WSQ course on effective communication gets F mark

Questions seen as perpetuating discrimination at work replaced

Test questions from a training course accredited by a Government body have had to be replaced after Internet users slammed the assessment for perpetuating workplace discrimination.

During the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) course on effective communication, participants were given a list of 10 hypothetical staff members and told they had to decide as a group which four to axe.

Descriptions of the 10 workers included elements of race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation and marital status.

One candidate, for instance, was described as a former Workers' Party member. Another was a divorced woman with five children. Others included a gay man, a former Catholic priest and a "confirmed racist".

Only three had indications of the employees' work competencies.

Part of the questionnaire for a Workforce Skills Qualifications course, listing the political and sexual orientations of some "staff members". PHOTO: FACEBOOK

A photo of the test paper was posted on the All Singapore Stuff website after a friend of one of the participants wrote in.

The participant, Mr Lai Yew Sin, did the course last Wednesday and Thursday and said the exercise only served to confirm prejudices.

Mr Lai, an assistant therapist at Singapore General Hospital, said: "The group could not come to an agreement. It was very horrible to watch."

He failed the overall course, becoming the first person to do so since it was started in 2011. Adding that he was not angry about the grade, Mr Lai said he was more frustrated with the activity, as "the exercise will affect real livelihoods through the encouragement of unwarranted prejudices during decision-making processes".

Companies send their employees on the course to improve their communication skills in the workplace.

Course provider Eagle Infotech Consultants yesterday defended its material to The Straits Times.

Managing director Liana Tang said the test "was taken out of context", clarifying that it was not meant to prescribe procedures for hiring and retrenchment. Rather, it was "to teach diversity".

She also said the trainer had spoken on the importance of diversity before the exercise started. Mr Lai said this was not true.

Eagle has been an accredited Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) training organisation since 2005.

A WDA spokesman said Eagle will replace the questions immediately because they have been made public and also due to "perceived sensitivity".

She said: "WDA would like to assure that all WSQ courses follow a rigorous pedagogical framework and trainers are accredited to provide quality training."

Mr David Ang, director of corporate services capability development at Human Capital Singapore, said: "Good human resource practices dictate that retrenchment decisions should not be based on anything other than someone's work."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline WSQ course on effective communication gets F mark. Subscribe