Articles from 3-year research on Singaporean youths and private higher education

With the final major empirical piece from my doctoral research entering publication, I would like to summarise and highlight the papers that emerged from this project, entitled Restructuring of Education, Youth, and Citizenship: an Ethnographic Study of Private Higher Education in Contemporary Singapore, 2013-2015.

This three-year study explores the ways in which Singaporean youths are creating meanings and identities as citizen-subjects through their participation in private degree education.

The role of private higher education in the reproduction of cultural and economic capital has not been addressed in existing scholarship on contemporary higher education in East Asia. Within Singapore, private institutes has a longstanding role to play within the state vision of creating a flexible and economically ‘viable’ workforce. Across the 1990s, private institutes began to burgeon as part of the state’s internationalisation strategy, alongside an increased privatisation of higher education in the city. By the 2000s, the private institutes have already become a significant presence in the Singapore higher education landscape. In the latest round of university restructuring, the state is beginning to acknowledge that the private sector plays a complementary role to the public universities in terms of meeting the growing demand for higher education (MOE, 2012). What might these shifting dynamics tell us about contemporary state and educational restructuring in Singapore? More importantly, what can we glean from the lives of an increasing number of youths who are part of this emerging private higher education landscape?

Using a single private institution as the ethnographic locus, my research addresses these questions by drawing on the perspectives of students who are between ages 18 and 25 and pursuing their first undergraduate degree at the institute. Drawing on Foucauldian notion of governmentality with a pragmatist interpretation of social practices, my study contributes to geographical scholarship on education and youth by (i) arguing for a bio-political analysis in higher educational student life, (ii) advancing a concept of value/s to study the actual production of neoliberal (‘learning’ and ‘caring’) subjects, and (iii) challenging an elitist notion of cosmopolitanism attached to higher education. These arguments are explicated across four key publications in different peer-reviewed journals – Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Environment and Planning A, Antipode, and Social and Cultural Geography. These are accompanied by a critical essay that uses Singapore to explore geographical issues about education and youth, published in multi-volume reference works series. The articles are:

Cheng, YE (forthcoming) Educated non-elites’ pathways to cosmopolitanism: the case of private degree students in Singapore, Social & Cultural Geography.

Cheng, YE (2016) Critical geographies of education beyond ‘value’: moral sentiments, caring, and a politics for acting differently, Antipode, 48, 4, 919–936.

Cheng, YE (2016) Learning in neoliberal times: private degree students and the politics of value coding in Singapore, Environment and Planning A, 48, 2, 292-308.

Cheng, YE (2015) Biopolitical geographies of student life: private higher education and citizenship life-making in SingaporeAnnals of the Association of American Geographers, 105, 5, 1078-1093.

Cheng, YE (2016) Learning to labour in Singapore: cultural politics of education and human capital formation, Tatek, A. and Waters, J. (eds) Work and Education: Labouring and Learning, Volume 10 of Skelton T. (ed) Geographies of Children and Young People, Singapore, Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-4585-97-2_11-1.



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