The Education Ministry and the abstinence from intelligence

On its website, Singapore’s Ministry of Education says that one of the key messages of its sexuality education curriculum is: “Practise abstinence before marriage, as it is the best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and unwanted pregnancies.”

Does no one there realise that even after marriage, sex carries the same risks? So why make it sound like sex is so terribly dangerous only to the unmarried? Playing up the risks in such a one-sided way raises a flag of suspicion that some other motive is at work.

No surprise then that there has been much criticism online.

The ministry’s statement was dated 20 June 2012. Link. It seems to be a tweak of an earlier statement.

Adding pungency to the mix was the mention in the same statement that teachers selected to teach the course must “possess values that are aligned with MOE values in Sexuality Education.”

Blogger mrbrown wrote: “So the teachers who teach this course must practise abstinence before marriage too? Would the basic requirement be virginity?” Others asked: How is the Ministry going to check? Is the government going to pry into teachers’ sex lives?

No, no, that’s not what we meant, protested the ministry on its Facebook page. On Wednesday, 4 July 2012, it said “we’ll not be prying into teachers’ personal lives,” and that “When we said the teachers must have ‘mainstream values’, they must know what these values are. . .” – which when you think of it, is another meaningless statement. In effect, it is saying: those who have mainstream values will know they do. Duh? Isn’t it more the case of people who are full of conceit, thinking that they represent everybody else, will assume they hold ‘mainstream’ values?

If you click on the image at left, you’ll see over 30 Facebook comments, nearly all of them taking issue with the ministry’s statement. Kirsten Han asked if these so-called ‘mainstream values “really reflect Singapore as a society?” while Edmund Khor said he could “sense religious interference in our secular education system.”

Sidhena Chen pointed out that abstinence education doesn’t work, and “makes sex out to be this forbidden fruit that will be even more sought after,” providing a link to a study that showed an  increasing emphasis on abstinence education to be positively correlated with teenage pregnancy.

Bay Ming Ching wrote: “Isn’t it the duty of the school to teach students critical skills and values so they can make informed judgments by themselves instead of imparting normative standards of behaviour or ‘mainstream values’ as you call it?” thereby pointing out how nonsensical is the ministry’s own claim (in the same 20 June 2012 statement) that its program aimed “to help students make wise, informed and responsible decisions on sexuality matters”.

By now, much else has been said about the issue. I would refer you to two incisive commentaries: Five questions on the MOE’s revised SEd programme by Popagandhi, and Sexuality education in Singapore – whose values are we teaching? by Kirsten Han on Asian Correspondent.

However, simultaneously circulating on Facebook was a cheeky piechart:

Indeed, there is more than a grain of truth in that. For all the absurdity of the ministry pretending to represent ‘mainstream values’, or the prudishness of its approach, the truly sobering (or shocking, depending on your point of view)  thought is that far greater influences are at play.

* * * * *

But that’s only when it comes to sex. When it comes to attitudes towards gay and transgender people, the damage being done by the ministry is real. The key message, as I understand from unofficial sources familiar with the program, is that homosexuality is illegal. Leashed by this requirement, no teacher is allowed to say anything positive about gay people, or even stand neutral on homosexual feelings.

Unlike the probable ineffectualness of the abstinence message, negativity towards gay people imparted by state edicts will prove stickier. But why?

For the straight teenager, sex is natural to him or her. Regardless of what the ministry wants to impart, he or she will find ways to satisfy curiosity. The more ridiculously out of date the school’s message is, the more the youngster will search for other sources of information.

However, the typical straight teenager will not have the same curiosity about homosexual orientation; he has no personal stake in it. Hence, the negative attitudes imparted by the school are far less likely to be counterbalanced by other sources of information. This especially when Singapore state censors are almost hysterical about cutting out any positive portrayal of gay characters, thus reducing the availability of alternative viewpoints.

