Tuesday 14 October 2014

Uproar over relationship workshop

MOE mindful of need for secularity in programmes

THE Relationship Module workshop for junior college students, started in 2009 and run by providers appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, will cease by the end of this year, as planned ("Questions on courses run by religious groups" by Mr Yong Kai Chang; last Thursday).

Beginning next year, the Ministry of Education's (MOE) refreshed Growing Years Programme will be able to educate junior college/centralised institute (JC/CI) level students on healthy relationships.

This is a holistically designed sexuality education programme for Primary 5 to JC/CI students, taught by MOE-trained sexuality education teachers.

Sexuality education helps students understand the physiological, social and emotional changes they will experience as they mature, develop healthy and rewarding relationships, and make wise and informed decisions on sexuality matters.

Taught through the formal curriculum in subjects like Science, Health Education, Form Teacher Guidance Period, Character and Citizenship Education, Growing Years and eTeens, sexuality education is informed by mainstream values.

These include the heterosexual married family being the basic unit of society, and respect for the values of different ethnic and religious communities on sexual matters.

If schools wish to engage external vendors to provide additional sexuality education programmes, MOE has in place a stringent vetting and approval process to ensure they meet our requirements. Schools can choose from a number of approved vendors, which include non-faith-based organisations.

MOE conducts regular audits of the various programmes to ensure they are secular in nature and are sensitive to the multi-religious and multiracial make-up of our society.

Parents can opt their children out of either the entire sexuality education programme, or from talks and workshops.

MOE will continue to monitor the programmes to ensure that they remain relevant and serve the needs of our students.

More information can be found at www.moe.gov.sg/education/programmes/social-emotional-learning/sexuality-education

Liew Wei Li (Ms)
Student Development Curriculum Division
Ministry of Education
ST Forum, 13 Oct 2014

View stereotypes in context

BASED on the Focus on the Family Singapore's relationship workshop material reported last week, one of the supposedly "sexist" lines goes like this: If she says "Do you love me?", she really means "I feel insecure and I need you to know that you value me" ("Charity strongly defends its workshop" and "Experts warn against using stereotypes"; last Saturday).

My wife would ask me this question every now and then. Sometimes, I get irritated and reply: "Why do you have to ask me the same thing over and over? You mean after all these years, you can't tell whether I love you?"

It takes a while for me to realise that she thinks and feels differently from me, and I have to remind myself of that constantly, for the good of our relationship.

If a male friend asks me for advice on marital relationships, I might say something like: "Women do not always say what they mean, so you have to pay attention in order to figure out what they really want."

This can be construed as gender stereotyping because that statement cannot be true for all women. But I would expect my friend to contextualise what he heard and decide for himself whether the statement applies in his case.

Stereotypes can be used for effective communication. Much like caricature, statements that paint a tongue-in-cheek stereotypical image can provide comic relief as well as highlight important points in a presentation.

I also believe that some amount of stereotyping is an inevitable part of our decision-making process. If I need help to move heavy furniture, I would look for men to help me instead of women because I believe guys are generally physically stronger than women.

This kind of gender stereotyping is not the same as saying "women should not vote because they cannot be trusted to make good decisions" - which would be a form of discrimination.

Neither does it imply that I believe women can never be physically stronger than men.

Leong Seng Yook
ST Forum, 13 Oct 2014

Exercise civility when we disagree

IT IS regrettable that Focus on the Family's relationship workshop will end by the end of this year ("Disputed course to end by Dec: MOE"; last Thursday).

The workshop is a worthy cause to support if we accept that gender differences exist. This is because gender education helps us to understand and resolve conflicts rooted in gender differences with far greater wisdom than we otherwise could.

In my experience, gender stereotypes exist because they have inherent truths within them, although they are also generalisations: Men want respect. Women want to be loved. Men are visual creatures. Women tend to be more insecure than men on how they look. Men tend to think categorically and compartmentalise issues. Women tend to embrace a fuzzy complexity in which everything is interconnected.

Men and women are equal in terms of value and dignity, but they differ in their needs and in how they see and respond to the world. In that sense, they are unequal, and there is nothing demeaning about that. We should be careful about using words like "sexist" and "bigotry". It is impossible to have gender education without relying on generalisations about the traits and differences of each gender that our collective understanding have gained over centuries.

