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Singapore's Ministry of Education is notoriously homophobic in its policies regarding the hiring and deployment of openly LGBT teachers. The situation has not changed much even after the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's announcement in Time (Asia) magazine in 2003 that henceforth, openly gay civil servants would be employed in the civil service.

There is also no express policy of preventing bullying of LGBT students in schools.

With regard to sexuality education, homosexuality is frowned upon with the official line being that male gay sex is illegal in Singapore.

Policies regarding teachersEdit

In 2005, Paul Fernandez, a gay teacher who had been warned in 2003 by the police for having consensual sex with another man on the public staircase landing of a private block of flats in Klang Lane in Little India, was fired by the principal of the private kindergarten for children with learning disabilities in which he taught[1],[2].

Prior to the late 2000s, the policy of the Ministry of Education (MOE) was that openly gay teachers were not to be hired. Homosexual teachers were expected to remain closeted and not come out to their students either directly or indirectly via their blogs. This directive was perhaps driven by the irrational fear that openly gay teachers would influence and convert their students into homosexuals.

A landmark case was established in 2007 by Raffles Institution science teacher, Otto Fong who came out as a gay man in an open letter on his blog, accessible to his students and the public[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]. Owing to the widespread attention his blog post received, he rapidly deleted the post. The Ministry of Education responded that it did not permit teachers to endorse homosexuality openly because teachers had special authority and influence over students, and are often regarded as role models.

Award-winning writer, Alfian Sa'at, who scored the highest A-level results in Singapore during the year in which he sat for them, was denied a relief teaching position in 2007 on account of the fact that he was openly gay and often wrote about gay issues in his personal blog, books and theatrical plays[8],[9],[10],[11],[12].

In 2009, prize-winning poet-playwright Ng Yi-Sheng's mentorship in the Creative Arts Programme (CAP) was terminated by the Ministry of Education one month into his tenure[13],[14]. Although the ministry did not give any reason for axing him, Ng thinks that was replaced due to his involvement in political and gay rights activism.

Policies regarding studentsEdit

Many LGBT students in school face pressure, both from their peers and teachers, to conform to a cisgender identity and heterosexual orientation. There is no express policy to deal with homophobic or transphobic bullying.

In 2007, The Ministry of Education (MOE) started conducting "Managing gender identity issues" courses for full-time school counsellors (FTSCs) from primary school level onwards. However, the counsellors were indoctrinated with the fallacy that effeminate students were "both from single-parent families and their fathers are absent. They do not have a male figure at home to be involved in masculine activities with."[15],[16]

Sexuality educationEdit

AWARE was stripped of their right to provide sexuality education in schools because of their non-discriminatory presentation of gay sex in their sexuality education programme.

In the wake of the AWARE saga, the Ministry of Education published their "Instructions for External Providers Applying to Offer Free Sexuality Education Programmes in Schools" in late 2009 on their website[17] (now taken offline).

Amongst its policy positions were:

"b. Sexuality Education in school is taught in the context of values which Singapore’s mainstream society believes in. This means encouraging heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units.

c. MOE does not condone promiscuity, sexually experimentation by teenagers or promote homosexuality. MOE teaches students what homosexuality is, and that homosexual acts are illegal. MOE teaches the values held by the majority, whether they are religious or not.

g. MOE does not encourage nor promote oral sex or anal sex."

After the HPB saga in which their was a huge outcry from especially the Christian right wing fundametalists about the organisation's factual information on gay sex published on its website, many former school students stepped forward to describe the homophobic bullying they experienced in school. This led to the formation of websites like Calling it out to collect stories on emotional abuse suffered by students on account of their sexual orientation or non-conformist gender expression.

In April 2010, despite constant reiteration by the Government that public space for interaction must remain secular, the Ministry of Education chose 4 Christian church-linked organisations to conduct the sexuality education programme in schools[18]. These were:

  • Fei Yue Community Services - began as a Family Service Centre founded in 1991 by the Chinese Christian Mission. It has run sexuality education programmes for students for the past eight years.
  • Cornerstone Community Services Centre - has taught sexuality education in schools for about six years. It is an affiliate of Cornerstone Community Church, which has made known its objections to homosexuality in the past.
  • Touch Youth - an affiliate of Touch Community Services, set up in 1992 by senior pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church.
  • Focus on the Family Singapore - a non-profit organisation affiliated with the ex-gay movement in the US.

Homophobic bullying in schoolsEdit

The LGBT-affirmative counselling agency, Oogachaga, has performed a survey regarding homophobic bullying experienced by LGBT Singaporeans.

Tertiary institutionsEdit

Tertiary institutions have led the way towards greater integration and acceptance of their LGBT student population by allowing the formation of gay-straight alliances and other student LGBT organisations on their campuses.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Andre Yeo, "Teacher's gay, so they tear down the toilets", The New Paper, 27 June 2005[19].
  • Ansley Ang, "Providers welcome MOE guidelines on sexuality programmes", TODAY, 9 October 2009[20].
  • The Ministry of Education's "Instructions for External Providers Applying to Offer Free Sexuality Education Programmes in Schools", 2009[21].
  • Irene Tham, "AWARE quits sex programme", The Straits Times, 7 February 2010[22].
  • Yeo Shang Long & Liew Hanqing, "Sex education in schools: Applicants had to state their stand on key sex issues before selection", The Straits Times, 29 April 2010[23].
  • Bryna Sim, "School sexuality education programme to be refreshed", The New Paper, 28 December 2011[24].
  • Bryna Sim, "Teacher's F-word shock", The New Paper, 13 January 2012[25].
  • Ava Kofman & Tapley Stephenson, "Yale values to be tested in Singapore", Yale Daily News, 29 March 2012[26].
  • Austin Shiner, "Gay night in Singapore", Yale Daily News, 2 April 2012[27].
  • "New's View: It's time to talk Singapore", Yale Daily News, 2 March 2012[28].
  • Tamar Lewin, "Faculty gives Yale a dose of dissent over Singapore", The New York Times, 4 April 2012, [29].
  • TODAY, "Yale faculty passes resolution to express concern", 7 April 2012[30].
  • E-Ching Ng, "Show Singaporeans some respect", Yale Daily News, 2 April 2012[31].
  • "Overview of Raffles Institution (Year 1-4) Sexuality Education Programme for 2012", updated 9 May 2012[32].
  • "Introduction to Sexuality Education in Schools", Ministry of Education[33].
  • George Bishop, "Yale-NUS will guarantee academic freedom: college president", 31 May 2012[34].
  • Candice Neo, "Many gays and transgender people teased and bullied for their sexual

orientation: Survey", The Sunday Times, 17 June 2012[35],[36].

  • Candice Neo, "Tormented in school for revealing his secret", The Sunday Times, 17 June 2012[37].
  • Jeanette Tan, "MOE’s abstinence message sparks debate", Yahoo! News Singapore, 5 July 2012[38].
  • "Question about homosexuality during "Talking Point" episode on sexuality education in schools", Channel News Asia, 10 July 2012[39].
  • Bryna Sim, "From abuse victim to millionaire academic", The Straits Times, 22 October 2012[40].
  • "LGBT infiltrating MOE and influencing our youths?", Asia One forum, 13 September 2013[41].
  • Andre Yeo, "Taught to spot problem when they're young", The New Paper, 14 September 2008[42].

AcknowledgementsEdit

This article was written by Roy Tan.

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