Could a major reason for Singapore’s appallingly low Total Fertility Rate(TFR) be the appallingly high GINI Coefficient? I’m not referring to the struggles of the lower income in trying to raise children, though that must definitely be another major factor. I’m referring to something else altogether: People tend to marry amongst their own social class, and when the GINI coefficient is so high, the number of people within the social class you can access, becomes much smaller. So it’s harder to find partners, more challenging to marry, and so there is less opportunity to have babies.
Anecdotally, many of my friends in Singapore are very unwilling to marry and start families with another person whose income is way below theirs. Most people don’t mind if it’s maybe, 10% different, but if you earn 5x more than your date, and your date’s prospects aren’t likely to change, chances are you’re not going consider that date as a potential spouse.
On the other hand, I’ve heard from friends in European countries, that there are very little raised eyebrows or even personal consideration, when a university lecturer marries a bus driver.
Maybe it boils down to this:
Cleaner S$800 Bus driver S$1,800
Cleaner S$5,502 Bus driver S$6,193
Cleaner S$2,085 Bus driver S$3,910
Cleaner S$5,470 Bus driver S$6,260
Cleaner S$3,667 Bus driver S$4,480
By Tommy Koh, For The Straits Times, May 19, 2012)
I was invited to a recent Fireside chat with Yam Ah Mee, the PA chief. One of the comments he made that really got me thinking was this: In Singapore, it’s not that married people are having too few children. It’s that too few people are getting married!
I went to SingStats to check up the statistics (Ref:
), and found that he was right. Amongst 40-49 year old women who have ever been married, the average number of children they had was a fairly healthy 2.08 (2.1 is the ideal replacement rate). Meaning that a good proportion of married couples are have 1 -3 children by the time the wife hits menopause. Only a mere 8.6% of 40-49yr old married women are childless. On the other hand, when you include all women in the average, the TFR is only 1.2. Marriage rates have fallen over the last 10 years, from about 46-48 per 1000, to 35-38 per 1000. 1 in 5 females are single in their late 30s. 1 in 4 males are single in their late 30s.
So why aren’t Singaporeans getting married?!
True, cultural norms are shifting, and people want to marry later. But I’m sure many of us also know friends and relatives who are/have been actively trying to find a partner, but finding great difficulty. So many dating agencies have been popping up. So what’s going on?
One clue we have is this :
2x more university females 35-39yrs are single, compared to their below-secondary school counterparts. In contrast, 1.5x more below-secondary school males 35-39yrs are single. (The difference in magnitude, I believe, is due to Vietnamese & Chinese matchmaking agencies available for the men). That it is socially more acceptable for women to marry up, is not a new observation. What’s worth pondering about, is the effect that the GINI has on this phenomenon.
In Singapore, social class is not just about your education level, though that is a very close proxy indicator because of our education and job hiring practices. Income and assets, I speculate, is arguably, an equally important factor in determining your social class. A college dropout who works in the support office is viewed very differently from the college dropout who starts up a billion-dollar company. When the income between the different social strata of society gets wider – as implied by a rising GINI, the number of people who earn +/- 10% of your income tend to be smaller. And we all know dating is a numbers game.
Before we start slamming Singaporeans for being class conscious and materialistic, I think it’s worth pausing for a moment and asking ourselves (& friends) why it matters at all. On a very practical level, Singapore’s high standard of living means that the higher your family’s (ie both spouses’) income, the more comfortable (note: I didn’t say luxurious) your family’s life will be. It means you are more likely to afford tuition for your children (and we all know that your ability to provide private tuition for your kids is what’s going to determine their future). With childcare prices hitting over $1000, and milk powder more expensive than wine, any university grad’s ex-classmate will be a lot more attractive than a bus driver. It really doesn’t matter whether you are looking for a wife or husband — the fact is, if your income is $5000 (rough estimate of a degree holder’s income after a few years, based on the tables here
), and you marry your office cleaner rather than your office accountant, your HDB mortgage period is going to double. It may mean you need to work till 70yrs instead of 60yrs, just to pay off your mortgage.