And yet, times are a-changing. Besides the fact that Pink Dot (an annual event that promotes acceptance of diverse sexualities) is a continuing success, more and more people are visibly coming out. That said, they are almost all from the West, so in that sense, we’ve still along way to go.

* * * * *

This last week alone, there were two. CNN news correspondent and TV anchor Anderson Cooper agreed to let Andrew Sullivan publish on his blog The Daily Beast an email the former had written, in which Cooper said “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

As a news personality, Cooper is highly visible and his coming out will no doubt make a difference to public attitudes.

To me however, it was no big surprise. I’ve always thought he looked gay; in fact I’ve long allowed the possibility that he was out, except that I hadn’t heard about it.

And yet, however momentous, his coming out might have been trumped by another man’s. This is because Cooper is a journalist, and being well-groomed, articulate and inquisitive somehow fits the current stereotype of a gay man, whereas the other guy who made the news this week challenged preconceptions. He was Frank Ocean, a rap music artist.

Frank who? Yes, that was my reaction too. But apparently, he’s well known and has had several hits.

African-Americans remain the demographic group in the US with the most negative attitudes to homosexuality; African-American males more the females. Rap music, which is associated with youthful African-American identity, is notorious for its use of homophobic (and misogynist) references. Frank Ocean himself is a member of Odd Future, a hip-hop collective that has used the word ‘faggot’ freely in its songs and public-speak.

All this juvenile posturing sometimes obscures real talent, as in Ocean’s Novacane:

But out of the blue, Ocean posted on his tumblr on Wednesday, 4 July 2012, a remarkably touching post about his first love, casually revealing that it was with a young man he spent two summers with beginning at age nineteen. You see in those reminiscing words the timeless beauty of young love, which all of us have experienced: “And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day, I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence. . until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him.”

Yet he also alludes to the difficulty either of self-acceptance, or of being able to continue the relationship. “For the last year or 3 I’ve screamed at my creator. Screamed at the clouds in the sky. For some explanation. Mercy maybe.”

And yet, Ocean is not the first non-heterosexual in Odd Future. Their producer, Syd tha Kid, is an out lesbian. See the commentary on ThinkProgress Alyssa: Frank Ocean and the Future.

In the light of Ocean’s coming out, another song of his now takes on real poignancy. In Thinking about you, he says “my eyes don’t shed tears but boy, they bawl  . . . when I’m thinkin’ ’bout you.”

“Yes, of course I remember, how could I forget? How do you feel? And though you were my first time. . .”

From what I can see on the web, Ocean’s coming out has been relatively well-received. This testifies to a sea change that may be occurring before our very eyes – a tidal shift in the attitudes of the African-American community towards homosexuality. See Obama’s gay marriage support triggers dramatic shift in attitudes among black voters. There was a seismic 54-point shift in Ohio, reported Huffington Post in Ohio’s black voters support same-sex marriage after Obama’s endorsement, poll finds.

* * * * *

In the light of all this change, it is all the more absurd that our education ministry is furiously pedalling backwards, resisting the new world, and trying to (re)create a utopia only imagined by religious fundamentalists. They are confessing to a paranoid fear of the future. Far from fulfilling their mission of cultivating through our schools an informed, thinking new generation of Singaporeans, they are screaming “abstinence” – not just from sex, but from knowledge, understanding and intelligent inquiry.

56 Responses to “The Education Ministry and the abstinence from intelligence”


  1. 1 yuen 8 July 2012 at 12:13

    > “abstinence” – not just from sex, but from knowledge, understanding and intelligent inquiry.

    nice rhetoric, but remember that the MOE is addressing high school pupils, who are, generally speaking, not into “knowledge, understanding and intelligent inquiry”, but into fun and getting through school with the least amount of work; I remember one Hongkong teacher talking about her female students “all they are interested in is clothes, makeup and boys; it is heartbreaking”. this is the context for the educators’ futile effort in “resisting the new world,”

    Educationally, it is probably preferable that students do not become sexually active (hetero or homo) so early, but it is obviously a losing battle, and those who try are bound to look ridiculous; why do you want to add to their woes?

