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Read the following articles and address the tasks that follow.

  1. Mokhtar, F. (2017, December 28). Survey points to social class divide among Singaporeans. Today Online.Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/ singapore/survey-points-social-class-divide-among-singaporeans
  1. Channel NewsAsia. (2018, March 14). Controversial Social Studies guidebook not on approved textbook list: MOE. Channel NewsAsia.Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/controversial-social-studies-guidebook-not-on-approved-textbook-10042286
  1. Jie, P. (2018, June 1). If We Celebrate Singapore’s Meritocracy, We Must Also Embrace Its Elitism. Rice Media. Retrieved from
    http://ricemedia.co/current-affairs-opinion-celebrate-meritocracy-embrace-elitism/

The first article is a news report on the findings of a study done that found that Singaporeans have limited interactions across socio-economic lines. The study suggested that the sharpest social fault-lines in Singapore may now be based on class. The second article is a news report on the social media backlash against controversial content in a Social Studies guidebook. The guidebook, in its explanation of the concept of “Socio-Economic Status” or “SES”, listed activities and choices purported to be undertaken by lower SES individuals. This list is considered by some to be elitist and an insensitive oversimplification of socio-economic divides. The last article is an editorial on the relationship between elitism and meritocracy in Singapore.

Address the issue of socio-economic class divisions by doing the following.

  1. Discuss why the issue of class is an important social issue that the social sciences should be concerned with. To do this, you must demonstrate an understanding of the kind of phenomena that the social sciences investigate.

  2. Present an account of how Singapore’s present socio-economic class divisions may have emerged in Singapore’s society employing relevant concepts or perspectives from the social sciences. Your understanding of any concepts or perspectives used must be demonstrated through adequate definitions/characterisation of those concepts or perspectives.

  3. Present twoways in which Singapore’s present socio-economic class divisions may have influenced Singapore’s political sphere employing relevant concepts or perspectives from the social sciences. Your understanding of any concepts or perspectives used must be demonstrated through adequate definitions/characterisation of those concepts or perspectives.

Class as a social issue and part of the social science

In the stratification of society into multiple layers, the class is one of the primary factors that determine the position of the individual in society (Healey et al., 2018).  According to Karl Marx,” Man is a class animal”. However, what he meant by a class animal is the same what we understand today. By class he meant, all individuals are different from each other regarding their status, age, education or their family background (Kerbo, 2017).

The understanding of class has radically changed, and the term means something different today. To understand what is the meaning of class in today's context and why is it a part of the social science subjects, it is essential to understand the issue that social science deals with under its umbrella.  The class is the concept for defining the position of people in society on the basis of their economic, educational or any other divisions. It is used as a mark of positioning people. However, this has been used in the negative sense that the positive sense. The class is defined in multiple ways. It is important why is it a part of the social issues. Historically, societies have been divided into multiple segments, mostly on the basis of economic criteria. The model of this economic class is defined by Karl Marx where he defines the theory of class struggle and the origin of the class. However, it is to be remembered that “class” is mostly understood in terms of socio-economic class or the working class (Parkin, 2018).  It is crucial to understand class from a social perspective because people are defined through their class.

It is to be remembered that social science is the study of human behaviour and people behave in a certain way shaped by societal norms. Even though there are variations of this behaviour across culture, time and place, it is mainly about people and their behaviour within the social context that is the critical elements of the study of social science. It is to be said that class is one such social factor that is used in determining and understanding the behaviour of the people which is why it is the part of the social issues and dealt is social science subjects (Lee et al., 2016).

It is argued that education is used as a tool for social mobility. However, in the context of Singapore, there is a blurred representation of the same. Education here is not an indicator of social mobility instead it is an indicator of social divisiveness (Channel NewsAsia, 2019). It is also criticised for not being able to create enough possibility and opportunity for the Singaporean children from diverse socio-economic background to have equal opportunity in education and employment (Cole, 2017).  It is to be remembered that this is the reflection of the parental choice and their educational qualifications that determine the future schooling of the children. This attitude is getting reflected in the increasing level of social discrimination in the society of Singapore.

Singaporean society based on the social divisions

As the second article defines that the present society of Singapore is based mainly on "class", it is important to analyse the issue of present socio-economic class division of the society now. It is found that people of a similar educational or economic background tend to flock together and find their interest similar. There is a tendency to form social ties across similar familial lines when such situation is found in the context of Singapore, it is developing the notion of “winners v losers” and this is prevalent within the context of the children of the elite schools who are developing the “elitist" attitude towards others children who do not share a similar background (Rodan 2016). This notion of difference in developing the practice of exclusion in the society. This society is based on the idea of “closed system” of stratification where the stratification in society is not based on merit slightly it is based on the socialisation based on the parental influence, educational and financial background (Wallace, 2017). It is the system of class division where people are divided on the basis of their birth into a higher or lower class. This system is opposed to the system of meritocracy even though some scholars argue that Singapore follows meritocracy and elitism. However, this is reflected in their political structure, and it is argued to be elitist and not a meritocracy.