Now assuming you aren’t too concerned about staying in a decent sized flat — you’re fine with a shoebox, the social pressures are immense too, for both wife-hunters and husband-hunters. When a fast-rising young man chooses a retail-sales girl over a fellow fast-rising banker, the poor girl is often stereotyped as a gold-digger. I’m sure we’ve all heard stories where daughter-in-laws are treated differently because of their education or income.
In a low-GINI country where income differences aren’t as stark, where your spouse’s income isn’t going to impact on the quality of your parent’s medical care, there would be more people willing to let love conquer social class differences. With the income criteria more easily met by anyone, it’s easier to find someone because the number of available partners increases tremendously. A bigger pool means you’ve more chances of finding someone you’ve got great chemistry with, someone with the same hobbies are you, someone who finds your bad habits cute. And that may mean more people joining the band-wagon of smug marrieds with their 2.08 kids.
Contributor: Tommy Koh’s article (
) provided inspiration for my idea that GINI affects TFR, simply because he had put the income differences across the different countries and the TFR together in that same article. Something clicked. I’ve not really come across this idea yet — probably because of my lack of reading than anything else — so I’ll love to hear comments/other related articles. I don’t think GINI is the only factor impacting TFR, I think it’s simply one of the major factors. Certainly the other factors that Tommy Koh has pointed out (which has been often brought up by others too), are very valid and I’m in perfect agreement.
i’m going to raise a radical thought here, what do you think about this?
Do you think that education is overrated?
These days people seem to tout education/mass publicity as a pancea for all social ills
religious tolerance, healthy eating, fair employment, having more kids. \
But increasing education/awareness assumes that the issue stems from a lack of awareness, and assumes that the target groups are educated enough/appropriately to understand one’s message & to act upon it. They also assume a common set of underlying values
These assumptions may not be true, especially amongst the most “hardcore” or vulnerable groups
So is education overrated? & Besides jail terms & fines that Singapore is so famous for, are there more strategies we need to be looking at?
Readers & friends might have noticed by now that I’m quite anti-institution (as opposed to being anti-authority, anti-religion etc). I do recognise institutions can have a useful and necessary role to play in societies as we know it. But I’m just anti-group-think, anti-”this is what you should think”, anti-”you’re either for us or against us”, anti-”only we can think like this, no one else can”, anti-”get out if you are not like us”.
A new way of learning
Readers & friends might have realised I’m anti-school, as school is today, in Sg as specially. Waaaaaay to institutionalised.
With the rise of websites like
etc, I envision a future world where school has no walls, no buildings, no one to decide what you should be thinking, learning, or desiring. It would be a world where people choose what they want to hear, what they want to see, what they want to experience.
Through tools like Facebook, forums etc, people then discuss what they’ve seen, heard, experienced, so that they can decide for themselves what’s valid and what’s not.
I’m not using the term “children”, but the term “people”, because learning shouldn’t be restricted to just certain age groups.
A new way of employing
Without examinations and certificates, there’ll be so much less egoistical, uncessary, artificially-induced stress on people. But how then can employers know who to hire?
I’m sure many of you who have some working experience know that certificates can be bought, or mugged for, and are sometimes a really poor indication of a person’s ability. Many times, having an intelligent conversation with a person would tell you so much more. A person’s life experience, rather than certificates, would also mean much more. A person who comes in as says, I’ve got top class honors in social work, versus another person who says, ‘when I was 16 I got together with my friends to do this project, which saw 1000 more families having a house to stay.’ —- who is a better hire?
With the decline of lifelong employment , and the increase in contract or project-based employment, the negative effects of making a wrong hire is also much smaller than it used to be.
Can this model work?
Eg. of Non-institutionalised employment
Well I think this model is working quite well in many areas already. Most NGOs, community groups, religious charity groups, voluntary groups operate on this model. We work with different organisations as different points of time for different projects. Most of these volunteers are very motivated to the cause, which was why they volunteered —– project leaders do not have to think up motivating strategies they way they have to in companies which “dump” projects on staff. In large organisations, stupid projects are also undertaken sometimes because leaders who are unfamiliar with the ground situation, force the projects through, resulting in unmotivated staff. With the NGO/VWO model, stupid projects are quickly killed simply because no one would volunteer to work on it.
