Why the Eunuch Admiral? KPK wrote the play in response to the ‘crisis’ of identities of modern Singaporeans in the times of changing cultural and social landscape in the context of a global economy in the city-state, where the education system has to change to nurture citizens who think global but are rooted locally. Tensions in the use of the Eunuch Admiral as a metaphor is appropriate: multiple identities of the Admiral defies categorization [Muslim, Chinese, Eunuch, Admiral, explorer, loyal servant]- such tensions are also in the theme of the conference in the spirit of the conference theme “Borders and translations”, it seems as though KPK might be talking about drama education. In the context of my researchAction research is about teachers solving educational problems in a local context, translating theories and research findings into practice. process drama, as a genre of drama education, is very much on the border in Singapore where drama as a subject is not offered in most schools, much less as pedagogy in the classroom. Relating this to the students, they are also existing on the border of identities. Born and raised Singaporeans, ethnic chinese but much less in touch with the language and culture of their ancestors than the older generation. How would this translate into their choices and decisions in the future? Would they stay in Singapore because they feel rooted to the country in every way, or would they feel so socially and culturally mobile they can simply uproot themselves and move elsewhere? This seems to be not just my concern, but perhaps one shared by policy-makers in Singapore and in the region.
- The assumption beneath the need to retain local values is to anchor the citizens in their emotional attachment to the country while providing them with the necessary skills and outlook to be economically viable in the global economy.
Our assumption is :- If process drama can have a positive impact on their sense of National and ethnic identity, it will cultivate citizens who feel a sense of belonging to Singapore and are rooted to the country in the face of globalization.
Reasons:Personal and professional reasonsPersonal : - I was schooled in a similar SAP school in the 1980s. Studied Higher Chinese and Literature in Chinese in Secondary school. During that time, majority of the chinese population spoke Mandarin / chinese and many more spoke their native dialects But my mother chose not to teach me any of my native dialect, Hainanese, as she felt it will cause me to lag behind in school. Hence, I never learn to speak it. But I was exposed a lot more to the chinese culture as my mother told me stories in chinese and made it a point to cultivate my interest in it as it will be “economically viable” for me to be bi-lingual in Singapore.There was, in my perception, a lot more appreciation of Chinese culture and the diversity of the various dialect groupsI used to think and speak in predominantly Chinese until University where I began to use English a lot more daily. I would have to say that English might be my 2nd language though I am relatively bilingual. was curious about the students’ lack of appreciation for the language and culture, and how that impact their sense of identity as Singaporean / Chinese and whether the language policies has an impact on them. Furthermore, I am curious whether process drama will have an impact of their sense of identity, and views towards Chinese language and chinese culture.Co-researcher: It was interesting for me, as a teacher of minority race, to note that the students’ understanding of diversity amongst themselves and between their race and those of others seems relatively lacking comparing to my peers. I am born indian, brought up as a Christian, but studied Malay in school as my parents thought it might be good for me. Hence, I do not speak my native Hindi dialect but tend to think and use English as my dominant language. I think my command of Malay help me to relate to my Malay friends and helped me understand a lot more about customs and races other than my own. - I am curious to see how the process drama will impact the students’ use of Chinese and their identity as ethnic chinese. - Also, I am wondering how they would take to an indian teacher facilicating a drama that is essentially about their Chinese Ancestors’ journey to Singapore / Nanyang after 1819. Furthermore, what I may choose to do during the lesson might be different from Adrian. Will that impact the students’ engagement?
Indeed, the main purposes for this collaborative action research is to see if a process drama about Chinese immigrants’ journey to Nanyang (former name for Singapore) might impact students’ attitudes towards their ethnic identity, chinese and chinese culture.
I was informed by the literatures surrounding some of these areas inherent in the study.narratives, identities and languages in applied drama[the key ideas in these two extracts, in my opinion, supports the use of process drama for the purpose of this research.Process drama affords students an “experience”, and in this unit of drama, a significant experience where students’ autobiographical and genealogical narratives are interwoven with historical and fictional narratives for the students to explore their ethnic identity. I am hoping that this would provide a ‘significant’ enough an experience for the students, such that it may impact their sense of identity.