We should also not attack the workshop just because it is run by a pro-Christian organisation. Its materials try to teach important values, not religious doctrine.

I urge civility and wisdom when we react to things we disagree with. Let us check the facts carefully and react calmly.

Han Junwei
ST Forum, 13 Oct 2014

What secularism really means

MR YONG Kai Chang raised questions on courses taught by religious or religion-linked organisations in public schools ("Questions on courses run by religious groups"; last Thursday). His underlying assumption that such organisations should have no influence in a secular environment is misconceived.

Focus on the Family Singapore did not advocate religious views in its relationship workshop. Though it took a socially conservative position, its teaching materials were secular in nature.

Imposing one's religion on another and holding a perspective that is religiously influenced should not be conflated.

Religiously influenced values and perspectives are legitimate in a secular democracy. In fact, Article 15 of our Constitution states that "every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it".

Convictions that are shaped by religious beliefs should not be deemed any less valid than non-religious beliefs. Convictions that are liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious, are all legitimate values that shape the contours of public discourse.

Even though Singapore is a pluralistic society, religion has been recognised and valued as a "constructive social force", according to paragraph 45 of the 1991 Shared Values White Paper.

To deny any form of religious influence in public life is to trivialise religion and be intolerant towards socially conservative beliefs.

Both secular and religious beliefs are not morally neutral; these beliefs generally produce different moral stances towards issues.

The role of the State is to be a neutral arbiter of these religious and non-religious beliefs in its formulation of policies that promote the common good.

Secularism means no more than the equal treatment of these diverse views; it does not mean silencing a religiously influenced perspective.

The Ministry of Education should not be apologetic about co-opting religious or religion-linked organisations to teach social values.

Sherrie Chong (Ms)
ST Forum, 14 Oct 2014

Questions on courses run by religious groups

APART from the issues of sexism and bigotry, I have a few other concerns after reading yesterday's report ("Charity defends workshop after student complaint").

First, what is the Ministry of Education's (MOE) position on the influence, direct or indirect, of the teachings and values propagated by religious organisations in public schools?

How many courses are being taught by religious or religion-linked organisations at our public schools? What are the type and content of such courses, and what is the nature of these organisations?

Second, what is the MOE's review and approval process, if any, before permitting such courses in public schools? Are independent checks on such courses conducted regularly and properly?

Third, are such courses compulsory for students, regardless of their religious affiliations?

Lastly, is the full and frank disclosure of the name, nature and inclination of any organisation (including parent organisation, if any) conducting such courses revealed to the students and their parents?

Perhaps the MOE could enlighten us.

Yong Kai Chang
ST Forum, 9 Oct 2014

Sexist content of workshop not the bigger concern
From Kong Pih Shu, TODAY Voices, 9 Oct 2014

I refer to the report, “Ministries, HCI studying feedback on Focus on the Family Singapore workshop” (Oct 9). Apart from the sexist content of the relationship module, I am more concerned that the workshop has a religious connotation.

School programmes should not be seen as favouring any religious groups. A school should stay as a neutral ground where students of all races and different religious backgrounds mix and learn together, without being slighted.

Hwa Chong Institution cannot allow religious groups to conduct classes that influence or seem to influence the students in a particular way, whether or not they could opt out of the workshop concerned.

The Education Ministry should look into this matter seriously, so that schools are not opened up to demands for activities from various religious communities.

Sexuality workshops should reflect spectrum of values
From Perry Tan Chik Choong, TODAY Voices, 11 Oct 2014

I refer to the report “Ministries studying feedback on relationship workshop” (Oct 9).

This furore bears a similar theme to a controversy in 2009, when a group of conservatives hijacked the Association of Women for Action and Research because they found the sexuality workshop it facilitated to be too liberal for their liking.

Both incidents are manifestations of a culture war, a conflict of values. The key question we must ask ourselves is: Does it need to be a contest where a set of values triumphs at the expense of the other?

In a place as diverse as Singapore, there can be no society-wide consensus on sexuality and relationship values, with an array of opinions on gender roles, marriage, divorce, single parenthood, sexual orientation, masturbation, premarital sex, contraception and abortion.

How one sees these topics is influenced by one’s religious or personal values. I found workshop materials from Focus on the Family sexist, outdated, religiously rooted, factually and scientifically unsubstantiated in part and generally irrelevant to modern life.

