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New History Syllabus for Lower Secondary Students

Students are learning more about the country’s past more than before as the upgraded lower-secondary history syllabus introduced the new history textbook called “Singapore: The Making of a Nation-State”, which contents include events as old as 13th century happenings.

The book which describes country’s interesting history dating as far back to the trading era can greatly help students understand how Singapore survived the early years. As MOE pointed, the book is the best medium for present students to explore Singapore’s origins due to its more detailed and concise explanations of the country’s past.

Child soldiers

What the New History Syllabus Contains

In contrast to the previous syllabus describing Singapore’s colonial era in the 1800s and the stories after WW II, the updated syllabus travels all the way back to explaining the events in the country starting in 1300s. The events include the trades with Chinese locals and the artifacts that were brought to the land which was found at the Old Parliament House.

The stories regarding the rise of Singapore as trading spot in the 13th century and the natural resources that traders used to transport goods between lands were also clearly explained in the new textbook.

Chinese porcelain

MOE was very pleased to how the textbook presents the country’s past in a manner that students can remember and appreciate. Ms. Shinderjeet Kaur, a history teacher from Juying Secondary shares her joy as she expresses that the new syllabus can encourage group work where students visit museums like National Museum or Fort Canning to discover more about Singapore’s past. Students also become more curious, evident from the increased inquiries that teachers receive.

With the new syllabus to introduce the country’s very early years, Ms. Kaur is happy to see students expand their knowledge about Singapore’s early history apart from all the war and colonization. According to Chua Ai Lin, a historian from National University of Singapore, exposing students to the country’s early years allows them to understand that the nation has also a historical face other than WW II battles and British colonization.

Purpose of the New History Syllabus

According to “2014 Lower Secondary History Teaching Syllabuses” released by MOE on their website, the updated history syllabus aims to engage students actively in historical inquiry so as to develop them into confident, self-directed, critical and reflective thinkers. The new syllabus also aims to equip students with necessary historical knowledge, dispositions and skills to understand the present and to further study their personal interest about history.

Studying the entire syllabus, the students at the end of the course will be able to understand history as a way to connect to individuals, societies and events in the present day. They are also expected to show openness and respect for diverse and sometimes, opposing views.

Syllabus Content

Singapore: The Making of a Nation-State, 1300 – 1975 is composed of 4 units in which they are categorized as:

a. Unit 1 – Tracing Singapore Origins

This section is the introductory part of the textbook in where students can learn the age of Singapore and its connection to the world from the 14th to 19th century.

b. Unit 2 – Life in Colonial Singapore

This section reveals the reason why people started to come to Singapore before World War II and the people who came to Singapore in the 19th and early 20th century.

c. Unit 3 – Towards Independence

This section narrates the experience of people in Singapore towards 2nd half of the 20th century as well as the events during the Japanese occupation. Overview of the political development in Singapore is also stressed out in this chapter.

d. Unit 4 – Singapore’s First Decade (1965-1975)

This part of the course describes the how life has changed when Singapore finally claimed its independence from Malaysia.  Singapore’s economic transformation and change of standard in living is also another big highlight in this section.

The Lower Secondary History syllabuses are scheduled for implementation in Secondary 1 in 2014 and Secondary 2 in 2015, MOE announced.

Source: http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/syllabuses/humanities/files/history-lower-secondary-2014.pdf

Brief History of Singapore

Everyone recognized Sang Nila Utama, the prince from Sumatra as giving Singapore its name “Singapura” in relation to the strange animal with a lion head and dragon tail that he saw while hunting. Thereon, he named the city Singapura which are from the Sanskrit words “simha” (lion) and “pura” (city). Many people believe that the story is true but others chose not to recognize the legend.

According to “YourSingapore”, the old Singapore was ruled by 5 kings. Situated at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapura was once the busiest meeting point of sea routes due to exchange of trades coming from India, China and Arab regions, not to mention the Portugese battleships and Buginese schooners. As flourishing as it seems, Singapura history was not recorded until the 16th century and the area was only considered as a trading post with a very small amount of population.