I was informed by the literatures surrounding process dramaAesthetic engagement and 2nd language acquisition in process drama
I was informed by the literatures surrounding process dramaAesthetic engagement and 2nd language acquisition in process drama
1) In this context, to nurture an awareness of the differences in their cultural roots, and an appreciation of the hardships that their forebears had to endure to come to Singapore. [theme of the drama] 2) This is more indirect, and is based on my assumption that an inherent appreciation of the culture stemming from a stronger sense of identification towards one’s ethnicity will provide the motivation to study the language and acquire cultural knowledge.
6 ptlikert scale6 – Very strongly agree1 – very strongly disagree
Narrative of “First fleet” : about the prisoners in London who were about to be shipped off to Australia, to leave behind their home for a new beginningNarrative of “Departing is my arriving” : about the chinese immigrants who were forced by poverty or other social circumstances to uproot themselves and travel to a new port of call, for a better life adjustments in contextual information but the structure of the drama is similar.
- To provide historical context for the students
- To appeal to the students
Writing a letter / diary entry to record their thoughts and feelings just before / during / after the journey
RQ1 : What is the drama’s impact on students’ cultural, ethnic and national identities? RQ2 : What is the drama’s impact on students’ appreciation of Chinese culture and use of the Chinese language?RQ3: How does the teachers’ ethnicity impact their choices during the unit of drama? RQ4 : What is the impact of the teachers’ ethnicity and their subjective choices on students’ engagement with the drama?
6 ptlikert scale6 – Very strongly agree1 – very strongly disagreePatterns (same between pre- and post- survey)Stronger identification to national identity than to their ethnic identity students are interested to know, though some seems to indicate its not ‘important’ [in terms of grades / schooling?]
- The critical moment at which the students experienced such strong aesthetic engagement may become one of the significant events that will impact their sense of identity.
What we both observed during the rehearsal process and actual presentation is that almost all students chose to present this scene, using found objects like unturned chairs and wooden blocks to symbolic the feelings of being trapped and helpless, the struggle to survive in a tiny space. I also noticed that in my lessons, right after this scene when the students were asked to write a letter back home to express their hopes and fears, they students wrote in total silence and reverence, with at least one person from each class asking if she could write in chinese, whether I would read their letters, etc…Though I did not collect their letters, I can see that most of them attempted to write at least some phrases or even whole letters in chinese without any explicit instruction from the teachers
At this point, I have more questions than answers. How does process drama work in this context? How can we make sense of this intricate interplay between language, culture and identity?Does this action research produce favourable outcomes because students’ experience of this student-focused and progressive pedagogy that is process drama stands out from the rest of the school curriculum?What might be the outcome if a similar research is conducted in a schooling environment where students are used to “progressive pedagogies”? The teachers and the students have departed from the ‘normal’ school curriculum of History, Chinese language and Chinese culture appreciation and Drama, to arrive at this shore of new land in our system.The students have arrived upon the shores of “Nanyang” in the drama, like their ancestors had. With fears, hopes and anticipation. The teachers have arrived at surprising findings. Hopeful findings. But We, as drama educators, are on the border here in Singapore, yet to move inland into the mainstream but maybe perhaps after we have fully translated what we have observed.
Departing is my arriving
Departing is my ArrivingAdrian WongArts Education Officer (Drama)Arts Education BranchStudent Development Curriculum DivisionMinistry of Education, Singapore
A tribute to Kuo Pau Kun:Descendants of the Eunuch AdmiralHome? I have no homeMy home is across the ocean, on the seas.Home? I have no homeMy home is in alien countries, on faraway watersYesterday, from Liu Jia He to the Western OceanToday, from Longyamen to the Suzhou ParkTomorrow, the Earth, the Moon, Mars and the SunWandering is my residenceDeparting is my arrivingI cannot tarryI must hurryThe market is calling me!