There are others, usually those who are more traditional or religious, who agree with the materials and the values propagated. The reality is that adults, including parents and teachers, may hold opinions that span the entire conservative-progressive spectrum.

It baffles me that ministries see an obligation to play referee in such bouts, deciding winners and losers. Why can we not recognise that diversity exists on the ground and it is a case of different strokes for different folks?

I am also baffled by why a large number of Christian affiliated vendors have been approved to conduct sexuality or relationship programmes in secular state-funded schools in a society where Christians form only 18 per cent of the population.

While I have no issue with groups conducting workshops based on religious beliefs in schools, it is unacceptable that these programmes are delivered to entire student populations without regard for the diversity of views on the matter.

I would be flabbergasted and upset if my daughters are presented such materials as the gospel truth. At the least, groups should be upfront about the religious underpinnings of their programmes.

A better solution is to create comprehensive programmes that inform students about various perspectives adopted by different groups. If reality is such that society does not hold a consensus, why should youth be taught otherwise?

Instead of treating these subjects didactically, vendors should be required to present facts alongside various values-laden perspectives and give students the opportunity to reflect, debate and, ultimately, form their own perspectives based on their values.

We have no need for self-appointed gatekeepers to uphold public “morality”, defined narrowly through their lenses, because there is no single set of community norms for some things in life.

MOE, Hwa Chong must address student’s accusations
From Kuan Weng Chi, TODAY Voices, 11 Oct 2014

I refer to the report “Hwa Chong to design its own workshops in future” (Oct 10). Following an internal investigation, the school concluded that the facilitators of the relationship workshop were “ineffective”.

It did not, though, address the student’s accusations that Focus on the Family Singapore had seized an “opportunity to further spread (its) own conservative, ‘God-ordained’ beliefs” as well as promoted “rape culture” and gender stereotypes.

The accusations, if not addressed properly, can undermine confidence in our educational system’s reputation and integrity, as it suggests a systemic failure, from the Education Ministry to the school, when implementing such programmes.

The student seemed also to have taken issue with the teaching of abstinence, arguing instead that there were “more important things such as safe sex” to be taught. As a parent, I am dismayed at such liberal views.

Abstinence before marriage is a virtue we must inculcate in our children. Although some people may argue that this is unrealistic, it is still the best option compared with contraceptives, which are not 100 per cent effective.

It is not only a Christian virtue, but cuts across many, if not all, religions as well as the secular realm. To accuse Focus on the Family of pushing its religious values in the classroom is uncalled for.

Lastly, the student seemed to suggest her school is allowing bigotry against students with a different sexual orientation.

She wrote: “The school has a responsibility to … ensure that it is a place free of bigotry, where students can at least feel safe to study in without fear of being persecuted for who they are or are figuring themselves out to be.”

It is wrong to tar an organisation or, for that matter, anyone by making sweeping statements. It is unfortunate that any unhappiness has been highlighted so openly. Does our school system condone this kind of behaviour?

By keeping silent on the accusations, the school or the Education Ministry is telling Singapore’s student population that it is all right to broadcast so irresponsibly.

Charity strongly defends its workshop
It says light-hearted event was taken out of context
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2014

FOCUS on the Family Singapore has issued a stout defence of its relationship workshop, saying its programme has been well-received by many of the students who had attended it.

The Christian charity also said its programme did not carry any religious content, and did not attempt to proselytise or share beliefs.

The workshop had come under scrutiny this week after Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) student Agatha Tan, 17, criticised it in a note online for being sexist and reinforcing gender stereotypes after attending it on Friday last week.

HCI principal Hon Chiew Weng also conducted a review of the programme and found that the facilitators leading Agatha's group were not able to address students' concerns satisfactorily.

In a statement posted on the charity's website yesterday, chief executive Joanna Koh-Hoe said its relationship workshop has been attended by 14,000 students across 13 schools since it started last year.

Some 85 per cent of students polled had rated the workshop as "very good/good", while 89 per cent of the students gave workshop facilitators a "very good/good" rating. She did not say how many students were surveyed.

Feedback forms collected at HCI showed that 73 per cent of the students rated the workshop positively, while 87.7 per cent of them gave the facilitators positive ratings, said Mrs Koh-Hoe.