One huge downside of NGOs and VWOs currently is that, despite the initial motivation that volunteers have, the attrition rate is very high and projects get stalled because volunteers don’t meet deadlines or don’t deliver. Alot of this is linked to the fact that volunteers are unpaid, and most have a full time regular job that they give priority too.
However, if this project-basis employment were applied, and people get paid, and that was their means of living, I think this problem would be solved. There would be a certain proportion of people who still will not deliver, but over time, these people would have gained that reputation, and project groups would not want to involve them anymore.
Non -institutionalised learning & employment works for more than what people think
I recognise too, that this model may not work for every single industry. Perhaps for social work, arts, sports, sales, business etc it may work. But who wants to be treated by a doctor whose skills you’re uncertained about? So I do suppose in some fields, the institutionalised model would work better, and we should retain them. Also, I think 3 year olds still need to go to a playschool; would be very hard on the mothers and fathers to guide them individually!
However, even in fields where we think certificates might be necessary, it may not really be so.
My dad’s an engineer, repairing turbines on oil and gas fields all over the world. He flunked his ‘O’s the first time, scrapped through the second, and then dropped out of poly (he didn’t say so, we found his certs one day! =D . Over the years, he’s read and learnt on his own. Over the last couple of decades, his company (a US MNC) has put so many new staff under his charge to be trained. All these staff are equipped with engineering degrees and masters from all over the world (required by current company policy, not when my dad was hired 4 decades ago!). I’m proud of my dad. I don’t think his story is unique, I think most of us would have heard such stories before. Which really shows that non-institutionalised education can really work!! In fact my dad often complains about the new engineers coming in with rigid textbook knowledge, who soon run out of ideas to solve the technical fault when their knowledge bank runs dry. He’s looking for people who generate solutions, not replicate past solutions.
Hey, this very meaningful website found me & I didn’t think I should keep it to myself!
(Contents below are not mine; cut-and-paste from their site. Go check out their blog too! )
sgLEAD is “A volunteer network for librarians, individuals and organisations interested in providing reading, learning and library services to people with disabilities in Singapore.”
Advocacy for the
Join the discussion/ mailing list at:
Advocacy for the
A librarian-volunteer network for individuals and organisations interested in providing reading, learning and library services to people with disabilities.
It is a:
- Discussion group led & faciliated by librarians;
- Open to those in the library and information profession, as well any individual;
- Who share an interest;
- In the provision of library/ information services;
- To people with disabilities
Who can join?
Membership is open to individuals who have an interest in the area of library and information services to people with disabilities. This includes librarians, educators, therapists, caregivers, individuals with disabilities etc.
Objectives of the group
- To be a platform for individuals to share their experiences w.r.t. library services to the disabled
- To allow individuals with shared interest to network
- To increase awareness and understanding of the information & service needs of people with disabilities
- To lead to some concrete actions that enables the disabled to be independent users of library and information services in Singapore
Hey I think this is really important! Too many people ignore the needs of people with certain disabilities thinking its futile to educate them.
Invitation to Focus Group discussion on Compulsory Education for Children with Disabilities
(Aim: children with physical disabilities to be included in Singapore’s Compulsory Education Act; also in line with the Convention on the Rights of Children)
When I went to the Vatican a few months ago I was super impressed. The guy who sold us tickets at the counter had 2 fingers only, and he was just handling all the transactions amazingly fast, no different from othr counters, and the queue was miles long but it cleared really fast.
The cloak room was run by just one guy and he had Downs’ syndrome (or some sort of other social disability) and everything was in perfect order, and so efficiently managed.
I was just so impressed with not only these 2 people, but with the people who hired them. In Singapore, even the enlightened people who hire people with disabilities tend to put them where their area of disability is not directly used in their job. There, I really learnt that your area of”disability” can be the primary requirement of your job, but it doesn’t have to matter at all!
(I mean, 2 fingers only & selling tickets much faster than 4x the speed of ANY movie ticket counter in singapore!!! )
Now this question is really posed to those who believe that
- humans , male and female, straight and glbtq, etc have inalienable human rights
- informed consent is important
- education/ decreasing ignorance or misinformation enables people to make better choices
- morality should not be legislated or imposed, but can be promoted
For those who believe teenagers should receive abstinence-only education, or that people with HIV deserve it, I’m not talking to you here, please come back another day.