Introduction• Setting the context: Schooling in Singapore• Why this project? - Introducing the researcher and co-researcher• Action research and Process Drama• Hypotheses and Research questions• Research design and data collection• Outline of the drama- “Departing is my Arriving”• Implications and emergent themes
Singapore’s population• Republic of Singapore sits at the southern tip of Malaysia, land mass of 42 km by 22 km• Total population: 5.18 million (as of June 2011) ▫ Non-residents: 1.39 million ▫ Residents: 3.79 million Citizens: 3.26 million Permanent resident: 0.53 million• Ethnic composition: Chinese (74%), Malays (13%), Indian (9.2%) and others (3.3%)• Essentially, Singapore is a nation formed by migrants.
Schooling in Singapore• National statutory board: Ministry of Education• Compulsory 10 years of education ▫ Primary 1 – 6 [age 7 – 12] ▫ Secondary 1 – 5 [age 13 – 17 years] ▫ Post-secondary [age 16 and higher]• National examinations at key stages that streams students according to their abilities End of Primary 6 End of Secondary 4 or Secondary 5• English is the default language for all classroom instructions except for “Mother Tongue” lessons.
Political, social and cultural context ofeducation in Singapore• Political : Education is always tied to economic needs of the nation• Cultural : Education is heavily influenced by “Asian” values of Confucianism, tended to be more teacher- centered, usually whole class teaching and didactic though in recent years large strides has been made towards student-focused approaches.• Social : Society reinforces the importance of education, that better education provides greater financial stability and greater social mobility in the future.
The challenge of educational reform inSingapore• One of the challenges in educational reformis “(c)hanges such a integrated curriculum, student focused learning and formative assessment can be easily framed within a progressivist educational outlook with its roots deep in the history and philosophy of Western education other than the needs of Asian societies in the twenty-first century.” (p. 49, Kennedy & Lee)• Yet, the “more liberal the school curriculum, the more necessary it was to retain local values.” (p. 53, Kennedy & Lee).
Drama and 21st Century Competencies Desired Student Outcomes The desired outcomes for every student are: a concerned citizen who is rooted to Singapore, has a strong sense of civic responsibility, is informed about Singapore and the world, and takes an active part in bettering the lives of others around him.
Specifics of the local context Teacher/researcher Context of practice [Jul to Sept 2011]• Adrian Wong, Senior Teacher • CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls‟ school [Drama], M.Ed [Drama [Secondary] Education] • 1,600 students, top 10% of their Ethnic Chinese cohort • 98% Ethnic Chinese Studied „Higher‟ Chinese and • 65.1% of them speak English Chinese Literature at home Bilingual • 33.3% of them speak• Sri Laxshemy, Literature in Mandarin at home English and Drama teacher • Special Assistance Plan (SAP) ▫ Ethnic Indian status: bi-cultural programmes ▫ Studied Malay language in • Secondary 1: 380 students school, understands spoken • 10 classes, each half taught by 1 Chinese (Mandarin) teacher, concurrent lessons
Why action research?Gall, Gall and Borg (1999, p.3) regard educational research as “the systematic collection and analysis of information in order to develop valid, generalizable descriptions, predictions, interventions, and explanations relating to various aspects of education”.Johnson (2005, p.21) has defined action research as the “process of studying a real school or classroom situation to understand and improve the quality of actions or instruction”.
Why this action research? (1)• Principles of drama praxis are derived from the progressive traditions of the Western world with different beliefs about teaching and learning (Wong, 2009).• In translating principles of practice (of applied drama) in local contexts (Nicholson, 2005, p. 39), we are not only crossing geographical but ideological borders as well.• What are the issues of having process drama in Singapore‟s school system?
Why this action research? (2)Narratives, identities and languages in applied drama:“A narrative conception of selfhood recognizes that identity is not constructed autonomously but in relation to others, through both language and other symbolic codes available in different cultural practices (and) (i)n describing the self as discursively or culturally constructed, … (it is) suggesting that identity is uniquely layered through a historical sedimentation of events and experiences over which, as individuals, we have some degree of choice.” (p. 65, Nicholson, 2005)“…the use of both fictional and autobiographical narratives to play with alternative constructions of selfhood, to frame experiences in order to view life from different places and perspectives.” (p. 66, Nicholson, 2005)
Why this action research? (3)Process drama: Aesthetic engagementAnother way of learning, or rather, understanding about the world around us (Jackson, 1999, p. 56) through the aesthetic experience. It is the personal connections the percipients made in response to it. It is deeply personal as it refers to the realization by the percipients (p. 57).Nicholson (1999) further added that the aesthetics within drama education “recognizes, and values, the cultural diversity which exists in today‟s pluralist and postmodern world.” (p. 83). She posited that an aesthetic engagement is highly idiosyncratic to the personal, social and cultural values of the participants who are actively involved in the drama as they interpret the dramatic events actively through their identification with the event, or through questioning the values and feelings of others (p. 86).Bundy (2003) forwarded that when students are engaged and open to the experience of the drama, and connecting with the experience on a metaphorical level, they are encouraged to be more open to new ideas and thoughts.