    • 2 Visakan V 8 July 2012 at 18:07

      “it is obviously a losing battle, and those who try are bound to look ridiculous; why do you want to add to their woes?”

      That’s an incredibly sad, defeatist way of looking at life.

      It’s those who dare to fight “losing battles” and “look ridiculous” that have been at the forefront of human progress.

      • 3 Poker Player 8 July 2012 at 23:45

        I don’t think the comment is defeatist. It is just an example of an inability to distinguish between describing an existing situation or reality, critiquing it, and discussing alternatives and their analysis.

      • 4 yuen 9 July 2012 at 05:10

        >those who dare to fight “losing battles” and “look ridiculous” that have been at the forefront of human progress.

        are you saying MOE’s advocation of abstinence is “at the forefront of human progress.”? I have some sympathy for its position but hardly to that extent

        not sure where PP shares your view; I await his “discussing alternatives and their analysis”

      • 5 Poker Player 9 July 2012 at 12:02

        not sure where PP shares your view; I await his “discussing alternatives and their analysis”

        What do you think this blog is about.

      • 6 yuen 9 July 2012 at 17:46

        I assume is about Yawningbread’s “discussing alternatives and their analysis” on various issues; however, since you criticize me for not doing it in my comments, maybe you would demonstrate you do better

      • 7 Poker Player 10 July 2012 at 10:50

        Pointing out distinctions that need to be made is a very important part of any serious discussion.

  2. 8 jimmy 8 July 2012 at 12:39

    It is more of creating a scare element e.g STI & HIV, the real intention I believe, to discourge sex before marriage and the accompanying social problems that come from unwanted prenancies e.g too young to cope & assume parenthood, shame, cheated relationship and whatnot.

  3. 9 Rabbit 8 July 2012 at 13:36

    Here is another interesting blog about christianity is “allowed” to infiltrate into schools and MOE is happily quiet about it?

    http://singaporemind.blogspot.sg/2012/07/this-video-troubles-me.html

    It will be interested to see who were behind those decision makers too. You will be up for surprise and one will wonder is MOE being held ransom by some fundamentalist with agenda? I worry about our secular school being turned into another blind and single religion-driven education institution so that PAP can buy back support from christians after the City Harvest incident?

    I felt a wrench how this “globalised” society is still stuck in the old age and the ruling party is selectively impmenting policies to secure its power based on who make up the majority in this population. My question to the ruling party are we still considered a globalised nation and opened society or not?? The culture and policies are neither here nor there like a tasteless rojak.

    • 10 yawningbread 8 July 2012 at 15:51

      Alas, the video has been removed by the user. Does this suggest something to hide?

      • 11 Ian 8 July 2012 at 19:50

        Alvinology has kept a copy, hopefully he uploads it.

        by the way, the facebook comment isn’t working for me, can you check it?

      • 12 yawningbread 8 July 2012 at 23:34

        What “facebook comment”? Check what? Yawning Bread does NOT have a facebook site.

      • 13 Ian 9 July 2012 at 08:29

        sorry that i wasn’t clear enough, the image of the Ministry’s facebook comment, it doesn’t work for me for some reason.

        this gave me 404.

      • 14 yawningbread 9 July 2012 at 11:51

        Ah, thanks for pointing it out. Yes. it was a coding error. I’ve corrected it and it should work now. Tip: the image needs to be magnified before you can red the words clearly.

      • 16 yawningbread 10 July 2012 at 12:28

        Wow, it’s a long sermon, and only had time to listen to the first 19 minutes so far. For those who want to skip to key parts, here’re some tips:

        2 min 30 – using school students to penetrate schools.
        11 min 40 – he casts his decision to use giving as his main theme not as his own decision, but as god speaking to him and telling him to do so.
        16 min 45 – getting students to donate generously (one might assume from their pocket money?)
        18 min 00 – repeat of getting students to donate generously.

