Ministry seeks to clarify claims she made about Aware talks in schools
Wednesday • April 29, 2009
LAST year, 11 secondary schools engaged Aware to conduct sex-education workshops — and there was no negative feedback from students or parents, the Ministry of Education said yesterday.
In a letter to the media, MOE’s director of education programmes Sum Chee Wah said the schools found the content of these workshops “appropriate for the students and adhered to guidelines to respect the values of different religious groups”.
This was in response to recent claims made by self-declared “feminist mentor” Dr Thio Su Mien (picture), who said at a press conference last week by the executive committee of the Association of Women for Action and Research that its previous leadership was preoccupied with promoting lesbianism and homosexuality.
Dr Thio also took issue with Aware’s sexuality education programmes in schools because homosexuality was regarded as a neutral, and not a negative, word.
Ms Sum said, “The schools did not receive any negative feedback from students who attended the workshops and talks, or from their parents”.
MOE has contacted Dr Thio “to seek clarifications and facts to substantiate her claims”.
The Ministry did not say which schools engaged Aware to run the programmes, but each three-hour long workshop can cater to anywhere from 20 to 100 pupils at each time.
Today understands the workshops for students have been held since 2007, helmed by 10 trainers qualified in sex education.
Aware has also conducted 45-minute assembly talks for students in select secondary schools, covering teen interest topics such as body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, teen pregnancies, sexual harassment and the role of women in today’s context.
One volunteer, a member with the women’s organisation since 2005, said homosexuality and lesbianism formed a very small part of these sessions.
Instead, all classes were approached from a health perspective, such as safe-sex practices, said the 28-year-old who declined to be named.
“As for morality, we tell them they should listen to their teachers or moral leaders”.
MOE said all workshops were designed to provide students with “accurate information” on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV while helping them understand the consequences of premarital sexual activity.
The overall aim is to “equip students with skills such as decision making and resisting negative peer pressure”, added Ms Sum.
While teachers usually deliver sexuality education programmes in schools, educators also ensure that any programmes run by external agencies are “secular and sensitive to the multi-religious make-up of our society”.
If parents and members of the public know of specific instances where guidelines have not been adhered to, they should report directly to MOE to investigate.