Now, the question: Are there instances where it is more ethical to lie to the public than to tell the public the truth?
(I’m not referring to personal relationships eg. when you tell a dying relative there is hope because you don’t want him to go into despair, or you tell your best friend she’s beautiful to help her with her self-esteem)
This was the situation I was specifically pondering over:
There is a huge difference in societal attitudes towards HIV vs cervical cancer. HIV is many more times stigmatized compared to cervical cancer, even though both are STIs and primarily transmitted through sexual activity.
My hypothesis: Knowledge that cervical cancer is caused by the sexually transmitted virus HPV is much much lower than the knowledge that HIV is an STI (this has been shown true by research). This ignorance results in a much much lower stigmatization level for cervical cancer.
I believe that its because cervical cancer has always been “marketed” as a cancer, and people are asked to do PAP smears to detect and stop it early. Seldom is it “marketed” as an STI. In fact, looking through my old science text books, STI brochures and posters at the DSC clinic in Singapore, cervical cancer does not appear in big words.
The HPV virus as an STI is “marketed” by its less dangerous symptom : genital warts. And genital warts IS stigmatized.
HIV is definitely “marketed” as an STI.
As a result of this ignorance, many more people are willing to discuss cervical cancers openly, and PAP smears can be advertised and encouraged openly.
It does not suffer from the similar backlash that HIV early detection suffers from. My dad has openly asked my mother and I to get the Cervical Cancer vaccine, but he will never think of asking either of us to do an HIV test………
This is where my dilemma comes in, and I’ll like to hear from other human rights supporters.
What is the ethical thing to do?
In this case, ignorance actually protects.
Should we then keep up this public ignorance?
Or should we educate people appropriately, risk stigmatizing cervical cancer, and driving people to hide their symptoms rather than seek help?
- Ad promoting papsmear to detect and treat cervical cancer early. Caption: power over cervical cancer.
Naturally, the next question would be this:
what if we “rebrand” HIV, along the lines of cervical cancer?
Let’s acknowlege that HIV image took off on a bad start and lets try to start with a clean new slate.
Let’s stop the name HV and AIDs, lets call it…… cancer of the immune system, or white blood cell cancer.
Let’s not say HIV test; let’s call it CD4 viability test or NAT(nucleic acid test) or something like that.
Let’s not say retriviral treatment, lets call it chemotherapy …..
Let’s start this from scratch , and do the marketing we’ve done with cervical cancer.
After all, the 2 aren’t so different.
Both spread through sex
Both lethal if not detected and treated early
Both with significant life-prolonging rates with optimal treatment when detected in the earliest stages
What do you think?
(i’m putting up 2 advertisements used in singapore for comparison and hope i don’t get sued for copyright. Look at the cervical cancer one : what if we used exactly the same thing, but changing all the cervical cancer labels for the new HIV labels? )
It seems apt on National Day to pause and ponder: How effective has Meritocracy been as a tool for achieving our national vision being a democratic society based on justice and equality, and how effective Meritocracy has been at achieving happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.
Few would argue that Singapore’s astounding meteoric rise from Third World to First World has a lot to do with our practice of Meritocracy, amongst other things. All things considered and weighed out, Singapore is arguably one of the best places to live in for most people.
That said, no country is perfect, no administration is perfect, and Singapore is not the exception. However, the fact that we, as a country may never be perfect, is an unacceptable justification for not striving towards improvement or even perfection. Once we’ve realised our imperfections, we owe it to our fellow citizens and friends to address our imperfections. To simply congratulate ourselves and excuse ourselves from the need to further improve, would be to reject further progress for our nation.
It is in this spirit that I pause and ponder about how effective Meritocracy has been.
Meritocracy is about rewarding or providing opportunity to individuals based on merit.
Some of the questions I’m asking:
1. What is the criteria for merit? In another words, what do we consider to be good? Is our criteria valid and fair?
2. How do we measure merit? How do we measure how good one is? Is our measure accurate?
3. Who will benefit from this criteria of merit ? When we say that a person must be good, who should this person be good for?