        If I have time to listen to the rest, I will add to this. Others – please fell free to do so too.

      • 17 Poker Player 10 July 2012 at 12:34

        11 min 40 – he casts his decision to use giving as his main theme not as his own decision, but as god speaking to him and telling him to do so.
        16 min 45 – getting students to donate generously (one might assume from their pocket money?)
        18 min 00 – repeat of getting students to donate generously.

        To be successful in this line of work, you cannot afford to be the introspective sort. Self-serving self-deception is pretty much the main requirement.

      • 18 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 10 July 2012 at 18:53

        I only need to see around 5 minutes of the clip or so to know where the potential to create turmoil lies:

        Simply put, if there’s anything to go by in this video, MOE really has a lot to answer for. This is not a figment of my own personal views, but rather when you have a secular Government running the business, this is the kind of cyanide that can poison the structure of MOE integrity within both the short and far longer run.

        No offensive intentions, but why I use a harsher tone is that we’re not like the US where common masses have to put up with the whole “political separation or State-and-Church merger” kind of stupid drama. I’m not too sure if this video will be taken down, but seriously, I only need within 5 minutes of the clip to know where went wrong: The schools were named together with the students. This is totally different from the Singapore Campus Crusade for Christ where the higher-ups HAVE to approve the whole thing.

  4. 19 adprosebud 8 July 2012 at 14:39

    It would be very interesting to explore the connections between evangelical Christianity and the MOE.

    • 20 SN 8 July 2012 at 16:20

      Make that the connection between evangelical Christianity and the upper echelons of government (including the Admin Service).

  5. 21 Stef 8 July 2012 at 16:50

    Well it is no secret that values espoused by the Ministry can be conflated with certain religions because they happen to hold the same value system which the state wants to inculcate into its population. Just like our civics and moral education way back in primary school decades ago (not sure if they do now) where it was taught using the various mother tongue languages and had a certain Confucian slant to them.
    While I was hopeful about changes to the curriculum, it is not a surprise that the curriculum remains. My guess, not because the state is conservative but more of being pragmatic in dollars and sense. For example, its abstinenece slant could possibly shift the responsibility of unwed mothers to themselves as there is a high chance that they could be guilted into thinking that they are running against the mainstream (inherently good) values, so that they are disempowered to seek the help of the state to support them. There are economic implications of having to need to support unwed mothers and to ‘solve’ such social ‘problems’.
    That being said, the ideology of pragmatism can be a double edged sword in this case, as the state is seen as being out of tune with the values held by the young; and definitely not a long-term approach in dealing with such social issues.
    That being said, the state can be credited for developing economic policies that deals with hard crunching numbers and are exceptionally good in dealing with issues in stilos but runs short of ideas in dealing with the softer aspect of creating messy social policies that comes along with economic progress.

  6. 22 Passerby 8 July 2012 at 17:26

    When the coterie of Evangelical Christian women attempted a takeover of AWARE, the sex education programme in our schools was cited as one of their cassus belli. In their eyes, it was too liberal. While they were subsequently removed from power, it seems that they lost that particular battle, but won the culture war on homosexuality.

    • 23 yawningbread 8 July 2012 at 18:14

      In my opinion, many among the Old Guard of Aware had never been fully supportive of non-heterosexual sexualities, because (my guess) they were afraid to be mistaken for lesbians. In the West, the course of feminism has led to the questioning of heteronormativity and the social structures associated with it, giving an opportunity to their opponents to tar them as closet lesbians. This was mostly not true, but their intellectual journey took them to those conclusions. In addition, the climate in those societies was more accepting of LGBT, so feminists were not afraid to reach those conclusions (questioning heteronormativity). In Singapore, the Old Guard was much more hesitant going there, possibly because they were of a generation that was uncomfortable being associated with gays and lesbians.