Why this action research? (4)• Process drama: Second language acquisition Kao & O‟Neill (1998) explain, “Language acquisition arises from the urge to do things with words, and this need becomes paramount in process drama, when participants are required to manipulate the dramatic circumstances to achieve their own goals ” (p. 4). In the context of EFL and ESL, where the pedagogical aim is to develop students‟ confidence and competence in the use of English language, with instructions/facilitation in English.
Hypothesis 1:Drama’s impact on students• Tapping into students‟ personal stories of their own ancestry, using them in the process drama of their ancestors‟ journey to Singapore and creating a play at the end of the process will have a positive impact on their sense of cultural and national identity.• This will in turn nurture an increased use of and greater appreciation for the Chinese language, the diversity in the Chinese „cultures‟ and social-cultural diversities in the classroom.
Hypothesis 2:Teachers’ impact on the Drama• The two teachers will make different choices in the facilitation, introduce different knowledge and respond differently during the unit of work, due to their ethnic identities and subjective cultural knowledge.• This will in turn impact students‟ experience of the drama, which may impact the outcome of the action research.
Research Questions• RQ1 : What is the drama‟s impact on students‟ cultural, ethnic and national identities?• RQ2 : What is the drama‟s impact on students‟ appreciation of Chinese culture and use of the Chinese language?• RQ3: How does the teachers‟ ethnicity impact their choices during the unit of drama?• RQ4 : What is the impact of the teachers‟ ethnicity and their subjective choices on students‟ engagement with the drama?
Data collection• Pre-intervention survey• Post-intervention survey• Teachers‟ weekly reflection of their own lessons• Teachers‟ observations of students over 10 weeks
Survey questions (sample)1) I identify myself as a Singaporean.2) I identify myself as Chinese / has Chinese origins.3) I identify myself more as a Singaporean than Chinese / of Chinese descent.4) I identify myself more as Chinese / of Chinese descent than with my dialect group.5) It is important for me to know how my ancestors came to be in Singapore (or country of birth) and how they lived.6) I am interested to find out more about how my ancestors came to be in Singapore (or country of birth) and how they lived.
The process drama“Departing is my Arriving”• Adapted from “First Fleet” (O‟Toole & Dunn, 2002)• The lesson exemplars have been tried and tested by experienced practitioners grounded in praxis.• The themes of migration are similar.
Outline of unit of work Phase 1 : Initiation Phase 2: Experiential• Data collection • Creating the drama• Research task ▫ Preparing to leave China• Context building ▫ Trapped on the Chinese ▫ Teacher to share personal Junk histories ▫ Students to share personal • Extending the drama history / histories ▫ Research into the journey ▫ Creating characters from from China to Singapore the personal/family ▫ Snapshots of journey histories ▫ Disembarking from the ship
Outline of unit of work Phase 3: Reflection Phase 4: Crafting the drama• Rolling freeze frames set in the • Using the letters, diary entries context of paintings in the and poems written in- and out Asian Civilization Museum of role, the students will use [Narration with excerpts from them as source material the play] (together with their research and personal stories) for the scenes of their play. • Play-building [Theme-based play]
Findings From hypothesis 1 From hypothesis 2• RQ1: • RQ3: ▫ Survey results: No significant difference in quantitative ▫ The teachers‟ ethnicities data impact on the personal stories• RQ2: specificity of historical and ▫ Students used their subjective cultural details that they can family history and knowledge in their role-play, writing-in- provide the students out-of- role and performance role ▫ Students were using Chinese • RQ4: (and dialects) in their ▫ Survey results: Not performances though the lessons were conducted in significant between the 2 English halves of the same class
Survey questions (highlights)1) I identify myself as a Singaporean. [4.9 – 5.5]2) I identify myself as Chinese / has Chinese origins. [4.5 – 5]3) I identify myself more as a Singaporean than Chinese / of Chinese descent. [4.3 – 5]4) I identify myself more as Chinese / of Chinese descent than with my dialect group. [3.8 – 4.2]5) It is important for me to know how my ancestors came to be in Singapore (or country of birth) and how they lived. [4.2 – 4.5]6) I am interested to find out more about how my ancestors came to be in Singapore (or country of birth) and how they lived. [4.5 – 4.8]
Findings (1):• The survey result did not indicate a significant change on their sense of national and ethnic identity. The students still reported a stronger identification with their national identity than their ethnic identity.• BUT the students were observed to be highly engaged in excavating their subjective social, cultural and personal histories, sharing them with their peers and using these personal knowledge in the unit of work.• They made a choice to use Chinese language and some of their dialects in their work, as they want to strive for authenticity in their drama work.
