HomeThe Asia-Pacific Education Researchervol. 17 no. 1 (2008)

`Where are the buses?’ - Role of Geography Fieldwork in a Socially Fragmented World

Giok Ling Ooi

Discipline: Social Studies




In a world that is increasingly fragmented and polarised, fieldwork becomes far more important than ever before in understanding social and cultural differences. This paper considers the role of fieldwork in geography for students from small countries like the city-state of Singapore as well as the understanding of political and economic differences that exist in the region. Socialised into a highly planned urban environment in which public goods and services are taken for granted such as urban transport networks that are crucial in the functioning of cities, final year university students majoring in geography from the National Institute of Education found themselves highly challenged in locating similar urban provisions in their fieldwork site in neighbouring Malaysia. ‘Where are the buses?' was the first question posed by a group once they had reached the island of Pulau Langkawi, off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The assumption underlying the question was that other worlds would not be too different from that which the students are familiar - the well-organised and well-planned citystate of Singapore. Post-structuralists suggest that education is a process through which subjects are formed while formal education in most countries can be considered to be a .state project. since it is based on national school curricula. Foucault's concept of governmentality concerns how states determine the types of knowledge and practices that are to be communicated to students and hence, create the support for the state's developmental agenda and its rationalisation. This paper argues that fieldwork is crucial in the development of critical thinking and students. understanding of the geographies of an increasingly fragmented world.