      In the last 10 years, some members of AWARE (particularly the younger ones) made tentative moves to incorporate diverse sexualities within their understanding of feminism, but this opened them to attack by the Crazy Christians. A large contingent of lesbians attended the EGM to wrest control of AWARE back to the Old Guard; so in a sense, the lesbian community helped save the Old Guard. But since then, the Old Guard have distanced themselves again from the gay movement (for self-preservation?), and as far as I know, the lesbians have now decided they will fight their own cause, expecting no help at all from AWARE.

      This is not to say there aren’t well-known AWARE personalities who are personally very supportive of LGBT equality, but they are doing so in their personal capacity. AWARE itself as an organisation seems to have lost the trust of the LGBT community.

      But this also means that feminism in Singapore is likely to be stunted. If feminists do not dare go where their intellectual critique leads them, what sort of feminists are they? It’s like a scientist who dares not go where his research data point him to.

      • 24 lynn 8 July 2012 at 23:18

        Alex thank you for speaking so candidly about AWARE. It’s a crying shame that an organisation like AWARE is afraid of what it advocates for. It is with much irony and hypocrisy that they forgot who are the ones who helped them takeback AWARE and the many gay women who volunteered and contributed to it’s growth. A recent comment a leader from AWARE on MTF trangenders as men makes good gossip amongst many. I don’t think they know what they are talking about, I think they’re way behind the rest of the world. AWARE, forget it. It’s quickly becoming BEWARE the clueless feminists.

      • 25 SN 8 July 2012 at 23:31

        Hi Alex,

        But here you make the assumption that ‘Western’ feminism is definitive or exhaustive. In other words, why do feminists in Singapore have to ape their Western counterparts (or others, for that matter), if by feminism we understand it minimally as equality for women vis-a-vis men?

        Regards,

      • 26 yawningbread 8 July 2012 at 23:45

        There is only feminism, not Western Feminism and Eastern Feminism. The fact is that it began in the West and the body of knowledge has been developed furthest there. Your minimal definition is merely the starting point. If anyone thinks that ought to be all there is to feminism, it’s like calling Yishun Pond the Pacific Ocean.

      • 27 SN 9 July 2012 at 12:54

        Hi Alex,

        No, I don’t get it still. I think there is a conflation here between patriarchy and heteronormativity.

        To say that feminism in the West (sans the cultural/geographical connotations which you impute to me) is the leading light is to assume what has yet to be argued for. Of course, by this I mean to imply that you may be right after all, but I just can’t see it.

        (And oh, I can do without the snark).

      • 28 Poker Player 9 July 2012 at 17:33

        I think your vocabulary and style gets in the way of clear thinking.

        No, I don’t get it still. I think there is a conflation here between patriarchy and heteronormativity.

        At the very least, feminism (Western, Bruneian, whatever) questions patriarchy. YB says In the West, the course of feminism has led to the questioning of heteronormativity and the social structures associated with it. Since you conflate the two, what exactly is it that you don’t get?

      • 29 Poker Player 9 July 2012 at 17:53

        if by feminism we understand it minimally as equality for women vis-a-vis men?

        And how does your conflation square with this? Goes back to the YB comment

        There is only feminism, not Western Feminism and Eastern Feminism.

        So, what exactly is this thread of discussion about?

      • 30 Passerby 9 July 2012 at 20:43

        As much as I would like to see the LGBT community given equal rights, I can’t really blame the AWARE leaders for picking their fights. And just as they would look askance at coup attempts by conservative evangelical Christians, I can imagine that they would not like their organisation to be the springboard for LGBTs’ struggle for equal rights.

        Still, I’ve always felt that the feminists in AWARE operate within heteronormative frameworks. They accept that the man in the household is the breadwinner – they merely fight for the women’s rights within such social arrangements.

