Education Ministry rejects SDP request to discuss socio-political issues in schools

Education Ministry rejects SDP request to discuss socio-political issues in schools
Photo: Channel NewsAsia
Schools are neutral places and not platforms for partisan politics, says the ministry
Published: 7:57 PM, February 12, 2016
Updated: 12:19 AM, February 13, 2016

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) request to conduct talks in schools to engage youth on socio-political issues has been has been turned down by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Responding to TODAY’s queries, an MOE spokesperson said today (Feb 12): “We cannot allow it because schools are neutral places for learning and not platforms for partisan politics.”

On Feb 2, the SDP had said in a press statement that the party will “approach our schools and educational institutions to initiate a conversation with our youth on national issues that concern them and their future”.

Titled “Foster, Forge, Future: Conversations With Our Youth”, the initiative was “aimed at bringing politics and policy-making closer to our students, challenging them to engage in thoughtful analysis on issues facing Singapore”.

In the statement, the party said that “exposure to alternative points of view is essential”, if the “goal is to cultivate independent thinking” among students”.

“And if the objective is to foster creative thought, injecting open-minded enquiry into the educational system is necessary,” they added. The party said they would write to the MOE as well as secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities with the request.

Two days later, the party said in a post on its website it had been rejected by the MOE, and that the ministry had said schools are neutral places for learning. While the party was “gratified” by this, it said it was puzzled that “history textbooks approved by the MOE for secondary school students are so partisan”.

According to the SDP, one textbook stated that the late David Marshall, Singapore’s first Chief Minister and founder of the Workers’ Party, was a “weak and indecisive leader”, and that opposition politician Lim Chin Siong “adopted violent strategies through riots and street demonstrations”, among other things.

It also cited some questions and answers from a self-study revision book for Secondary 2 students “based on the new syllabus by Ministry of Education”, to highlight its point about history textbooks being partisan.

In its reply, the MOE said that the textbook segments quoted by the SDP in its post “are not from a MOE history textbook”, while the self-study revision book in question is not endorsed by them.