MOE to work with schools to standardise modules on gender education and respect

MOE to work with schools to standardise modules on gender education and respect

MOE file
File photo of Ministry of Education. (Photo: Alvin Chong)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) hopes to work with institutes of higher learning (IHL) and schools to standardise the modules used for teaching respect and boundaries, and the protocol and response for issues that arise, said Minister of State Sun Xueling. 

There has been a recent spate of sexual misconduct cases in universities here, more than a year after undergraduate Monica Baey spoke out online about how the National University of Singapore (NUS) responded after she was filmed taking a shower in her hostel by a fellow student.

Several cases involving faculty members have also emerged in the past few months. Most recently, the dismissal of a professor by NUS marked the third time in less than two months that the institution had taken action against a current or former staff member over allegations of inappropriate behaviour or sexual misconduct.

“The various IHLs actually have their own curriculum as well as modules on the teaching of respect and boundaries for the staff, as well as the students,” said Ms Sun, speaking to journalists on Monday (Dec 21) after a virtual engagement session organised by MOE and National Youth Council.

“What the MOE hopes to do is to work with the IHLs closely to ensure greater standardisation of the modules that are used, and also to share resources so that there's an alignment, and to look at the cases that have come up and to also standardise the protocol and our responses to issues that arise.”

Providing “age-appropriate” gender education to the youth about self-respect and respect for others is important, said Ms Sun. 

“There were suggestions that there should be greater alignment among schools, when it comes to the materials that are used, the standards,” she added. 

The education ministry will work with general education schools and institutes of higher learning on topics like gender education and respect, said Ms Sun, adding that there is room for schools to share resources. 

READ: Institutions must be 'open and timely' when addressing sexual misconduct allegations: MOE

The dialogue on Monday involved 124 students from institutes of higher learning, and the discussion touched on issues that women face, including gender stereotypes, gender imbalance at work and the need for more gender and sexuality education.

This is the first such dialogue with students, as part of a national review of issues that affect women at home, in schools, workplaces and the community.

The ideas and suggestions gathered through these dialogues will form the basis of a White Paper to be tabled in Parliament in the first half of next year. Ms Sun is co-leading the review with Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth and Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam. 

Addressing the call for gender and sexuality education from students who spoke during the dialogue, Ms Sun noted that the updated character and citizenship education curriculum in the upcoming school year, there will be greater emphasis on moral values, cyber wellness, and understanding the importance of respecting boundaries for self and others, both online and offline. 

“It will also recognise the importance that family has to play in the process, so schools will also engage and work closely with parents because they play a critical role in imparting values and providing guidance to their children,” she added. 

READ: NUS steps up approach to sexual misconduct cases; swifter police reporting, exploring bystander training

Other students spoke about the infrastructure and security improvements in institutes of higher learning in response to the recent spate of sexual misconduct cases, said Ms Sun. 

“Other participants spoke about the need to equip students with age-appropriate knowledge, so they can know how to protect themselves against online sexual grooming sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and also how to recognise inappropriate behaviour, and to understand the legal consequences, and the social, economic or social-emotional impact that such offences can have,” said Ms Sun.

Noting what one student said about the need for “even standards” across schools for gender education about developing healthy relationships, self-love and mutual respect, Ms Sun added: “I acknowledge the feedback, and the MOE will work with the schools and the IHLs to ensure that there is alignment across institutions on gender education and respect.” 

Source: CNA/hw(ac)

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