Singapore's Fort Canning: Teaching the past from the ground

Year: 2001

Author: Jacob, W

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The teaching and learning of history in the 2 1 st century will pose serious challenges if outmoded and unimaginative methods continue to dominate classroom teaching. The frequent memorisation of inert and often irrelevant historical data have raised questions about the validity and efficacy of history as a school subject. To resolve this problem more innovative teaching strategies must be adopted. Pupils must be taught the skills of the historian - to examine and use primary sources, to imaginatively reconstruct the past, to make tentative conclusions, etc.

Fieldwork within the framework of experiential lean-ling can serve as a meaningful vehicle for this skills-based-approach. Based on this assumption 2 separate field trips to Fort Canning site were conducted for 30 pre-service Postgraduate Diploma in Education students and 30 in-service teachers. The site was originally a hill with a history going back to the 14th century when Singapore was Temasek. The reminders of the past - the Iskander Syah Kramat, Christina Cemetery, the remains of Fort Canning and the Bunder Gun Site are all historical evidence reflecting different periods of Singapore's history.

The approach adopted in the field involved essentially an explanation of the "reminders", reference to information based handouts, examining and using historical evidence and work through field based exercises. The sequencing of the different learning activities was to a large extent inspired by the Kolb Experiential Learning Model.