        If this is how they view feminism, do you really want them to fight on your behalf? :P

      • 31 octopi 10 July 2012 at 00:37

        Even if they wanted to pick their fights, why would they not pick gay rights? There’s so much momentum now. It’s where the action is. I sense that both the conservative anti gay factions of the church and the gay rights activists are both rolling up their sleeves. Why call yourself AWARE if you want to be a blur fuck?

        If we want action we should tackle the pertinent issues of the day. Class warfare, for instance. So what fights are they picking that they can afford to leave gay rights off the agenda?

      • 32 Poker Player 10 July 2012 at 10:53

        They accept that the man in the household is the breadwinner – they merely fight for the women’s rights within such social arrangements.

        This is not their position. This is the sort of position that scandalizes them.

  7. 33 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 8 July 2012 at 19:50

    I think the greatest problem isn’t down to abstinence vs contraception. It’s all about knowing both sides of the coin. Over there in the US, it has been a major issue of contention even unto the extent where the State budget had to be negotiated back when the national debt was far worse off a few years before.
    Simply put, the parents can’t control their kids on anything and everything done. The more the kids are being shoved with the idea, the more they will want to test the system. Knowledge of punishment is pointless unless the kids understand the concept of self-responsibility.
    Case in point: If I murder another person, does that mean that I don’t know what will await me?

  8. 34 Eric's 8 July 2012 at 23:50

    Since too few people are having babies anymore, it suggests the encouragement of abstinence, and seeing sex as something generally to be avoided has been more successful than intended.

    • 35 ShackedOut 9 July 2012 at 03:48

      erm… could also be that everyone’s just too tired makin’ a livin’. And getting up early for the subway fare discount doesn’t help.

  9. 36 octopi 9 July 2012 at 02:34

    “Practise abstinence before marriage, as it is the best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and unwanted pregnancies.”

    It is excessive to say practice abstinence as an imperative. The second half is OK: abstinence is the best way of preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Not the only way, but the best way.

    And yes, students should be taught as much about sex so that they don’t have to find out the hard (no pun intended) way.

    I’m just wary that when this dialogue about “people are going to experiment anyway and there’s no stopping them” is going to make abstinence look really uncool. There shouldn’t really be anything uncool about keeping your zipper up. It’s a valid choice.

    • 37 yawningbread 9 July 2012 at 11:54

      I agree, abstinence is a valid choice. However, by trying to push it as the ONLY legitimate choice (through censoring alternatives), the government ends up making it uncool.

  10. 38 The 9 July 2012 at 09:07

    /// “Practise abstinence before marriage, as it is the best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and unwanted pregnancies.”

    Does no one there realise that even after marriage, sex carries the same risks? So why make it sound like sex is so terribly dangerous only to the unmarried? ///

    Great observation. Therefore, the MOE should advocate abstinence for those who are married as well. After all, married people don’t want STDs, HIV and UNWANTED pregnancies, do they???

    • 39 IniD 9 July 2012 at 18:01

      LOL.

      Gahment should just ban sex altogether.

      Procreation only allowed for legally married couples, using IVF. No STD, no unwanted pregnancies, no children born out of wedlock.

      My question is: Parents, Y U NO ownself teach your own chewren?

  11. 40 williamsin 9 July 2012 at 10:29

    I strongly disagree that being virgin before you get married is a fullproof method to STDs.
    While teaching our young to stay away from sex, we should also teach and equip them the knowledge of safe sex.
    Having the knowledge doesnt means that you have to use it. It means that you have a safer alternative.
    As for the LGBT issues, I personally accepts this group of people, but never will be supporting the idea to promote its core.
    They are not normal, but should not be discriminated at the same time.
    LGBT, on the other hand should not sell the idea that, it is normal, it is wonderful to be a LGBT.
    Just like if one is borned handicapped, should he tells the whole world that it is fun to be a handicapped and please break your limbs and join me and this big family.

