The Impact of Governmentality and Performativity on Teachers’ Work in Singapore from 1983 to 2011
AuthorLit, Gary Ying Loong
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-12-16.
© 2020 Gary Ying Loong Lit
While the successes and achievements of Singapore and its education system have been widely acknowledged and recognized in the world, predominantly via the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS; TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Centre, n.d.) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], n.d.), the daily struggles and sacrifices of its teachers do not feature prominently in the accounts. As a former teacher and retired teacher–educator, I have undertaken a deeply meaningful autoethnographic study, drawing on my experiences of interactions and conversations with colleagues who are either retired or serving teachers. My experiences reveal circumstances lived by what I believe to be a silent majority of teachers whose daily toils and identities have been sacrificed on the altar of nation-building and economic development in Singapore over more than 50 years. In recalling the ups and downs of lives spent in teaching through the decades since Singapore’s independence, my study is thus a reflection of the wider social and national trends occurring in the nation that remains in the grasp of rapid economic and national development (Marechal, 2000; Reed-Danahay, 1997; Schwandt, 2007). In my study, I explored the various discursive practices adopted by the Singapore government to subjectivize its teachers to produce what Foucault (1979) called “docile bodies” (p. 136) to serve its social, economic, and political objectives. I aim to open up more spaces and create new perspectives from which to look at the education system and schools in Singapore, with a view to interrogating the often rigid, and sometimes restrictive, regime operating in Singapore schools. To this end, the Foucauldian analytical approach is most suitable for explicating these issues, enabling deeper insight into the power relations operating in Singapore in general and the schools in particular. It also helps comprehension of the reasons behind the evolution of the policies that have led to the system of schools in Singapore today. In particular, it illuminates the ways power is exercised to support the culture of performativity in Singapore schools. To complement my Foucauldian analysis, I adopted Ball’s (2003) conceptual framework to explicate and examine the various policies and practices expressed through the culture of performativity in Singapore schools.
KeywordsSingapore education system; The Thinking School, Learning Nation policy; Singapore Kindness Movement; Foucault; Stephen Ball; Bernstein; Performativity; Governmentality; Autoethnography; Discursive and divisive practices; Disciplinary power; Biopower; Subjectivity and teacher identity; Panoptican; Ontologies
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