• Katherine Pan

Review of GES1005: Everyday Life of Chinese Singaporeans: Past & Present

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

Year took: AY20/21 Semester 1

GES1005 explores how state policies have shaped Chinese Singaporeans' way of life from the colonial era to post-independent Singapore. It combines ethnography with the analysis of state policies. As I took this module during an online semester, my experience may differ from yours. The assessment criteria are as follow:

1. Tutorial Participation – 20%

2. Project - Ethnographic Essay – 30%

3. Film Review – 20%

4. Final Essay – 30%


The 3 main topics are the macroscopic developments (politics, economy & society), microscopic everyday life and changes through time, and how Singaporeans have adopted to state policies. GES1005 discusses the Chinese socioeconomic landscape during the colonial era, anti-colonial movements, state policies, and blueprint after independence, and impact on citizens.

My lecturer was Prof Kwee and I enjoyed her lectures. She radiated infectious enthusiasm and offered concise explanations that were easy to grasp. Yet, I think that the lecture notes are poor. Although it contains the points discussed in the lecture, there are no explanations. During lectures, I will be furiously taking notes to supplement the scant notes.

Thankfully, lectures were pre-recorded due to COVID-19 and uploaded onto Luminus. Yet, there were several occasions students faced technical difficulties viewing the videos. Prof Kwee tried to resolve this by uploading the videos under the multi-media and web lecture tab. Do note this potential problem if lectures are still e-learning.

Many lecture readings were uploaded onto Luminus. But it is not compulsory to read them as the lecture provides enough information. I think that the readings are supplementary and more for one’s interest instead.


Tutorials & Participation:

Tutorials were held biweekly with discussions that center on Singaporeans’ way of life. Tutorials have assigned compulsory readings as they are used for class discussion. The content covered includes an analysis of how citizens were affected when they moved from kampong to HDB flats, the changing intergenerational bonds between parents and children due to post-independence growth, and HDB living.

My tutor wanted to gauge our understanding of the readings, so we were encouraged to speak out. To score for participation, do voice at least one substantial point you have learned. Do add on your understanding and interpretation of it if possible. My class was agile, so I had to state my interest to speak when my tutor opened the floor for discussion.

Project - Ethnographic Essay:

For this group project, we envisioned ourselves as ethnographers documenting the everyday life of Singaporeans today. Ethnography explores the behavior of a group or culture through observation and interviews. After data collection, we would present the findings in an ethnographic essay. The essay was to be written in the form of a short story between 1200 to 1400 words. The assignment was given in week 4 and due at the end of recess week.

Our informant had to be a working adult or elderly person, Singaporean, and not a public figure. Our interviewee was my teammate’s father who works at a local community center. My team compiled 28 questions and the interview took us 2 hours and 30 minutes. We questioned our informant extensively about his lifestyle, family, personality, and social life.

As no guidelines were given for the ethnographic essay, my team googled for templates. We used this site as a reference. Our essay followed the templates, but we were penalized as we wrote a preface and conclusion. This made our essay an academic report rather than a short story.

Film Review:

We had to watch the film 03-Flats, discuss the main ideas, and evaluate these ideas against course materials. The assignment was given after recess week and it was due in week 9. As the film was uploaded online, we can watch it at any time and rewind if needed.

Initially, I thought 03-Flats was a conventional movie. I expected great writing, acting, cinematography, directing, and music. Instead, 03-Flats is an architectural film that compares the nationalistic ambitions of HDB housing and individuals. It documents the domestic lives of three single women with an emphasis on spatial nuances and their daily routines. The film provides audiences with a counter-narrative of public housing.

I was confused during my first screening as I had difficulty following the film. Most of the movie can be summarized as housework porn and I felt that the pacing was awful. However, reading film reviews and understanding the concepts that were illustrated helped immensely. The showing of certain daily routines and random snippets of Singapore’s 60s propaganda videos began to make sense to me.


The film review can be difficult because messages conveyed in 03-Flats are subtle and requires inference. My suggestion before watching the film is to read up and take notes during the movie. I had to re-watch the movie several times to pinpoint my main arguments.

Final Essay:

This was a timed assessment that took place during the lecture slot in week 13. Due to COVID-19, I took the exam at home and there was no proctoring. The paper was 1.5 hours, contains one question, and answers were to be written in essay format. There is no word limit, and it is open book. We were expected to revise course materials in preparation for the exam. I listed the main concepts and explanations in a word document for easy reference.

On the day of the exam, the essay question required us to write in an argumentative style. I had insufficient time to elaborate on my points and examples because there was so much that I could say. Yet, I had to abide by the submission regulations and uploaded my file on Luminus 90 minutes later.

Honestly felt like my essay could be MUCH better. (Source)


All in all, I enjoyed my time studying GES1005. The module inspired me to think deeper about what I see or hear. I recommend this module if you are interested to learn about government policies and how the lives of Singaporeans have been affected by them.

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