Sex education in Singapore: It’s getting from bad to worse

05.21.09 | 2 Comments

I can’t quite remember having had any sexuality education class when I was in school (Note: I attended a school named Anglican High), and even if I had any, it was probably just one or two sessions. In any case, I certainly don’t remember being told anything about homosexuality at all. As it turns out, these days, homosexuality does get mentioned in sex education class – and the one thing that students are told is that it’s illegal in Singapore. Gay kids all across Singapore are now being taught in class: You are criminals. Start placing your bets now as to when we will hear of the first gay student suicide. Oh wait a minute, it’s probably already happened many times. We just haven’t found out about them yet.

The sad state of affairs really boils down to this: that our Education Ministry insists on teaching values, not facts, in sexuality education class. Education Minister Ng Eng Hen says that it was only late in 2007 (yikes!) when they realised that their abstinence-only message was not working:

When we started, the key message was abstinence, reflecting the conservative social tone of our Asian society where liberal values on sex are not espoused. This is not a negative facet of our society. It is not prudish, regressive or naive. But it was clear that abstinence as the only focus was not an effective strategy in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies and STIs. In 2007, messages were added – beyond knowing how to say no, students were also taught the repercussions of unwanted pregnancies and STIs and HIV and how to prevent them. This is now a key focus of sexuality education, and should continue to be moving forward.’

For as long as we continue to hide behind the lousy excuse that sexuality education needs to be in line with “Asian values” and refuse to teach our kids the cold hard facts about sex, the use of condoms will remain low, and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies can only go up north.

And then the Education Minister goes on to say that schools will not become a proxy battleground for Christian right and gay interest groups to settle arguments like in the United States:

‘We must not go down the way as has happened in the US? Issues will not resolved that way. If we do not adhere to this rule strictly, our students and educational system will end up the losers… Our students grow and learn best in an environment where they can develop their own beliefs in an objective manner, with adequate time to reflect on difficult issues, free from the rhetoric and emotional upheavals of contending parties.’

But, oh, if only that were true. The fact of the matter is this: Today, there is not a single so-called ‘gay interest group’ in Singapore that has access to public schools, but there are many Christian schools which have full freedom to teach students the thoroughly unscientific view that homosexuality is pathological.

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