Modules on respect and appropriate behaviour part of curriculum in university and schools: Sun Xueling

Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan added that the amount of time devoted to teaching sexuality education in schools is insufficient.
Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan added that the amount of time devoted to teaching sexuality education in schools is insufficient.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's autonomous universities have or are putting in place compulsory modules on respect and appropriate behaviour that cover rules and norms on sexual consent, said Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling.

Undergraduates staying in hostels also have compulsory face-to-face workshops and peer discussions on sexuality and lessons on what constitutes sexual misconduct and harassment, she added.

In a speech in Parliament on Tuesday (July 6), Ms Sun also said students in secondary school are taught how to recognise sexual abuse and harassment as part of the character and citizen education (CCE) curriculum.

Under the new CCE curriculum launched this year, lower secondary students study topics such as safety and protection from sexual abuse and grooming.

Ms Sun, who is also Minister of State for Social and Family Development, was responding to a speech by Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan (Sengkang GRC).

Ms Khan spoke on the need to address the problem of sexual violence and harassment in Singapore, especially among children and youths.

She said: "While some tertiary institutions now teach consent explicitly, this must begin earlier in life."

She added that the amount of time devoted to teaching sexuality education in schools is insufficient.

She said Singapore must work to create "a strong culture of consent" as the criminal justice system alone cannot protect victims from the threat of sexual violence as many incidents go unreported, or are dismissed.

"Mandatory sexuality education should be extended to young children, who must be taught to recognise the wrongs being done to them," she said.

To this end, she recommended that preschool children should have a nationally standardised programme that teaches them specifics about safety.

These include things like when a touch is good or bad, what secrets should be shared with a trusted adult and when to get help.

Ms Khan also said teachers in secondary schools should be trained to facilitiate discussions on sex in an open, non-judgemental space and that students need dedicated spaces and channels to report or talk about their experiences.

She added that consent is a complex concept and Singaporean youth have found it difficult to discern what it means to give consent in situations where things like alcohol consumption are a factor.

She said: "Rape myths, like how women who drink deserve it or that silence means consent, worsen this problem."

Ms Khan also said technology has amplified the issues of sexual harassment and misconduct.

She cited examples of her own experiences of online abuse, as well as a recent online poll ranking the sexual attractiveness of Muslim religious teachers.

She said: "If we do not educate our young early in school, where their knowledge of sex comes from a trusted and vetted resource, they will learn their lessons from the Internet where pornography and other irresponsible or unrealistic depictions of sex are easily available."