ST: Education Ministry’s letter on why it suspended Aware project

7 May 2009
Straits Times Print Forum
Source

SEXUALITY EDUCATION
Why MOE suspended Aware project

IN RECENT weeks, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has received feedback on the sexuality education programme conducted by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), as well as other lesson material not involving Aware. MOE has done a thorough investigation and the following are its findings and future steps.

MOE and the schools do not promote alternative lifestyles to students. The ministry’s framework for sexuality education reflects the mainstream views and values of Singapore society, where the social norm consists of the married heterosexual family unit.

Today, schools are allowed to engage external vendors to supplement MOE’s sexuality education programme. The ministry has reviewed the internal processes for selecting and monitoring vendors and found that they can be improved. It will put in more stringent processes to ensure that training materials and programmes delivered in schools are in line with the ministry’s framework on sexuality education.

Schools will suspend the engagement of external vendors until the new vetting processes are completed. MOE is also reviewing ways to provide parents with more information about sexuality education in the specific schools that their children are in.

MOE has examined Aware’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Basic Instructor Guide. The guide contains some positive aspects, like the accurate information on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and role-play practice for students to say no to sex.

However, MOE’s assessment is that in some other aspects, the guide does not conform to MOE’s guidelines. In particular, some suggested responses in the instructor guide are explicit and inappropriate, and convey messages which could promote homosexuality or suggest approval of premarital sex.

In view of this, Aware’s programmes in schools will be suspended and subjected to the new vetting processes.

MOE has also investigated feedback about materials used during General Paper (GP) lessons in junior colleges which carry information on alternative lifestyles. These materials and lessons did not involve Aware.

GP lessons are meant to promote critical thinking and discussion on contemporary issues. MOE investigations showed that the teachers had used these materials to initiate discussion on family structures, and not to promote alternative lifestyles.

Nevertheless, MOE will remind school leaders and teachers to exercise greater professional discretion in guiding their students when such topics are discussed. They should also adhere to social norms and values of our mainstream society.

Parents are ultimately responsible for inculcating values in their children. MOE’s sexuality education programme aims to complement parents’ role in helping students make informed, responsible and values-based decisions regarding sexuality.

Jennifer Chan (Ms)
Press Secretary to Minister for Education

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