    • 41 Ian 9 July 2012 at 23:10

      By what standards is it promotion? MDA’s?

      I detest people who abuse the word normal to insult. Here, let me give you an example :

      Which race is normal in Singapore? Ans: Chinese, standing at 74.1%(2010: source from wikipedia).

      From these questions, am i hinting that non-Chinese Singaporeans are abnormal? Yes, i am, just like you.

      abnormal means deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is UNDESIRABLE.

      Are non-Chinese Singaporean undesirable? No? Yes? What’s your say?

      From the information available, can you conclude that it is uncommon to be non-Chinese Singaporean?

      ‘They are not normal, but should not be discriminated at the same time.’

      The latter part of the sentence contradicted the former, as well as this.

      ‘Just like if one is borned handicapped…’

      Would you call men and women who refuse to marry/give birth as handicapped?

      Or should bisexuals start calling straight/gay people handicaps because they can’t love both genders?

    • 42 just me 21 November 2013 at 00:36

      Dear Williamsin

      i think your statement comes from the assumption that it is abnormal and a form of disability to have homosexual tendencies. this is a very flawed statement because no medical or psychological reports have shown homosexuality tendencies to be medically abnormal hence it is illogical to say that homosexuality parallels the community who have disabilities.

      i would agree however that it is “not the norm” to be in a same-gender relationship, just like how it is “not the norm” to for a man to be in a relatinship with a woman say 30 years older. none of them are wrong, they just deviate from the norm. and the Norm changes all the time.

      in the past slavery was really just the norm. blacks having to give up their seats to whites was the norm. women not voting was thought to be norm/ the norm. scroll back two centuries, incest was the norm.

      this shows that norm is malleable and contextual. hence i would suggest that you reframe your statement so that it sounds more logical and still relevant say, five years later.

  12. 43 d 9 July 2012 at 16:36

    The same initiative was being pushed by conservative right-wing Christians in the USA. The details sound too familiar. I wonder if the (religious) motivation is there in Singapore’s case, or whether they’re just using the strategy.

    The Facebook post has been removed from the MOE website by the way.

  13. 44 Stupidity Knows No Bound 9 July 2012 at 17:56

    Clearly MOE is still burying their heads in the sands.

    I can accept that students are advised to practice abstinence before they turned 21yrs (or is it 18yrs is the legal adult age now?) but to do that before marriage?!! Who are they to tell me so – I suspect would be the first thing that comes to their young minds. After all, isn’t it the law that says sex with underaged 18yrs is illegal?

    Another FAIL on MOE.

    Poor kids, they will be learning how to do it via more porno-sites.

    • 45 yawningbread 9 July 2012 at 21:56

      Legal age for non-commercial hetero- and lesbian sex is 16. For commercial sex it is 18.

      • 46 Alan 10 July 2012 at 01:06

        So that effectively means our PAP MPs actually passed a law that says it is perfectly OK for lesbians older than 16 to have sex with another lesbian.
        As for homosexuals, they can have all the sex they want but don’t ever get caught by anyone who will not hesitate to report it to the police.

        But then our own Prime Minister says it’s OK (to have gay sex ?) and gave the assurance that this law will not be used on anyone.

        Did I interprete it correctly ?

    • 47 IniD 9 July 2012 at 22:31

      Maybe the gahment’s reasoning is:

      The kids are going to have sex anyway, whether we teach abstinence or not, but at least we aren’t doing anything that can be seen as “promoting” pre-marital sex, which would hurt us at the polls.

      But either way, I think we should not see this whole thing as “end of story”.

      If the gahment aren’t going to teach it, and parents don’t want their kids to learn watching porn, then they will either have to do it themselves (in which case they may want some educational material) or, dare I imagine it, send them for “private tuition”.

      Business opportunity, anyone?

