Teh, Mui Kim and Stott, Kenneth (2005) Children speaking up in Singapore: progress or peril. In: 14th Annual Conference of the Australia and New Zealand Education Law Association: Free Speech, Privacy & Property Rights in Education (ANZELA 2005), 28-30 Sept 2005, Freemantle, Western Australia.
Singapore has enjoyed enormous popularity and success on many fronts over the years. But to mention Singapore and free speech in the same sentence is, to many, paradoxical. Yet, one of the fundamental freedoms in modern society is the freedom to speak openly and without fear of retribution. Singapore, as arguably Asia's most advanced society on a wide range of criteria, does provide for freedom of speech in its Constitution. But those who know Singapore well have observed that such freedom is carefully and subtly controlled. However, as moves towards globalisation continue and international trends on human rights start to take hold, observers might argue that even an authoritarian-styled government like Singapore's will have to rethink its position and treat fundamental freedoms differently. As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, free speech has indeed taken on a new meaning in education policies in Singapore, and in recent years, there has been a shift toward greater tolerance for openness and free speech. In fact, the government has even taken the commendable and unprecedented step of encouraging students to speak up and to express their views through forums and debates. How have schools in Singapore coped with this change? This paper explores the views of some principals in Singapore schools on this issue, and discusses the approaches they have adopted to promote free speech amidst the widespread cynicism.
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