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Gender equality review: Standardised sexuality education should be taught at post-secondary level, say students

SINGAPORE — Even though sexuality education is taught in secondary schools and junior colleges, some students hope to see a standardised curriculum broadened to post-secondary educational institutions to build a culture of mutual respect among students, especially in the wake of several sexual misconduct cases.

Gender equality review: Standardised sexuality education should be taught at post-secondary level, say students

Some tertiary students hope to see a standardised curriculum dealing with sexuality at the post-secondary level.

  • The session is part of a governmental review on gender equality here
  • Students said sexuality education is inconsistent across levels and schools
  • They wanted to learn more about how the legal system deals with sexual offences
  • Some of these issues will be addressed in the refreshed Character and Citizen Education, said Ms Sun Xueling
  • MOE will work with schools to ensure greater consistency in the curriculum

 

SINGAPORE — Even though sexuality education is taught in secondary schools and junior colleges, some students hope to see a standardised curriculum broadened to post-secondary educational institutions to build a culture of mutual respect among students, especially in the wake of several sexual misconduct cases.

These are some of the comments raised on Monday (Dec 21) by 100 students across the universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) during the first of three dialogue sessions organised by the National Youth Council (NYC) as part of a governmental review on gender equality in Singapore.

Their comments come on the heels of a wave of sexual misconduct cases at the universities here, the most recent one being a National University of Singapore (NUS) political science professor who was sacked for sexually harassing a student.

Six national-level conversations have already been organised as part of the review, which was launched by the Government in October and is looking at the issues affecting women in Singapore.

The feedback received from the dialogues will culminate in a White Paper that will be delivered in Parliament in the first half of next year.

BROADER SEX ED CURRICULUM

First introduced in 2000, the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) sexuality education curriculum is taught at the primary, secondary and junior college levels.

It touches on topics like how to build healthy relationships based on respect and love, protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and how to manage peer influence.

From next year, sexuality education lessons at the secondary school level will be refreshed to teach students how to protect themselves from crimes such as cyber flashing and voyeurism, among other things, CNA reported.

Some universities here, such as NUS, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University, have introduced modules on sexual consent and respect on campus, but the curriculum is not standardised across all Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).

Students present at Monday’s dialogue said sexuality education should continue to be addressed at the tertiary level given that many recent cases of voyeurism and sexual misconduct that have made headlines took place at the IHLs.

Their comments were conveyed to reporters by facilitators from the NYC after the discussions as the breakout dialogue sessions were not open to the media.

The students called for consistency in how sexuality education is taught as based on their experience, some institutions may not follow the curriculum to a tee and so what is taught differs from school to school.

They also wanted to know more about how the legal system deals with cases of sexual misconduct to better protect themselves should they become victims of harassment.

Responding to the feedback, Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling, who was present at the dialogue, said many of the issues raised will be addressed in the refreshed Character and Citizen Education (CCE) curriculum to be rolled out from next year.

The refreshed CCE curriculum will teach students how to deal with challenging situations such as online grooming, sexual harassment and abuse, said Ms Sun, who is one of the political office holders leading the review.

Students will be taught to understand the social and emotional impact of such behaviours and the potential legal consequences of performing such acts.

Acknowledging the feedback given by students, Ms Sun said MOE will work with the schools and IHLs to “ensure that there is alignment across institutions” on sexuality education.

MOE will work closely with the IHLs to ensure greater standardisation on consent and respect modules, and see if resources can be shared across institutions, she added.

DO AWAY WITH GENDER STEREOTYPES

Students also said that more can be done in schools to reduce gender stereotypes, especially when it comes to informing students about the career pathways that are available to them.

For example, many students said that gender stereotypes are encoded in certain professions, with jobs like nursing being seen as a woman’s job and others like shipping and computer science being male-dominated.

These messages come at a young age, they added, through the subjects that are taught in single-gendered schools.

For instance, boys’ schools are usually offered design and technology as a subject while home economics is usually taught in girls’ schools.

In her reply, Ms Sun said topics on gender roles and gender stereotypes will feature in the refreshed CCE curriculum.

This is so that “students know the importance of valuing one’s own abilities, strengths and talents, regardless of gender”.

Students will also be able to access more resources with a balanced representation of genders across careers.

“This is to address and challenge the possible mental models (on gender stereotypes),” said Ms Sun, and encourage students to explore a variety of education and career pathways.

Related topics

sexuality education IHL Sun Xueling gender equality

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