SINGAPORE: The Education Ministry has revised its sexuality education framework to ensure its context stays relevant to current trends.
The Growing Years curriculum, which addresses issues related to relationships and media influences, will now include a greater focus on social networking, its dangers, and what teenagers can do to protect themselves.
The ministry also reiterated that sexuality education is not sex education. It is about the emotional, social and ethical aspects in addition to the physical aspect of sexuality.
First started in 2000, Growing Years is conducted at the Primary 5 level through to Junior College or centralised institute level.
The expanded new media component of the Growing Years programme is one of the tweaks made after it started talking to students, teachers and principals in 2009 as part of its review.
Grace Ng, deputy director of the guidance branch at the Ministry of Education, said: "We understand from the children that they want to be taught how, the skills to navigate the landscape out there.
"(For example,) how to handle relationships, what are the no—no’s, how do we say ’no’ to peer pressure, how to tell right from wrong, how to understand what they see on websites, or for that matter, on social networks."
Complementing Growing Years is the Empowered Teens (eTeens) curriculum, which teaches students about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), protection from unsafe sex, and how to say "no" to pre—marital sex.
MOE said the new course materials have been distributed to all primary schools and it will start training teachers to deliver these programmes.
It added only specially selected teachers whose values align with MOE’s on sexuality education may teach the Growing Years programme. Each school has at least 10 trained teachers.
Schools like Zhenghua Secondary said the refreshed curriculum is timely as students are more plugged in to social media. For added measure, the school also engages an external vendor to supplement MOE’s sexuality education programme.
Such vendors must adhere to guidelines set by the MOE. MOE said 11 schools have engaged an external vendor to conduct sexuality education programmes in schools.
Fiona Tan, Principal of Zhenghua Secondary School, said: "When the same message is reinforced through a different voice, and maybe through a different platform, the learning is reinforced and deepened. And the retention rate is also a lot stronger among our students.
"At the same time, as the vendor is going through lessons with the students, our teachers are also sitting in to see how the learning can be further taken back and reinforced in the classes as well."
The revised programmes are expected to be taught to students starting next year.
Parents have the choice to opt—out of Sexuality Education programmes. MOE said the opt—out rate is less than one per cent. Reasons given include a lack of interest in such programmes, wanting to teach their own children on sexuality education and believing their children are too young for the programme.
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