ABSTRACT: States commonly employ education policy to build a strong sense of citizenship within young people and to create types of citizens appropriate to the country. In Singapore the government created a policy to build citizenship through both policy statements and social studies in the school curriculum. In the context of a tightly controlled state regulating schooling through a highly controlled educational system, the government expected teachers to obey these policy documents, political statements and the prescribed curriculum. What do teachers understand about citizenship in this context? In schools do teachers demonstrate independence of thought on citizenship education or do they acquiesce to government policy? This article reports on a small group of social studies teachers’ understandings of citizenship, and explores the nature of these understandings in the context of government policy. The study showed an unexpected diversity of conceptualization amongst Singaporean teachers with their understandings of citizenship located in four themes, namely a sense of identity, rights and responsibilities, participation, and national history. This response was unintended by government and reflects an independence of citizenship education landscape in schools, despite the tight policy and bureaucratic controls over teachers by the Singapore state.