4. How do you reward merit in a fair and just manner?
Before you read my opinions below, I invite you to STOP. Pause for a moment and ponder. Come up with your own answers, jot them down, and then question your own answers until you are satisfied. ( I’ll be delighted if you would leave your answers in the comments = ) )
And now, my personal views:
1. What is the criteria for merit? In another words, what do we consider to be good? Is our criteria valid and fair?
One can argue that in the days of Emperors, meritocracy was already practised —- except that their criteria for being “good” was to be of nobel birth. Why was that invalid and unfair? Because being of nobel birth did you absolutely no good when it came down to actually doing the job. A valid and fair criteria for this “good”/”merit” is that the quality we seek must be the primary enabler of what we want to achieve.
Here we prize intelligence and academic ability, probably at the expense of the arts, sports, culinary skills etc. What about a sense of justice, empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence etc? Do they factor in our meritocratic system? Should they? What about a person who excels at the languages but fails at the maths and sciences? or vice versa? How do you place him? When a worker is given a poor performance assessment, is he really a poor worker, or are the KPIs badly set?
I was looking at my Friends list on Facebook. And I can genuinely say that for 90% of the 250+ people there, I can think of at least one quality they possess more than anyone else. The other 10% I can’t think of any because I simply do not really know them at all. Yet not all of this 90% would be well placed in our institutionl meritocratic system. Clearly, institutional meritocracy goes by a far too narrow criteria.
2. How do we measure merit? How do we measure how good one is? Is our measure accurate?
Written exams measure our ability to think and write within a couple of hours. It is also a test of short term memory. Are these truly measures for intelligence?
When we impose “correct” answers for every single exam question asked, how do we test if a person is “creative” ? The exams really grade a person based on compliance. Is this a measure of a person’s ability to function in the larger society where there are no answers to be found at the back of life’s books?
And given the way a person’s choice of subjects or jobs or paths in life are shaped/restricted, performance can sometimes be an indication of whether one had the opportunity to be in right place.
I once came across an article/book (I can’t remember from where now, if anyone knows, let me know please? ) where LKY showed that a couple of generations ago, there was no correlation between the educational achievements of the parents and the children. However, in the next generation, after our meritocratious education was in place for a generation, there was a correlation — graduate parents tend to have graduate children. He explained that in the earlier generations, smart people did not have the opportunity to excel, while their children did, and so we could not see correlation. However when these children grew up to be parents, their children continued to be in the same system which provided the same opportunities. Given equal opportunities, one can see that successful parents tend to have successful children.
I have a different take. Successful parents tend to be able to provide more opportunities for their children — tuition, connections, good advice , private transport (which reduces time loss in the bus) etc . By the 3rd generation , the playing field was not even once more. Plus our elite schools tend to have better facilities — the argument being that we invest our resources where we are likely to get the highest returns.
So what in fact happens is that children of less successful parents have the odds stacked against them from birth and they are then further disadvantaged going through the education system.
M eritocracy , is essentially lost.
To have meritocracy at the point of graduation and job entry, the education system CANNOT be meritocratious. What it needs to do is to actually provide more opportunities and resources to the underperformers to even out the playing field. Is meritocracy something that can be intentionally practised at every level if we want to have meritocracy at the final highest level?
3. Who will benefit from this criteria of merit ? When we say that a person must be good, who should this person be good for?
We have a tendency to judge schemes and policies based on their cost-effectiveness. We measure effectiveness and success accross the board as an average figure.
What if we actually judged schemes and policies based on justice and equality? What if we broke down the population into subgroups, and asked, how much disparity is there?
I suspect that most schemes and policies will disadvantage certain groups for the benefit of others — most call this a necessary evil when it happens. Can there truly then be meritocracy when we simply pick one group to favour and measure “good” by?
4. How do you reward merit in a fair and just manner?
What does one reward merit with? Opportunities? Bonuses? Resources? How much? Who decides what is fair?
Are the people who are deemed to have insufficient merit then undeserving of opportunity and resources, when it may be of no fault of their own, or worse, when it is due to faulty assessment of merit?
