The Shared Values are five statements introduced by the government on 15 January 1991 for Singaporeans of all ethnic groups to embrace as the nation progressed into the 21st century. The aim of introducing the shared values was to help forge a Singaporean identity that would incorporate the various aspects of the nation’s multicultural heritage with the attitudes and values that had contributed to Singapore’s success.
The idea for a national ideology was first mentioned by then First Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in a speech to the People’s Action Party Youth Wing on 28 October 1988. In his speech, Goh noted that as Singaporeans become more exposed to Western lifestyles and values, they risk losing certain core values such as hard work, thrift and sacrifice, and the erosion of their Asian values. In a bid to preserve these core values among Singaporeans, Goh proposed the creation of a national ideology that would encapsulate the core values of Singapore society and develop a Singaporean identity.
Then President Wee Kim Wee also stressed the need to develop a national identity in his address to parliament on 9 January 1989. He was of the view that a national ideology was useful to bond Singaporeans together by preserving the cultural heritage of the various communities, and upholding certain common values that would capture the essence of being a Singaporean.Wee proposed the following four key values: placing society above self, upholding the family as the basic building block of society, resolving major issues through consensus instead of contention, and stressing racial and religious tolerance and harmony.
As a follow-up to Wee’s proposal, a committee led by then Minister for Trade and Industry Lee Hsien Loong was convened to advance the national ideology debate, and identity key values common to the various races and communities in Singapore. The findings of the committee were submitted as a White Paper on Shared Values to parliament on 2 January 1991. In the White Paper, the four core values initially proposed by Wee were re-crafted and a fifth value was added. The White Paper was debated in parliament over two days, on 14 and 15 January, before it was adopted on the second day with amendments made to the phrasing of two of the five values. The five Shared Values that were eventually adopted were: 1) Nation before community and society above self, 2) Family as the basic unit of society, 3) Community support and respect for the individual, 4) Consensus, not conflict, and 5) Racial and religious harmony.
1. Shared values (p. 2). (1991). Singapore: Singapore National Printers. Call no.: RSING 306.095957 SIN.
2. Ministry of Culture. (1988, October 28). Speech by Mr Goh Chok Tong, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, at the PAP Youth Wing Charity Night, at Neptune Theatre Restaurant (pp. 5–6). [Press release]. Retrieved January 6, 2014, from National Archives of Singapore website: http://archivesonline.nas.sg
3. Ministry of Culture, 28 Oct 1988, pp. 5–6.
4. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1986, August 25). President’s Address (Vol. 52, col. 13–14). Singapore: Govt. Printer. Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN.
5. Parliamentary debates: Official report, 25 Aug 1986, Vol. 52, col. 14.
6. BG Lee zeroes in on the core issues. (1989, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Tan, S. (1991, January 6). Govt proposes 5 shared values. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. The Straits Times, 6 Jan 1991, p. 1.
9. 2 shared values amended to make them more acceptable. (1991, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Shared values should help us develop a Singaporean identity. (1991, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.