Intensive motherhood and educational desires in uncertain times: Negotiating ambiguous expectations in twenty-first century Singapore

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This paper explores intensive motherhood and educational desires 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 the intensification of parenting is highly gendered, with mothers more involved in their children’s education and development than fathers, there is a lack of ethnographically grounded studies on the complex and contradictory demands surrounding motherhood, in Singapore and beyond. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper suggests that ‘mother work’ 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 fuelled 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 mothers’ educational work and desires, the paper attempts to contest simplistic interpretations of ’Asian motherhood’ and ‘Asian parenting cultures’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jul 26
Event17th EASA Biennial Conference: EASA2022: Transformation, Hope and the Commons - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Ireland
Duration: 2022 Jul 262022 Jul 29


Conference17th EASA Biennial Conference
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Anthropology

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