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Youth purpose
Meaning in life
Life satisfaction
Social support
Issue Date: 
Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Heng, M. A. (2020). Finding purpose: What Singaporean adolescents are telling us (Report No. OER 10/13 MAH). National Institute of Education (Singapore), Office of Education Research.
While Singapore has been recognised as a high-performing education system in international education benchmarking indicators, scholars argue we should ask more fundamental questions regarding what students make of school (Deng & Gopinathan, 2016). Moving beyond the means-end model of education in which the present criteria for success may not be valid for the future, education should guide adolescents to make important decisions in the future about what they consider useful, successful, and ethical (Willbergh, 2015). Asking more fundamentally what students make of school, this study investigates the relationship between youth purpose, meaning in life, social support, and life satisfaction among adolescents in Singapore. This study seeks to shed light on the tensions of preparing students for success in the globalised economy as well as educating for an uncertain future that requires reconnecting with purpose in education.

Purpose is a long-term, stable and high-level intention to influence the world in ways both meaningful to oneself and others (Damon, 2008). Adolescents with self-reported life purpose show higher levels of life satisfaction and school achievement (Bronk, Hill, Lapsley, Talib, & Finch, 2009). The other-oriented component in the purpose construct is what distinguishes it from the meaning in life construct (Damon), which is the significance one makes of one’s life (Steger, Frazier, Oishi & Kaler, 2006). Social support relates positively to wellbeing (Ben-Zur, 2009). While educational achievement is the more common metric in education research in Singapore, self-reported life satisfaction helps educators and policymakers understand how well the school curricula are achieving policy aims as perceived and experienced by adolescents.
Note: Restricted to NIE Staff.
Project number: 
OER 10/13 MAH
Grant ID: 
Education Research Funding Programme (ERFP)
Funding Agency: 
Ministry of Education, Singapore
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