Adrian’s reflection [Term 3 Week 1]“It was the first lesson of the term, where they were supposed to share their research task. There was a sense of anticipation for almost all the classes. I observed students sharing their research tasks with their peers even before the lesson, all intently reading.… After I have shared a story from my family history about my mother leaving China for „Nanyang‟, the students took turns to share their family history. All of them were focused, respectful and genuinely curious.”
Sri’s reflection [Term 4 Week 1]“I was surprised this week when I was giving the classes their performance task. There were at least one group from my half of the classes who asked if they could use Chinese and/or dialect in their performances. Even those students whom I know speak more English than Chinese. They were concerned that I might „mark them down‟ because I couldn‟t understand. I told them I could understand some basic Chinese but not enough to correct them if they were wrong. Satisfied with my response, they continue with their discussion and rehearsal, using Chinese at times.”
Findings (2):• The teachers did make different choices, but most of them are out-of-role and often in providing contextual and historical knowledge to the students. ▫ E.g. Sri : Indians were called “Kiling-kia” ▫ E.g. Adrian : Communism in China• These are no significant differences in the survey between the 2 halves of the classes, across the 10 classes, in their response to the unit of work.
Adrian’s reflection [Term 3 Week 3]“A student shared that her ancestor had to escape from Communism in China. She clarified that her family was well to do. Her grandmother had to bind her feet when she was young but when they heard the communists were near, she had to „unbind‟ her feet. Most students do not understand nor have the contextual knowledge about Communism. I felt I had to explain, in a nutshell, about Communism and why some felt that they have to leave the country. I also related how the Chinese diaspora is felt all over the world.I found that I have the contextual knowledge and background to inform them of such information. They were acquiring such knowledge not as disinterested facts, but there are affective interest to want to know such facts to inform their understanding of the stories.”
Adrian’s reflection [Term 3 Week 3]“Some students shared how their grandmothers had to bind their feet when she was young, and I asked the class why. They could not explain so I introduced that fact that only girls from rich families need to bind their feet them as it was a sign of their wealth and status. The students leaned forward with interest as such cultural knowledge situate and clarify the stories in context.These moments, teaching moments, which were spontaneous and arose out of the structure of the unit of work, are moments where the students’ cultural identities are strengthened by relevant knowledge of history. They are deepening their roots in the context of their personal histories – histories that are deeply embedded in and interwoven with the history of Singapore, the history of the Chinese diaspora and certainly the narratives of departing and arriving.”
What do these findings mean? (1)• The unit of drama has the capacity to raise students‟ awareness and knowledge of their own personal histories (nestled within the history of the country) and those of their peers, which can contribute to their development as concerned citizens of the world who are culturally rooted to Singapore.• Though instructed/facilitated in English, the unit of drama has a positive impact on students‟ use of Chinese language.
What do these findings mean? (2)• The teachers‟ ethnic identities do not have an impact on students‟ experiences of the drama.• The teachers drew on their subjectivist cultural knowledge to provide historical context to the students, where needed.• The consistency in facilitation, even between teachers for different classes, creates the experience for the students that engage them with the themes of the drama.