      I mean, if gahment driving schools teach your kids “don’t wear seat-belts because it encourages reckless driving”, what are you going to do? You start a private driving school where they teach you how to wear a seat belt and drive defensively!

      • 48 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 10 July 2012 at 19:03

        I think the biggest issue here is that this is the kind of thing where the parents should be held responsible for. Not so much on abstinence or contraception, but rather on what will happen once things go out of control. If the MOE are serious in saying “Hey we should do something about this!”, then my point is that everything will be pointless if the kids can’t even comprehend the concept of self-responsibility. They can be taught for donkey sessions on the risks, dangers, social ills, blah, blah, blah… but will they listen? If I can’t keep my pants secure, then that’s it! I don’t have to care about what had been taught to me years before.

      • 49 IniD 10 July 2012 at 21:28

        Which begs the question: so why does MOE take on the role of sex educator?

        What is the outcome MOE (and therefore the gahment) desire, and is their current syllabus the best way to achieve that outcome?

  14. 50 Tan Tai Wei 10 July 2012 at 14:20

    Perhaps, MOE’s assumption is that school-going children are as yet unprepared with the knowledge and moral commitment to distinguish between 1) responsible, committed premarital sex among consenting couples who normally would fulfil promises to fidelity, normally in the context of marriage, made one to another, from 2) casual sex, worse when achieved, say, by one exploiting the trust of promises and “love” in order to deceive. The latter, be it noted, would also be wrongful infidelity when committed by a married person outside marriage. I am sure advocates of “premarital sex” here don’t mean to condone such irresponsible sex. And MOE is painfully aware of the rising trend among secondary school girls of “unwanted” pregnancy. Maybe, the blanket prohibition is pedagogically right, and safer, for the time being, leaving the finer discriminations to the future when they hopefully will have matured in understanding and moral autonomy.

    • 51 yawningbread 10 July 2012 at 16:42

      It sounds logical… but there is one big, big flaw: Blanket prohibitions have been shown not to work. They result in MORE unprotected sex and more unwanted pregnancies.

      • 52 Tan Tai Wei 10 July 2012 at 17:31

        And so we give in to their causal sex (sec ones or twos, even those older, surely can’t as yet be responsible, however “in love” they feel) and just teach them techiques of preventing unwanted pregnancies, and issue them condoms like they say we do national servicemen posted to Taiwan? True, unwanted pregnancies would be lessened, but at the expense of even more casualness. Do you really want to say that, as long as harm is prevented, immorality shouldn’t matter? But MOE is a Ministry of Education.

      • 53 yawningbread 10 July 2012 at 21:05

        Your argument about the need to stress abstinence because, even if pregnancy and STDs are prevented, there is still the immorality of casual sex to be fought against, depends largely on the notion that casual sex is immoral. Many people don’t adopt that stance.

    • 54 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 10 July 2012 at 19:07

      This should be something for the parents to chew on, not the classroom. Case in point: How many hours do the students spend outside of school rather than inside? I’m not going to post anything personal attacks wise, but why is it that I’m having this impression that it will create the kind of problem where the educators will be forced to cover up the parents’ backside?

  15. 55 Ian 10 July 2012 at 18:38

    For those who think that this is an abstinence only, there are still programmes for teaching on the use of condoms and its mandatory if i read it right. It goes by the name of eTeens.

    If you go to policies for their sexuality education, you can see that eTeens consist of one 60-min mass talk & three 45 to 60-min class-based lessons for secondary 3 students and one 60-min mass talk & one 60-min class-based lesson for JC/CI 1 students. Even in eTeens, their theme would still be primarily focused on abstinence.

    Apparently 32 hours on growing years is not enough to cover abstinence, and has to be part of the eTeens programme that lasts in total for 6 hours.

    Here is the sentence that saved them from having a ‘abstinence only’ SE:

    ‘modes of protection against infection, specifically abstinence and the
    correct use of condoms;’

    That’s it, the rest is how to say no.


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