The latest brow raiser is the Ministry of Education’s revision of the sexuality education programme. What surprised many people is the statement from MOE that the team of 10 specially selected teachers who will teach this program MUST practise “mainstream values that are aligned with MOE”. And these values include the family as a basic unit of society and these teachers have to practise abstinence (No Sex) before marriage! http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120702-356703.html
When did no sex before marriage become or is a “mainstream value” in modern day Singapore? Was a recent nation-wide survey done to ascertain that more than 50% of people living here are against sex before marriage? Now don’t get me wrong as I am not advocating any sort of free sex or sleeping around. But the reality in today’s cosmopolitan and developed societies is that many young adults and adults have consenting sex with their partners before marriage (and what more in Singapore where the couples often have to wait a few years before their balloted HDB flat is ready for occupation).
Let me also state upfront that I have nothing against abstinence. Whether one decides to have sex or not before marriage is very much a personal decision, often it’s a decision guided by family members, peers and sometimes by religion. And we should respect these decisions.
I just think that for the government to push sex education along so called “mainstream values” as defined by them is questionable. Are these actually mainstream values or the government’s aka PAP’s values which they are trying to pass off as mainstream to make them sound more credible? Hmm, maybe this is a clever tactic to get more people to marry earlier so that they can have sex and hence more legitimate babies? Just kidding! Then again…
In a cosmopolitan society like Singapore where almost 40% of the population are foreigners, what is mainstream these days anyway? As more and more foreigners and locals mingle and interact, values will be shaped and remoulded, just as the future of Singapore’s Identity will be reshaped again and again until our population growth settles down. In addition, many Singaporeans are becoming more exposed to global living and ideas. I expect that the young will become increasingly cosmopolitan and decisive about the kind of life they wish to lead and how they want to live it.
All over the world, sexual activity is rising among the youths and young adults. If MOE were serious about addressing the concerns of sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancies, it should be more forward thinking to create more innovative sex education programmes that can enlighten and equip the young with useful infomation that helps them understand and deal with sexuality matters. Trying to force the practice of abstinence on our fast-maturing youths just isn’t going to cut any ice with many of them.
On the decision of when to start having sex, if even the parents have no issues with their children having responsible sex with their partners, who then is the government to tell them what to do in their private lives? Shouldn’t the role of MOE be just an educational one to teach the young how to handle sex in a mature responsible way – with love, respect and precautions – instead of sex as something they should stay away from until they are married? Give the youths plenty of good information and guidance for them to make responsible decisions but please don’t shape the decision for them according to how the ministry wants it. Seriously, Singaporeans are already often derided for being unstreetwise and poor in critical thinking. And now this from MOE?
And for MOE to actually require their core team of “sexuality education” teachers to abstain from sex before marriage is downright laughable. How will MOE monitor this? Are they going to verify this (yes, I read that there are actually medical virginity tests that can be done)? Is it even right for them to ask this of the adult teachers? Who do they think they are?
For this group of teachers to agree to such draconian archaic rules, I have to assume they probably already hold such conservative values or perhaps certain religions beliefs. In this case, I wonder what will they teach? That sex is something to be feared or to be revered? How well-balanced will their teaching be and how in sync will it be with the real big world out there? And seriously, if none of these teachers have had sex, how do they answer, ehm, probing questions from the teens?
For MOE to push for abstinence from sex before marriage “as the best option” shows how our government is still fixated with being a paternalistic nanny. And sadly, such actions also shows a lack of human and societal understanding, foresight and common sense.
In my past blog posts, I have raised other questionable regressive actions taken by our authorities. For example, MOE has introduced a new scheme this year to reward good character displayed by students with hard cold cash (what kind of values are they teaching and isn’t it very wrong to encourage good character with cash?). Another example is the museums managed by the National Heritage Board which display warning signs at the entrances of art galleries to warn visitors if there are naked or graphic art scenes in rooms (hello, it’s art and it’s a museum)!
The funny thing that struck me is that back in the old days when our society was much more conservative and less developed, we didn’t have such warnings in our museums nor did our teachers push the line that abstinence from sex was best during our sex education in school. Fast forward to modern day and the authorities are doing such things now? Isn’t it odd?
And why do I say these are regressive actions? Because as a society develops, we expect the people to grow up along the way, to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions. Instead, such paternalistic actions by the government imposes certain values on our people and takes away some measure of our decision-making and affects our ability to mature naturally. Singapore is a First World country but our people are still being governed in very Third World ways in so many ways (I shall not start on the CPF which is another bugbear and a topic for another day).
Our country has been making economic progress in leaps and bounds as evinced by the many sparkly new property developments and infrastructure. We have earned a great international reputation for this amazing First World development of our hardware and we are proud of it.
But most of all, I believe that many of us look forward to the day when our Government and our people make this same leap into the First World. That will truly make us very proud.