This situation could be interpreted and understood by connecting it to the theory of class and social consciousness. This theory considers society is made up of individuals who are divided according the economic background. These classes have their structure when it comes to interaction with other groups of the society and most of their interactions are determined by the economic class they belong to (Rodan 2016). According to Rodan (2016), for a society to perform the required functions, there is need of multiplicity of roles to perform certain professions, and it is this economic inequality that creates an unequal class division in society (Wallace, 2017). In the context of Singapore, unlike the other Asian countries which are divided primarily into religious lines, it is based on class. This prevailing situation is creating tension in the society. This division is based on three criteria’s, income, and education and housing type. Social divide and social inequalities are affecting Singapore’s social and political system to a great extent, and most importantly the future of the Singaporean kids are marked with questions unless there are some positive changes in the mindset of the people (Ye, 2016). It is mostly determined by the type of financial background they come from which determines the type of social group they can be part of and interact with. Class continues to be the single determinant factor of the consciousness they build.

The concept of meritocracy is the political ideology of the Singaporean governance (Singh, 2016). However, it often comes into conflict with itself in terms of talent allocation and rewards. In Singapore, meritocracy is used as the central ideological resource for justifying the authoritarian and technocratic governance in the country (Singh, 2016). Being a former British colony, the country has mostly been criticised for promoting elitism in the name of meritocracy (Ye, 2016). It is argued that the class division and social variations are reflected in their political administration and governance (Rodan 2016). For example, there is a large number of overseas scholarship are given to the students of the top universities, and it is stringently monitored and assessed to join the public administrative service of the country (Jie, 2018). The ruling elite of the Singaporean political system is argued to have lack of communication and problem in understanding the demands of the citizens. The People's Action Party's mandate is focused on promoting meritocracy even though it is argued to have flawed the principle or meritocracy and promoted elitism in the political system (Singh, 2016). This issue is class division and discriminatory attitude towards certain jobs in society have severe repercussion for the future of the country.

Influence of the class division on the political sphere

This social class division has been reflected and translated into politics to an extent the citizens do not pose enough faith in their governance. It is also argued that people tend to have parochial feeling towards the people of their religion or races than having the feeling for the political system as a whole (Tremewan, 2016). This is to be noted that the national identity and pride in divided on class line. It is also to be argued the controversy of the Presidential candidature of Halima Yacob, according to the critics, there were issues of racial discrimination, and a question of multiracial representation and the quality of all to participate have been put into question (Singh, 2016). Hence, it can be said with the assertion that the social division of the Singaporean society has a direct correlation with the political system of the country and it will remain as a mark in the system unless a more inclusive approach is taken to reconsider the issue of class division in society.

Despite having a high level of achievements in the governance and the economy, Singapore is carrying the heavy burden of criticism for its social issue of class division. What is important to remember is that education is the only possible tool to bring out positive change and it is the effectiveness of the Singapore educational system that requires change for creating new avenues and equal opportunities of people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Moreover, it is essential to consider the housing and residency issues of people which decides and determines their social grouping. This issue of oversimplification of the issue of class division is the cause of the problem instead there is a need to counter the issue of class division in order to ensure equal opportunity for all.

References

Channel NewsAsia. (2018, March 14). Controversial Social Studies guidebook not on the approved textbook list: MOE. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/controversial-social-studies-guidebook-not-on-approved-textbook-10042286

Cole, M. (2017). Education, equality and human rights: issues of gender,'race', sexuality, disability and social class. Routledge.

Healey, J. F., Stepnick, A., & O'Brien, E. (2018). Race, ethnicity, gender, and class: The sociology of group conflict and change. Sage Publications.

Jie, P. (2018, June 1). If We Celebrate Singapore’s Meritocracy, We Must Also Embrace Its Elitism. Rice Media. Retrieved from https://ricemedia.co/current-affairs-opinion-celebrate-meritocracy-embrace-elitism/

Kerbo, H. (2017). Social stratification. The Wiley?Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory, 1-4.

Lee, M., & Morris, P. (2016). Lifelong learning, income inequality and social mobility in Singapore. International journal of lifelong education, 35(3), 286-312.

Mokhtar, F. (2017, December 28). Survey points to social class divide among Singaporeans. Today Online. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/ Singapore/survey-points-social-class-divide-among-singaporeans

Parkin, F. (2018). The social analysis of class structure. Routledge.

Rodan, G. (2016). Capitalism, inequality and ideology in Singapore: new challenges for the ruling party. Asian Studies Review, 40(2), 211-230.

Singh, B. (2017). Understanding Singapore Politics.

Tremewan, C. (2016). The political economy of social control in Singapore. Springer.

Wallace, W. (2017). Sociological theory. Routledge.

Ye, J. (2016). Situating Class in Singapore: State Development and Labour. In Class Inequality in the Global City (pp. 27-57). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Ye, J. (2016). Class inequality in the global city: Migrants, workers and cosmopolitanism in Singapore. Springer.

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