MOE will ensure greater alignment of gender, sexuality education across schools and institutions: Sun Xueling

The Ministry of Social and Family Development will also work with schools to share resources on gender education and issues like respect. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) will pay closer attention to ensuring greater alignment of gender-related content taught by schools and the institutes of higher learning (IHLs).

Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said on Monday (Dec 21) that the ministry will also work with schools to share resources on gender education and issues like respect.

The various IHLs have their own curriculum on the teaching of respect and boundaries for students and staff, she said.

"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... and to look at the cases that have come up and to also standardise the protocols and our responses to issues that arise," she added.

Ms Sun was speaking to the media after a virtual engagement session organised by the MOE and National Youth Council (NYC).

The session, which was also attended by NYC chief executive David Chua, involved about 100 IHL students, and focused on the issues that women face in schools.

This is the first such conversation with students from higher learning institutions, as part of a national review of issues that affect women at home, in schools, workplaces and the community that was earlier announced in September.

The ideas and suggestions gathered through these dialogues, which started in October, will form the basis of a White Paper to be tabled in Parliament in the first half of next year.

In her remarks after Monday's session, Ms Sun, who 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, said: "What really stuck in my mind was that our students have expressed a deep desire to have a culture of respect between the genders."

Ms Sun noted that as part of the updated character and citizenship education (CCE) curriculum that will kick in next year, there will be greater emphasis on moral values, cyber wellness and respecting boundaries for self and others both online and offline.

Other topics raised on Monday included the need to provide a safe environment for young people, in the context of recent sexual misconduct cases in universities.

This includes equipping "students with age-appropriate knowledge, so that they 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 socio-emotional impact that such offences can have", said Ms Sun.

She said that the refreshed CCE curriculum will address the key challenges that youth today face, for instance with the widespread usage of social media.

"There are now a variety of influences and challenges that come about through social media, that come about through popular culture. The MOE is aware of it," she said.

"What is important is that we have age-appropriate content, and we also use scenarios to help our young better understand what they can do when they are faced with challenging situations."

Online sexual grooming, abuse of teacher-student relationships and voyeurism are some of the ministry's concerns, she said.

"In our curriculum, there are actually specific scenarios that are painted for each of these potential situations, and what students can do about their feelings on the matter, and who they can consult."

One example is a tuition teacher who behaves inappropriately with a child, and in such a lesson, the teachers in class would share what students need to do so they know how to react in such situations, said Ms Sun.

Apart from sexuality and gender education in schools, the students on Monday also shared concerns about gender stereotypes, and how these could affect the perceptions of job competencies and types of careers that young people go into.

Some participants highlighted how certain tertiary-level courses like nursing and social work tend to have more females, for instance.

Ms Sun said that through education and career guidance in schools, the MOE will ensure that students will be able to explore a variety of pathways, and at the same time address gender-based biases that may limit their aspirations.

"There is a role for schools to play in ensuring that... students should look at their innate qualities, what their strengths are and not be impeded by mental models of what they think," she said.

Schools will also help to bring about greater awareness of gender equality in the context of the home, she added.

"The MOE will address the equity of family roles in contributing to the family in the refreshed CCE 2021 curriculum and students will learn to appreciate equity of parenting roles, regardless of gender and the importance of not ascribing gender stereotypes in parenting," she said.

"At the end of the day, we want to nurture positive mindsets and attitudes towards the equity of roles in the family, starting from a young age."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.