She added that the section Agatha took issue with was meant to help students understand the opposite sex better.

Acknowledging that the workshop was not perfect, Mrs Koh-Hoe said "there is always room for improvement". She added: "Our facilitators' efforts to stay on track may have been misunderstood as imposing certain views and that the facilitator is unconcerned with students' questions."

She said the programme was developed in a way that ensured it carried no religious content. "As with other community programmes conducted by faith-based organisations, there is also no attempt to proselytise or share the faith and beliefs."

The group, which received funding from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to run relationship programmes in schools, has offered to talk to HCI students.

Plans were made in July to conclude the workshop by the year end. The Education Ministry will introduce its refreshed sexuality education programme in junior colleges next year, which will educate students on healthy relationships.

Meanwhile, the author cited in the relationship workshop's booklet said she had been invited by the Government in 2009 to conduct programmes for thousands of young people here. "While the vast majority of readers... are supportive and find it extremely helpful and life-changing, there are some who, historically, misunderstand or misread the research," wrote Ms Shaunti Feldhahn.

Experts warn against using stereotypes
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2014

MEN and women behave differently but strictly categorising them into fixed stereotypes could have negative consequences, especially if this is taught in school to impressionable teenagers, said experts.

That is why good facilitation is extremely important when talking about these differences in a classroom setting.

Earlier this week, Hwa Chong Institution student Agatha Tan criticised a workshop run by the Focus on the Family group. In a note posted online, she said alternative views were silenced as they "were not what the audience wanted to listen to".

While cookie-cutter portrayals can help craft a teenager's understanding of the world, they must be handled with caution, experts said. Students may end up "discrediting all other materials in the course" if they find its contents "offensive" or do not identify with these stereotypes, said Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Hospital. "You lose the chance to teach the youth something useful," he said.

Stereotypes should be used only when it is "backed by scientific research", if at all, said Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director of youth services at Singapore Children's Society. "Otherwise, the perspective is very biased, one-sided and it is simply not fair," she added.

Dr Alvin Liew, who runs a clinic in Scotts Road, said: "It is more important for the adolescent to appreciate that each individual, regardless of gender, may have unique styles of communication."

This is because teenagers are finding and developing their own identities.

But teenagers are unlikely to be affected by the workshop as they are "exposed to a cultural milieu these days", including family members, friends and the media, unless there is a sustained effort to perpetuate these stereotypes, said Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant at Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre.

He added that school-sanctioned programmes have to be wary of playing up stereotypes because "students will think that these portrayals carry the weight of societal approval".

The dangers of being limited to act according to stereotypes can result in "undesirable social consequences", said Dr Lim. For example, boys may feel pressured to "act masculine all the time and stop themselves from crying", which is a healthy emotional outlet, he added.

Ministries, HCI studying feedback on Focus on the Family Singapore workshop
MOE says workshop is not part of its sexuality programme
By Joy Fang, TODAY, 9 Oct 2014

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to look into the feedback received over a relationship module for junior college students, which drew public flak after a student complained that it was sexist.

Responding to media queries, the MOE also said today (Oct 8) the workshop is not part of its sexuality programme, which must be taught by sexuality education teachers trained by the ministry. 

The provider of the workshop, Focus on the Family Sing­apore, was appointed by the MSF. The workshop has been running since 2009 and is set to conclude by the end of the year.

An MSF spokesperson confirmed that the ministry had vetted the contents of the workshop in a way similar to the MOE’s processes for sexuality education programmes. 

Yesterday (Oct 7), Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) student Agatha Tan, who attended the workshop last Friday, shared a letter she wrote to her principal on her Facebook page, saying the programme “seemed to emphasise and enforce traditional gender roles in a relationship”.

The post, together with photos of the workshop booklet — which featured lines like “a guy can’t not want to look” — was shared widely online, and prompted HCI to say it would gather feedback from other students on the workshop. Some HCI alumni have started a petition asking the school to suspend the workshop.

The MSF said students are asked to fill up evaluation forms after the sessions and the final evaluation report is given to the school. “The MSF also conduct audits on the workshops. The MSF, MOE and the school will look into the student’s feedback,” the MSF spokesperson said.

The MOE also stressed that it has in place “a stringent vetting and approval process for the engagement of external providers”, if schools wish to engage them for additional sexuality education programmes. These external providers and trainers are interviewed before they are appointed, it said.

