Students should speak up on AWARE programs

1 May

According to TODAY online, ‘Guided or misguided?’, the controversy of AWARE boils down to ‘a 15-minute segment of its three-hour workshop… … pages of the group’s Comprehensive Sexual Education: Basic Instructor Guide’.

This segment gets the trainers to ask students rate their feelings on ‘terms such as “anal sex”, “virginity”, “teenage pregnancy”and “homosexual”…  according to three categories: Positive, neutral and negative’.

Taking on the role of a facilitator, students are allowed to express their views; with all views being respected; and that the trainer does not impose their own views on students. Instead of using terms such as ‘husband’, the trainer uses  the term ‘partner’, ‘so that lesbian students do not “tune out,” ‘.

While all these seems pretty standard perhaps to Australians or liberal parents, I doubt the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore will take too kindly to such a stance.

According to another TODAY article, ‘MOE investigates complaints over Aware sex programme’, the education board has certain guidelines for such programs: ‘They have to be premised on the importance of the family and respect for the values and beliefs of the different ethnic and religious communities on sexuality issues’.

It is pretty obvious that the adoption of such a neutral platform to address youth-related perceptions on homosexuality, anal sex and virginity is very likely to violate MOE guidelines. This is because the family is strictly defined as a marriage between a heterosexual couple (with kids). While different ethnic groups and religious communities have differing perceptions on these issues, the education officers are likely to only portray the sentiments of the conservatives. Their attitude towards homosexuality, anal sex and virginity can be summed up as a strict ‘no – no – save it for marriage’. Clear cut answers that are clearly out of sync for modern societies.

Given the media expose on this story, the results of the MOE investigations will very likely generate more debate and to a certain extent, will determine the contents of future sexuality programs in schools. Depending on the parents’ responses, it may even ban, take over or impose stricter regulations on external sexuality programs.

It is at this critical juncture that youths and students should pitch into the debate. Given Singapore’s educational system which reinforces the belief that youths are passive recipients of knowledge, students should desist such paternalistic notions and speak up on what they feel on the teaching of sexuality issues in school. Youths should have a say on issues that have an impact on their lives.

As a post note, I have mentioned in my previous post, ‘Discrimination against gays in Singapore – police raid raises question’, the discrimination that gays faced in the country cuts across different sectors (whether in law or by the media). If the MOE is to decide that the aforementioned segment of AWARE’s program violates its stipulated guidelines, it will only add to the strength of my argument.

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