The changing face of sport and physical education in post-colonial Singapore

McNeill, Mike, Sproule, John, and Horton, Peter (2003) The changing face of sport and physical education in post-colonial Singapore. Sport, Education and Society, 8 (1). pp. 35-56.

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This paper examines paternalism through the political development of sport and physical education in post-colonial Singapore. Initial consideration is given to demography, post 2nd World War development, prevailing political ideology, economic factors and the social characteristics of Singaporeans. Through the stewardship of the current Prime Minister, Mr. Goh Chok Tong, elite sport in Singapore has only recently been accepted by the government as having a level of national and cultural importance. The whole area of sport and active recreation emerged in the 19th century as a feature of the cultural imposition of the British colonial settlers and their armed forces and was identified with social differentiation rather than social cohesion. In independent Singapore sport was initially viewed as a means of ameliorating racial tension, it became a facilitator of class distinction (based on wealth) but is now considered to be a cornerstone of nation building. One of the first direct incursions of the Singapore government into sport was the formation of the Singapore Sports Council in 1973. At that time it was enlisting sport as a politico-economic tool by promoting nation building through productivity. In 1984 a College of Physical Education was set up to produce specialist teachers in physical education. However, many school programmes prioritise fitness training and testing as the central dimension of physical education. The notion still receives wider political support as it is of paramount importance to the Ministry of Defence that male students are fit for military national service. Significantly, in 2000, a sport portfolio was given to the Ministry of Community Development as success in regional and international sport was identified as an important pillar of nation building as well as an expression of the nation’s coming of age as a developed nation. Against this background for sport, physical education and recreation, Singaporeans are socialised into fitness conditioning and elite sports through a functional and serious perspective with ‘sport for life’ (previously ‘sport for all’) remaining the most important dimension. This paper also addresses recent sport policy, including the issue of ‘foreign’ talent and current innovations, such as the development of a sports industry, the Athletes Career and Training (ACT) programme (2002), and the creation of a ‘sport school’ to be opened in 2004.

Item ID: 418
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1470-1243
Keywords: sport; post-colonial Singapore; politics
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2006
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130210 Physical Education and Development Curriculum and Pedagogy @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9403 International Relations > 940399 International Relations not elsewhere classified @ 60%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9402 Government and Politics > 940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified @ 20%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940106 Citizenship and National Identity @ 20%
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