Rules on external sexuality education programmes were tightened after a furore broke out in 2009 over a programme offered by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), leading the MOE to suspend all external programmes. In 2010, six providers were appointed to provide sex education programmes, including Focus on the Family and three other groups affiliated to Christian organisations, drawing criticism from former AWARE president and women’s rights activist Constance Singam.

Today, AWARE executive director Corinna Lim said it is not the first time it has heard student complaints about sexism in workshops conducted by Focus on the Family. “Encouraging students to think men can’t control their own actions and to make assumptions about what women “really mean” creates a dangerous environment in which women’s consent is neither sought nor valued, and men’s desires are prioritised over all else,” she said.

Focus on the Family Singapore has defended the programme, saying it is “designed to be a relationship programme to help young people unravel the world of the opposite sex, uncover the truths of love and dating, and reveal what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships”.

Ms Singam said the workshop material suggests Focus on the Family Singapore, as well as the approving authority, is out of touch.

Mr Jim Lim, director of relationship consultancy firm REAL Academy, felt the content could have been put across in a better manner. “If they meant it as, across the board, boys are like that (and) girls are like that, I’ll tend not to agree, because that’s quite draconian,” he said.

Disputed course to end by Dec: MOE
300 sign petition slamming 'portrayal of gender stereotypes'
By Pearl Lee And Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2014

A WORKSHOP on managing relationships for junior college students, which has been under mounting criticism this week for being sexist and promoting gender stereotypes, will stop by the end of the year.

The Education Ministry, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said that the workshop, given by pro-family Christian charity Focus on the Family Singapore, would "cease its run by end-2014", without giving reasons.

The revelation came even as more than 300 people saying they were former Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) students signed a petition calling for the workshop to be cancelled there.

This comes on the heels of Hwa Chong student Agatha Tan's open letter to her principal criticising it, which has gone viral on social media.

Since 2009, the 31/2-hour workshop, which was developed with the Social Development Network, was an opt-out course for students in junior colleges which engage the charity.

Agatha, 17, a first-year student, took issue with a booklet the workshop facilitators handed out to students, which had statements like, "Even decent guys in great dating and marriage relationships struggle with a desire to visually linger on and fantasise about the female body".

The booklet portrayed girls as "emotional", "wanting security" and needing to "look attractive", while boys "needed respect" and "didn't want a girlfriend that questions their opinions and argues with their decisions all the time".

"From merely glancing through this booklet, I learnt a simple yet important lesson: That bigotry is very much alive and it was naive of me to think I could be safe from it even in school," she wrote in the letter, which has been shared more than 2,000 times since she made it public on Tuesday.

The petition was started yesterday by software engineer Irene Oh, 31, who graduated from HCI's predecessor, Hwa Chong Junior College, in 2001.

Along with a few former students, she wrote an open letter addressed to all HCI teachers and its principal, Dr Hon Chiew Weng.

"We need the assurance that our young people can be safe from such sexism," they wrote."

Ms Oh said she felt compelled to speak up because the programme "perpetuates unhealthy myths about genders and is definitely not about 'truths of love and dating' as claimed".

The Straits Times spoke to 10 HCI students who had attended the workshop. Most said they disagreed with what had been said.

Said one student, who would not give her name: "The course portrayed women as weak and needing to be protected. That is ridiculous. I think it reinforces stereotypes. Such courses are part of the reason guys misunderstand girls."

A fellow schoolmate added: "I became a little uncomfortable when (the facilitator) started stereotyping what guys and girls are like."

Other students, however, had no problems with it.

A second-year Tampines Junior College student, 18, who attended it last year, said she thought it was "quite fun and entertaining".

"I remember the speakers were a couple, and they shared their personal stories, videos and pictures of their life as a couple," she said.

HCI principal, Dr Hon, has apparently yet to address the school about the matter.

But HCI told The Straits Times that its students had been given details of the workshop, and had the choice of opting out.

Focus on the Family Singapore is an external vendor approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to run sexuality education workshops in schools.

In this case, however, the course was about healthy relationships, not sexuality education.

Instead, the charity had been appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, MOE clarified.

Both the ministries and the school are looking into the feedback received.

Focus on the Family declined to give details on the number of schools it has worked at.

