SINGAPORE: A Secondary 3 Social Studies book that has sparked online controversy for its content is not on the Ministry of Education's (MOE) approved textbook list, MOE confirmed on Wednesday (Mar 14).
Pictures of a page from the book with the subheading "Socio-Economic Status (SES)" have gone viral online as netizens criticised the book's description of people with "lower SES".
The guidebook, entitled "Complete Guide to GCE O-Level Social Studies Volume 1" and published by MarketAsia Books, defined SES as a factor "that shapes a person's identity".
The book also included a list of personal choices purportedly undertaken by someone with lower SES. The list included "using Singlish or different dialects in daily conversation", playing "sports like soccer or basketball" at local HDB estates, "eating at hawker centres or at home" and youths who take "on part-time jobs during vacation" to meet "basic family needs".
However, MarketAsia Books has defended the contents of the guidebook saying that it has to "be read in (the) context of the whole chapter, which discusses crucial themes pertaining to Singapore’s social mobility and inequality issues".
"We encourage readers to read the whole chapter as well as the official textbooks on this theme to gain a more holistic and accurate picture of the context of what is discussed and, in doing so, we hope to bring about greater critical thinking and knowledge of responsible online reading," a spokesman said in response to Channel NewsAsia queries.
He added that their approach is "the same approach highlighted in several other official and approved Social Studies textbooks on this theme".
The publisher also maintained that the guidebook "seeks to deepen students’ understanding of current issues and the society that they live in".
The issue first gained traction when Facebook user Ahmad Matin posted a picture of the SES section from the book on Monday (Mar 12), with the caption: "Surprised this is even published. I am appalled!", and tagged MOE to the post.
In response to the post, MOE commented on Wednesday that the book is "not on the Ministry of Education’s Approved Textbook List".
"Commercial learning materials approved by MOE will bear the Ministry’s stamp of approval on their front cover or inside the book," it added.
Netizens reacted negatively to the book, with many frustrated by the impact it could have on young readers.