Next London Theatre Seminar 15 October 2015: Postgraduate Panel with Ying Cheng and Adelina OngPosted: 13 October 2015
Adelina Ong, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London
Battling Fears: a sea monster and a friend
Can education exacerbate precarity?
In a hypercompetitive society like Singapore, where education has been described as an ‘arms race’, there are indications that the popularity of private tuition and enrichment class might significantly disadvantage young people from low-income families who already struggle with school-related costs (Gee 2012: 5).
Being Normal is associated with being ‘below average’ in Singapore. At twelve, young people who do not excel academically are segregated from their peers and placed into the Normal stream, which can be further differentiated into Normal Academic or Normal Technical (Ministry of Education 2015). Singaporean playwright Faith Ng, who was a Normal Academic student herself, said, ‘I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I was called ‘slow’, stupid, lazy or defiant, to the point where I started to believe in those labels. Even now, I still wrestle with a lot of self-doubt’ (Ng in Anjum 2015). In this presentation, I will argue that students identified as Normal experience greater exposure to suffering and that this precarity is exacerbated by an instrumentalist approach to education where future leaders are identified and nurtured through Singapore’s education system, and on the other hand a paternalistically prescribed role for those who are not identified as talents.
This presentation will also reflect on a Breakin’ (breakdance) x Applied Theatre workshop that I co-facilitated for the young people of Lakeside Family Service Centre in Singapore. In analysing the participants’ response, I will tease out some responses to fear as experienced by young people in Singapore and offer some thoughts towards battling these fears.
Gee, C. (2012) ‘The Educational ‘arms Race’: All For One, Loss For All’, IPS Working Papers, Singapore, Institute of Policy Studies, 9.12. http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/wp20.pdf (accessed 12.9.15).
Ministry of Education ‘Singapore: Education System: Secondary Education: Normal Course Curriculum’, Ministry of Education, 2015, http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/secondary/normal/ (accessed 5.9.15).
Anjum, Z. (2015) An accidental playwright: Interview with Faith Ng, kitaab, http://kitaab.org/2015/03/11/an-accidental-playwright-interview-with-faith-ng/ (accessed 12.9.15).