The organisation said on Tuesday that the programme aims to "help young people unravel the world of the opposite sex, uncover the truths of love and dating, and reveal what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships".

Former HCI students want school to suspend sexuality education workshop
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 8 Oct 2014

Former students of Hwa Chong Institution have started a petition on Wednesday calling for the school to suspend a sexuality education workshop offered by Focus On The Family Singapore.

This latest move comes after a current HCI student, 17-year-old Agatha Tan, said in an open letter to her principal, Dr Hon Chiew Weng, that the workshop was "sexist" and promoted gender stereotypes.

Agatha's letter, which she made public on her Facebook page, has been shared more than 2,000 times since she put it up early Tuesday morning.

Ms Irene Oh, 31, one of the organisers of the petition, told The Straits Times that she felt "indignant that students with different opinions are silenced by adults".

"Alumni who are adults themselves need to call this out as unacceptable," said Ms Oh, a software engineer who graduated from Hwa Chong Junior College - HCI's predecessor - in 2001.

She, along with a few other former Hwa Chong students, had penned an online letter on Google Document, addressed to all HCI teachers and principal Dr Hon, calling for the school to immediately suspend the workshop by external vendor Focus On The Family Singapore.

The letter has collected 185 signatures as of 3pm on Wednesday. It was put up online at about 1.30am on Wednesday.

The vendor, a pro-family Christian charity, has been approved by the Education Ministry to run workshops on sexuality and relationship education in schools.

But HCI student Agatha, who had attended its workshop in school on Friday, said the programme perpetuated gender stereotypes.

Referring to a booklet students each received from the vendor, Agatha said it portrayed girls as "emotional", "want security" and want to "look attractive", while boys "need respect"and "don't want a girlfriend that questions their opinions and argues with their decisions all the time".

Focus On The Family Singapore defended its programme, saying it was "not a sexuality education programme".

"It is designed to be a relationship programme to help young people unravel the world of the opposite sex, uncover the truths of love and dating, and reveal what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships," said its head of corporate communications, Ms Vicky Ho.

A HCI spokesman said the programme aimed to educate students "on healthy relationships".

The school had provided students with information of the programme and had given students and parents a choice to opt out of the workshop, the HCI spokesman said.

She added that the school has contacted Ms Tan, and will be gathering feedback from other students.

Christian charity defends workshop which Hwa Chong student called 'sexist'
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 7 Oct 2014

A Christian charity that conducts sexuality and relationship education workshops in schools has defended its programmes, after a student said it promoted gender stereotypes.

Student Agatha Tan, a first year junior college student at Hwa Chong Institution, had on Friday attended a workshop in school, run by Focus On The Family Singapore, a pro-family Christian charity.

She has written to HCI principal Hon Chiew Weng saying that the workshop "seemed to emphasise and enforce traditional gender roles in a relationship".

She referred to a booklet given to students, which said girls need to feel loved, can be emotional and have a "deep need for her boyfriend to find her beautiful". The booklet also said boys are "visual", and that a "guy can't not want to look", and they have a desire to "visually linger on and fantasise about the female body".

Ms Tan said the booklet "paints girls as hopelessly dependent beings who are incapable of surviving without guys". She called it an "extremely sexist view" that "trivialises girls' problems" and "serves as a foundation for the further boosting of the male ego".

Ms Tan has made the letter public on her Facebook page. It has been shared more than 1,000 times since it was put up early Tuesday morning.

But Focus On The Family Singapore - approved by the Ministry of Education to run sexuality education programmes in schools - said on Tuesday that the workshop that Ms Tan attended is not a sexuality education programme.

"It is designed to be a relationship programme to help young people unravel the world of the opposite sex, uncover the truths of love and dating, and reveal what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships," said its head of corporate communications, Ms Vicky Ho.

She added that Focus On The Family Singapore is in touch with "the relevant parties" to address Ms Tan's concern.

Ms Ho said the programme curriculum is based on "well-researched material by various trusted family life and relationship experts", but did not provide more details on who they are.

A HCI spokesman also reponded to queries about the workshop.

"The Relationship Module workshop aims to educate students on healthy relationships," she said. "The school provided information on the programme and gave parents and students the option to opt out of the workshop. We are in touch with the student to understand her feedback and would also gather feedback from the other students."

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