Implications for Singapore• The unit of process drama, when properly facilitated, can have an impact on students regardless of the ethnicities of both the teacher/facilitators and the students.• This unit of work can be adapted to suit the multi-cultural classrooms in Singapore.
Other outcomes• Students‟ responses ▫ “History has come alive for me!” ▫ “Now, I know why people travel so far to a foreign place to find work.” ▫ “Better than Chinese History lessons.” ▫ Significant moment reported: Trapped within the Chinese Junk• Teachers‟ observations ▫ Almost all groups chose to re-create the scene in the Chinese Junk where they were packed together
Limitations to the study• Structural constraints that makes it challenging to sustain students‟ engagement in the unit of work over 10 weeks. ▫ Timetable ▫ School holidays and other events ▫ Unpredicted „interruptions‟ Student teachers Lesson observations
Other emergent themes (1)• Consistency in facilitation produces greater sophistication in students‟ making and presenting of their performances.• Consistency in facilitation produces greater engagement with the themes, and students shows a lot more reverence and care towards the process of making and presenting, aiming for authenticity in historical facts, mood, use of language and even space.
Adrian’s reflection (Term 4 Week 3)“I had student teachers who were assigned to the Sec 1 classes and as part of their learning experience, they have to take over some of my classes for 3 weeks during which the key episodes where the teacher and students are collectively improvising. As the student teachers had little experience facilitating process dramas, some of their practice became „activity-based‟ where the student teachers were following the lesson plans as written but had little notion of how to lead the students through the experience by modelling story-telling, using key questions and using TIR effectively to engage the students to collectively imagine the situations with them.”
Other emergent themes (2)• The triangulation of data between teachers‟ reflections, teachers‟ observations and students‟ responses shows that a critical moment of the process drama (in the Chinese junk) has a significant impact on the students such that they want to re-create the moment in their presentations.• This suggests that the students experienced aesthetic engagement with the drama at that critical moment.
Sri’s reflection (Term 4 Week 1)“Most of the groups want to present a scene of the immigrants on board the Chinese junk. This coincides with the lesson where the students were improvising the scene where they were huddling on board. I entered in-role as someone from the Gongxi, suggesting hidden danger through my “gangster” gestures and demeanour… Out of role, I asked them questions like … “What about the women on board?”, “What if someone offended the guard?” …”
More questions than answersHome? I have no homeMy home is across the ocean, on the seas.Home? I have no homeMy home is in alien countries, on faraway watersYesterday, from Liu Jia He to the Western OceanToday, from Longyamen to the Suzhou ParkTomorrow, the Earth, the Moon, Mars and the SunWandering is my residenceDeparting is my arrivingI cannot tarryI must hurryThe market is calling me!
ReferencesBundy, P. (2003). Aesthetic engagement in the drama process. Research in Drama Education, 8(2), 171 - 181.Ferrance, E. (2000) Action research. Providence: Brown University.Gall, J.P., Gall, M.D., and Borg, W.R. (1999). Applying Educational Research: A practical guide (4th Ed.). New York: Longman.Jackson, A. (1999). The centrality of the aesthetic in educational theatre. NJ, 23(2), 51 - 63.Johnson, A.P. (2005). A short guide to action research (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Kao, S. & O Neill, C. (1998). Words into worlds: Learning a second language through process drama. Stanford: Ablex Publishing Corporation.Kennedy, K. J., Lee, J. (2010) The changing role of schools in asian societies: Schools for the knowledge society. Oxon: Routledge.Nicholson, H. (1999). Aesthetic values, drama education and the politics of difference. NJ, 23(2), 81 - 90.Nicholson, H. (2005) Applied drama: The gift of theatre. London: Palgrave Macmillan.OToole, J., Stinson, M., & Moore, T. (2009). Drama and curriculum: A giant at the door. United Kingdom: Springer.Wong, A. (2009). Believing In(to) the profession. Unpublished Research, National Institute of Education, Singapore.
Contact details• Adrian Wong: ▫ firstname.lastname@example.org ▫ Adrian_WONG@moe.gov.sg