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.