Facilitators of relationship workshop were ineffective, says Hwa Chong Institution principal

The facilitators of the controversial relationship workshop conducted at Hwa Chong Institution were ineffective and did not address concerns raised by the students, the principal of the school said. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
The facilitators of the controversial relationship workshop conducted at Hwa Chong Institution were ineffective and did not address concerns raised by the students, the principal of the school said. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The facilitators of the controversial relationship workshop conducted at Hwa Chong Institution were ineffective and did not address concerns raised by the students, the principal of the school said.

In an internal circular sent to all students and teachers of the school on Thursday, Dr Hon Chiew Weng said the school has completed an internal investigation on the workshop conducted by Focus on the Family Singapore, an external vendor.

He said findings from the investigation showed that when students objected to various viewpoints, the male facilitator "was not able to address their concerns satisfactorily".

Dr Hon added that the booklet was also a "source of unhappiness" among students, and some felt that the booklet was unnecessary as it was not frequently referred to during the workshop.

"Some of the contents were deemed as objectionable. As it was not referred to frequently during the workshop, the participants felt that it was unnecessary to distribute the booklet," he wrote in the note.

He said that the school is disappointed that the vendor had sent someone who was unable to address the concerns of the participants and that the school will give feedback to them.

Focus on the Family Singapore is approved by the Ministry of Education to run sexuality education programmes, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development to run relationship workshops.

In the letter, Dr Hon said: "One lesson we can learn from this episode is that even if a programme is approved by both MSF and MOE, things can go wrong. We have to depend on ourselves to ensure the quality of our programmes."

He added that the school had engaged the vendor in the past, and students' feedback had been positive.

He added that students who had attended a similar workshop in another venue were happy with the programme as "the facilitators were professional, and qualified their claims".

"[The facilitators] recognised that the views put forth in class were generalisations that do not apply to everyone. When referring to controversial viewpoints, they were open to accepting alternative explanations and perspectives," he said.

He said that this negative experience "should not deter us from engaging external speakers in the future", but the school is now planning to design its own future workshops.