MOE suspends AWARE sex education programme

MOE has just announced that it will suspend AWARE’s sex education programme.

The statement says that “Today, schools are allowed to engage external vendors to supplement MOE’s sexuality education programme. MOE has reviewed the internal processes for selecting and monitoring vendors and found that they can be improved. MOE 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. The Ministry is also reviewing ways to provide parents with more information about sexuality education in the specific schools that their children are in.”

About AWARE’s sexuality education, MOE said 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 pre-marital sex.”

You can read the full statement here

The whole saga at AWARE has left me troubled. I didn’t like how the new guard came into power and their inability to articulate a coherent position and direction from the get-go. But I was also upset by the subsequent savagery online and offline that demonised Christians.

Leaving aside that whole debate, now I’m trying to reconcile MOE’s statement with what MOE said earlier. An extract from the Straits Times article on 29 April 2009 titled “Get Facts Right on Sex Education: Iswaran”

The Ministry of Education (MOE) takes a deliberate and cautious approach in sex education, he [Mr Iswaran] said, and its guiding principle is that the family is the basic building block of society.

Its guidelines, he said, were drawn up to help students make ‘values-based decisions on this whole issue of sexuality and in a manner which is sensitive to our multiracial, multi-religious environment, because clearly, there are different perspectives in our society’.

Mr Iswaran explained that while teachers deliver the core curriculum for sexuality education, schools have the flexibility to engage external agencies – including Aware – to run additional programmes for their students.

But these extra programmes must abide by MOE guidelines.

He [Mr Iswaran] said the ministry had not received any complaints about the [AWARE] programme, and has had no reason to intervene thus far.

Last year, the ministry said, 11 secondary schools engaged Aware to run the three-hour workshop, which covered topics such as sexually transmitted infections and the consequences of pre-marital activity.

The number of students who took part from each school ranged from 20 to 100.

Aware also conducted 45-minute school assembly talks which discussed issues such as body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, sexual harassment and the role of women in today’s context.

In the letter, MOE said the schools ‘found that the content and messages of the sessions conducted were appropriate for their students and adhered to guidelines to respect the values of different religious groups’.

Mr Iswaran’s comment could be forgiven as an off-the-cuff (if ill-considered) response to media on the sidelines of an event. But MOE’s subsequent flip-flop on the content – it was “appropriate” a week ago but today it is “inappropriate” – leaves a great deal to be desired.

And the only thing that has changed in between? The complaints of parents.

Are we left to conclude that MOE acts only when there is parental feedback? It’s a discomfiting thought.

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3 responses to “MOE suspends AWARE sex education programme

  1. It is ironic that the saga demonised Christians. It is not as though there were no Christians among the old guard. Ms Constance Singam, for example, is a liberal, a progressive, a third-wave feminist, but that is no call to ignore the fact that she also identifies as Roman Catholic. There seems to be a false dichotomy being created here, a denial that Christianity is compatible with either homosexuality or social liberalism.

  2. The MOE states that the family is the basic building block of society. One could not get any more basic than that. This building block is cross-cultural and permeates across all religious persuasions. Somehow these basic values are largely preserved through time. The imago dei of the human race likely explains the invincibility of this basic value in this regard.. Is it any wonder that any deviation from this basic value is abhorent. The “light” in man runs counter-culture to the new morality! And by a wide margin to boot! Any guidelines in the area of sex education, especially when they are promulgated from governmental sources would face the inevitable wrath of society’s families when thier most basic value are being impinged upon. Better to leave it to “Father Knows Best.”

  3. My guess is that we are at the crossroads of transition between more liberal and more conservative society. MOE was caught off-guard and is still being swept by the currents. I’m just glad that my voice as a parent is heard, so within my sphere of influence, I will make it heard.

    I am worried about online media. The people who read online media are likely to be my children’s teachers, bosses, colleagues etc. in the future. They are impressionable, and the voice online are far more liberal and irrational.

    The bible-flinging, non-respectful Christian voices need to tone down too. I would like to see more rational Christian voices online.

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