In the 1987 home economics syllabus, 14-year-old girls were taught how to breastfeed and bathe a baby. How has the syllabus changed over the years? Join food writer Sheere Ng to find out, as she makes a simple pasta dish taught in her home economics class.
Home economics was taught in Singapore schools to train teenage girls to be good homemakers. The changing syllabus for this subject over the different decades tells a story of the “ideal” Singaporean woman and gender roles. Food writer and researcher Sheere Ng explores home economics while making a unique pasta dish, one that she was taught in her home economics class. (Hint: It involves a sauce that normally goes with fries.)
A sauce-picious pasta dish.
Instead of using lean meat and tomato paste as called for in the 1997 recipe, Sheere was taught to use hot dogs and tomato ketchup instead. In fact, home economics textbooks of the 1990s taught students how to use convenience food with fresh food to make nutritious home-cooked meals. The recipes in those textbooks were simpler, a reflection of the trend that more families were eating out than cooking.
Recipe of spaghetti Bolognese, from Ethel Chong Su-Hsin et al., Home Economics Today 2E (Singapore: Pan Pacific Book for Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore, 1997).
Recipes for the Ideal Singaporean Female
From cooking, cleaning and becoming a good mother to outsourcing housework as careers for women took off. Sheere Ng charts how home economics lessons have evolved over the years.
A Quiet Revolution: Women and Work in Industrialising Singapore
The role of women in Singapore’s nation-building efforts in the post-Independence years is sometimes overlooked. Janice Loo examines the impact that women have had on the nation’s development.
Ethel Chong Su-Hsin et al., Home Economics Today 2E (Singapore: Pan Pacific Book for Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore, 1997).
Linda Lim, Women in the Singapore Economy (Singapore: Chopmen, 1982).
Aline K. Wong and Leong Wai Kum, Singapore Women: Three Decades of Change (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1993).
Resources from the Archives
Ong Pang Boon, “Opening of the Home Economics Exhibition,” speech, Victoria Memorial Hall, 27 April 1970, transcript, Ministry of Culture. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. PressR19700427c)
Tay Eng Soon, “Home Economics Seminar: New Dimensions Organised by the Home Economics Teachers’ Association,” speech, Mandarin Hotel, 19 March 1986, transcript, Ministry of Culture. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. tes19860319as)