SINGAPORE - That more than 98 per cent of respondents in the first-ever independent survey on national service support the rite of passage may come as a surprise.
Even the top brass of the Defence Ministry and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), including members of the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS), did a double-take and scrutinised the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey to ascertain its veracity.
After all, the same question on whether respondents supported national service (NS) had scored lower (though still more than 90 per cent) in previous annual surveys done by the ministry itself.
Then there are the anxious parents and disgruntled citizen soldiers - full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and operationally-ready national servicemen (NSmen) who have to be recalled for in-camp training - whose grouses are amplified in online forums and social media.
But even given this popular perception that people are resigned to NS rather than embrace it, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser wasn't surprised by the findings.
Dr Tan, who was not involved in the study, said Singaporeans rated the value of NS highly because they have accepted it as a Singaporean way of life.
A previous IPS survey had also found that 69 per cent of locals felt having a male child who had completed NS was an important characteristic of being "Singaporean". It is also backed by the 1,251 respondents from the latest survey who thought NS was more about instilling discipline and values in young men than national security and survival.
Despite the 0.04 score difference between both factors, the finding confirms that NS may have evolved to become as important an instrument for social change as it is a war-fighting unit.