.I hailed him for taking this topic available to the Singaporeans and to the world.We saw the progress of Singapore in term of commerce,trade and in urbanization.With this scenario,the issues of environment and nature should be  much focus with this timely and alarming Global warming and climate change.He observed the current curriculum that:

 ESD on climate change is only present in the “pure” geography subject at the upper secondary level. The unit on “Weather and climate” features a section on“climate disasters”. Only the knowledge about the impact of climate change related phenomena is included here. There is no explicit mention of skills or values that should be learnt with respect to climate change concerns. In as far as ESD is concerned; this has to be addressed in the Geography curriculum.(ibid,p.148)

Meanwhile,he  noticed that in  the pre-University level, ESD on climate change is only featured at the H2level. Under the unit on atmospheric processes, hazards and management, the section on climate change and Responses is organized around the issue of the problems brought about by global warming induced climate change.

He added that while there is no immediate apparent follow-through of the concerns on climate change from lower secondary to upper secondary geography curriculum in terms of skills and values , the absence is probably intentional as the social studies(which is a compulsory subject) curriculum has a distinct section on environmental concerns for both the lower and upper secondary levels. This Chang’s criticism on the lack of Ministry of Education concern in educating the young Singaporean in the awareness of climate change is an eye opener to the Singapore government in enhancement of their curriculum. I really salute to Chang for his criticism.Geography should not limited to facts but also shows integration and values.

According to Simon Black ( Singapore rank third in the lowest risk of disasters. With their fortunate geographical location,the climate change cannot be eradicated in their neighboring countries and this become a threat in their city state.

Singapore has a  good established educational system adopting the international standards.In fact,in the  conduct  of survey in  Third International Math and Science study,1997,(13 year old’s average score)Singapore globally ranked first while United States on seventeenthConsequently ,I am amazed with  Chang’s paper that Singapore have previously adopting the Understanding by Design(UbD) as mode of instruction for so long in teacher training and in school.

Accordingly, the paper is intended for curriculum planners, designers, researchers and educators who wish to   strengthen the geography education in our fast changing and modern time. The planet is really changing, our climate is quite unpredictable. Now and then, we heard news of tremendous natural disasters.

 The author clearly stated his intention and purpose in writing this paper with his starting query on subtitle, Is School Geography in Singapore relevant to our fast changing world? This essential question tend to answer if the Singapore education curriculum need for revision and improvement in regards to curriculum and instruction especially in our fast changing times. In furtherance, the author give the  brief historical background and overview of the Singapore  geography education. He also connects and incorporated some past researches on geography education for past few decades. The structure, content, and sequence of his paper presentation is a must- to read and worth representing.

To wind up, I absolutely agree with this proposal to keep abreast with the issues of our changing times.Moreover, his fascinating title question adequately answers to the end of his paper.


“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.  ~Victor Frankl

Last year, our country has been devastated with this natural catastrophe like the recent flash flood in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City that wreck thousands of lives and billions of properties. The country’s geographic location facing the Pacific Ocean and in the Pacific ring of fire informed us for preparedness for possible occurrence of typhoon, earthquakes, Tsunami and volcanic eruption. These natural disasters are concern of the Geography education. Aside from this, the perils of climate change and global Warming is here.
Anent to this, the Department of Education (DepEd) has taken steps to strengthen environmental education in public and private schools to boost government efforts in dealing with climate change. Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the move seeks to match lectures in the classroom with concrete school-based activities that will preserve and protect the environment.Luistro issued DepEd Memorandum Order No. 52 directing schools to intensify environmental education and pushed for the creation of student-led environmental awareness groups in schools. The order was in compliance with Republic Act 9512 or “An Act to Promote Environmental Education and for other Purposes.”
It is also timely, that the integration of climate change should be available in all learning areas, Chang elucidated in his concern to keep geography education curriculum relevant in our changing times.Thus, the need to add competencies in geography that concern with the awareness of our nature and environment should be intensified.
Our province, Agusan del Sur is an elongated basin formation with mountain ranges. In this topographic state, we always affected with great floods during rainy season. As teacher, I always explained to my learners the preservation and caring of the remaining timberland and rainforest in our locality. I also elucidated the danger of global warming in our locality.
The rise of logging industries in our locality has continued to  destroyed the mountains and rivers. This activity has contributed to the progress of the local economy but it pushes our environment to damage. In the past years in school it is always our theme in teaching content in writing essays, reading short stories and reading news story. Activities and contest also adopted this theme on climate change, love of  nature and the likes but there is a lack in it.
I remember four years ago in my school, we accepted the program, Green Earth which able us to plant about hundreds of trees in return of computers.Today, the mini-forest area within my school premises show off very impressive result of that cause.Meanwhile,I could remember of some of my pupils who are now engaged in hauling  logs and transport it in the market place. I sadly recalled how I deviate with them on the proper care of our mother nature.
I think I will suggest the strengthening of the advocacy of climate change and of global warming in classroom teaching especially in geography. .As teachers, let’s always integrate activities that will lead our pupils’ to be eco- friendly. Consequently, intensifying the proper teaching of preparedness and social responsibilities on possible natural disasters. We cannot escape from this Climate Change. It gradually shows us its sign.

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