Modern Singapore according to Tim Lambert was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. Raffles, the clerk for the British East India Company in 1795 was sent to Penang and in 1811, he was made Lieutenant Governor of Java. He rose rapidly in the company and became the governor of Bencoolen on the island of Sumatra.

It was Raffles who suggested that the British should establish a base on the Straits of Melaka in 1819. In 1819, he landed on the island of Singapore. The island was once surrounded by swamps and jungle but Raffles proposed that the area could be used as a port.

The British founded a new trading post at Singapore and it was successful. In fact, it grew rapidly. Hearing about the improvements made to the island, Europeans, Malays, Chinese, Indians and Arabs came to live and work in Singapore which increased the population to 10,000 by 1824. It was in 1867 when Singapore became a Crown Colony ruled directly by the British government rather than the East India Company. After the transfer, the population slowly grew until it reached 100,000 by 1870.

Singapore population

Singapore became even more inviting with the construction of buildings during the late 19th century. Among the most prominent structures that time was the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall which was built in 1862. Temples have started to emerge in the island as well. Sri Marimman Temple which was erected in 1823 and Thian Hock Keng Temple which was built in 1842 sets another highlight in the land.

Today, Singapore is one of the world’s most progressive countries. Thanks to its colourful past and the people who worked hard to bring it to the top.

Different Subjects Taken by Lower Secondary Schools Now

Secondary education in Singapore is based on four different tracks or streams according to Wikipedia on Secondary Subjects on Secondary Schools (Singapore):

1. Special

2. Express

3. Normal (Academic)

4.  Normal (Technical)

And here are the subjects taken by students in Secondary Education in Singapore:

Languages Group

  • English Language
  • Mother Tongue Languages (Chinese, Malay, Tamil, etc.)
  • Higher Mother Tongue Languages (Higher Chinese, Higher Malay, Higher Tamil, etc)
  • Foreign Languages (French, German, Japanese)
  • Asian Languages (Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia)
  • Other Third Languages [Chinese (Special Programme), Malay (Special Programme)]

Humanities Group

  • Combined Humanities
  • History
  • Geography
  • Literature in English/Malay/Chinese/Tamil
  • Higher Art (Art Elective Programme)
  • Higher Music (Music Elective Programme)

Mathematics and Science Group

  • Mathematics
  • Additional Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Science (Physics, Chemistry), Science (Physics, Biology), Science (Chemistry, Biology)
  • Integrated Sciences

Other Subjects

  • Art
  • Design and Technology
  • Music
  • Computer Applications
  • Elements of Office Administration (until 2008)
  • Elements of Business Skills (2009 onwards)
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Principles of Accounts
  • Religious studies (Confucian Ethics, Buddhist Studies, Islamic Religious Knowledge, Bible Studies, Sikh Studies, etc.)
  • O-Level School-Initiated Electives (Economics, Computer Studies, etc.)

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_education_in_Singapore

Benefits of Learning History for Students

HendonPrep on “Benefits of Studying History” shares some important advantages of studying history as follows:

1. Apart from the fun you get from learning about events and stories of the past, studying History trains student’s mind and teaches the brain to process information properly.

2. It serves as a challenge for students to understand and memorize events, dates and sequences via question and answer.

3. History also motivates students to develop skills of organizing information in the mind and have the confidence to express their own opinion.

4. Also it helps students understand the origin of today’s world, the modern political and social problems.

5. It helps student appreciate the people in the past.

Trading in Singapore


The improved version of History syllabus promotes not only better understanding of Singapore’s early years to students but also presents a great opportunity for all ages to learn the roots of the country before colonialization.

Students with curiosity as to how Singapore started and its progressive transformation over the years can surely get tremendous information on the new syllabus, which is arguably considered as the most perfect ever designed for a subject.

With this magnificent upgrade of History syllabus, students can now feel even more attached to the country as they recall the humble beginnings of Lion City.

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