Educational desires, intensive parenting and shifting notions of childhood in twenty-first century Singapore

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper explores educational desires, parenting and shifting notions of childhood in contemporary Singapore. Singapore’s education system is globally renowned for its high academic standards and for producing students who excel in international assessment tests and rankings. At the same time, there has been a shift of attention in education policy towards social-emotional competencies and well-being. While a top-notch education is still considered absolutely crucial to foster a competitive and competent population, childhood is supposed to be happy and stress free. In this context, parents, mothers in particular, are expected to perform task-oriented educational work, but also to cultivate their children’s desire to learn. While it is well established in previous research that children’s education and development is a pivotal dimension of (middle-class) parenting, there is a lack of ethnographically grounded studies on the complex and contradictory demands surrounding contemporary parenthood, in Singapore and beyond. Drawing on ethnographic data, this paper suggests that parenting in the domain of education and learning is shaped by sentiments of uncertainty, fear and guilt in relation to children’s future. These sentiments, in turn, are entwined with and fueled by a deep-rooted narrative of national survival, reproduced in the form of ‘twenty-first century skills.’ By highlighting the complex emotional and moral dimensions of parents’ educational labor, this paper attempts to contest simplistic interpretations of ’Asian parenthood’ and ‘Asian parenting cultures’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 10
EventAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meeting: Unsettling Landscapes - Washington State Convention Center, Seattle, United States
Duration: 2022 Nov 92022 Nov 13


ConferenceAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meeting
Abbreviated titleAAA
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Anthropology


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