Nanyang Technological University | Singapore
The Affective Labour of Education: A Multimodal Analysis of Teacher Recruitment Videos in Singapore
It is widely accepted that the teaching profession involves considerable emotional labour, as teachers experience the frustrations as well as joys of teaching in their interactions with students both in and outside the classroom. However, until recently, it is the rationality of teaching and teachers that has preoccupied researchers rather than the ways in which emotions play a part in teachers’ professional practices and experiences. As part of the larger ‘affective turn’ in humanities and social sciences research (Hardt, 2007), there is now a growing interest in the role of affect in education, from system-wide policies, curricular pronouncements, classroom practices, to the emotional investment of teachers. This paper focuses on the role of affect in Singapore’s education. As a society that places a high premium on education, Singapore has made great strides in growing a system and nurturing a culture of educational success that has gained the attention and envy of the developed world. From inscribing the value of social and emotional competencies in its educational framework to emphasising the ethics of care in the professional relationships of teachers and students in its teacher recruitment and promotional campaigns, the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) has gone the distance to underscore the role of affect in education. Situated within Hardt & Negri’s (2000) theoretical framework of affective labour and drawing on Baldry and Thibault’s (2006) method of multimodal analysis, this paper examines four recent video advertisements – “Mrs Chong”, “Why”, “Mdm Pua”, and “Thank You, Mdm Siti” – produced by the MOE to promote teaching in Singapore. The analysis shows how the MOE draws on and reproduces the ideology that a caring and affective teacher is a good and effective teacher, while playing up the emotive appeal of the video narratives to tug at the heartstrings of audiences. The paper concludes with a brief discussion on the implications of mining teachers’ affective labour as a key pedagogic resource and performative indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness.
Hardt, M. (2007). Foreword: What affects are good for. In P. Ticineto-Clough & J. Halley (Eds.). The affective turn: Theorizing the social (pp. ix–xiii). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2000). Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Baldry, A., & Paul J. Thibault (2006). Multimodal Transcription and Text Analysis: A Multimedia Toolkit and Coursebook, Equinox, London/Oakville.
The author is an Associate Professor at the English Language and Literature Academic Group at the National Institute of Education, Singapore. His areas of research interests include critical discourse analysis, critical literacy, and media discourse. He has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Discourse and Society, Visual Communication, Critical Discourse Studies, Journal of Language and Politics, and Journal of Multimodality.