Should the distribution of basic necessities like food, health care, education etc be based on a meritocratious system as well? Is that just?
Is meritocracy always just and equal?
And so, in principle, while I agree with Meritocracy, I’m wondering if true Meritocracy is indeed a utopic ideal, that like communism, simply cannot applied in real life without bringing about more injustice and inequality, even thought we may have progress and prosperity (as a whole) .
One of the reasons why power asymmetry exists in Singapore was very pronounced at a recent Health Technology Assessment conference I attended.
Power asymmetries arise when there is asymmetrical distribution of information and resources. It does not matter if you have the best democratic election mechanism in place, as long as information and resources is primarily in the hands of the State only. This also happens within large private organizations and the masses, which is why monopolies can be potentially abusive/exploitative.
One would think that power asymmetries existed in places like India and China because a large part of its population is uneducated and poor. In resource rich countries that exists in much of Western Europe, Australia, Canada, the USA power between the electorate and elected is more balanced. Why hasn’t that happened to the same extent in Singapore, despite us ranking way up there in terms of GFP per capita ?
I’m sure there are many reasons, and one of those came up strongly during this International conference.
In many countries with relatively higher State-people power balance, there are very strong NGOs, filled with experts and professional who were willing to contribute their time and expertise to generating and distributing information. Many of these organizations were privately funded too.
In Singapore, we have many charitable organizations. Most of our very few NGOs are also strongly focused on direct services to the disadvantaged group. That is not a bad thing – that is very commendable in fact. What is very lacking however, is this information generation through research, and information distribution through public education.
We really need 2 things. We need experts and professionals to come forward to volunteer. We need these people to stop doing so much overtime in the office, and start contributing. When I was volunteering at AWARE, I noticed that a disproportionate number of active volunteers are not even Singaporean. In the biomedical research industry, many were foreigners who came to Singapore for the money, and few of those who are Singaporean see the need to be involved in advocacy work.
The second thing we need is government-independent funding. Many NGOs and VWOs in Singapore take government funds to some extent. Once you have government funding, your messages are essentially taken hostage. Government funding is great when you’re trying to feed the poor, but not when you’re coming up with well-research evidence why poor people are being systematically produced.
Private funding has been thought to be a major issue in Singapore for a couple of reasons. Firstly, foreign private funding has always been used as “evidence” for foreign manipulation into Singapore’s politics and internal affairs. There are restrictions on the types and extent of foreign funds for certain activities. Secondly, many rich commercial firms in Singapore depend on themselves being in the good books of the government. Foreign firms who wish to remain in Singapore do not want to offend the government and none of our local firms are either big enough or government-independent enough to disregard the government’s agenda.
However, there is a source of private funding in Singapore that is capable of taking on this role — the religious organizations. Singaporeans are very religious, and see a lot of value investing financially into their afterlives. Many religious organizations already fund much of charity work. We need to start going beyond charity work, and start funding advocacy and research work. We need to convince the decision-makers that advocacy and research work is NOT being anti-government, that is very much pro-people, and that sometimes they really have to be brave. We need to convince decision-makers that researching into what processes in our system create the structurally unemployable is as important as feeding the children of these structurally unemployed. We need to be upfront and say, ‘Yes that sort of research may not go down well with certain powerful groups, but your religious texts that call for you to sacrifice for the greater good, were really talking about such situations, not terrorist activities or militant crusades.’
So we actually do have the expertise within our people, and we do have the funds too. What we need to do next, is to convince people to start using these for the public good.
Please see latest (7 May o9) post “AWARE’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) : Re Homosexuality, anal sex, pre-marital sex“
( Bold highlights made by Mathialee, not MOE)
Reply to Recent Comments and Claims About AWARE’s Sexuality Education Programme in Schools
1We refer to recent claims and comments about AWARE’s sexuality education programme in schools.
2Sexuality education conducted in MOE schools is premised on the importance of the family and respect for the values and beliefs of the different ethnic and religious communities on sexuality issues. The aim is to help students make responsible values-based choices on matters involving sexuality.
3Core programmes are delivered by teachers but schools do collaborate with other agencies in delivering additional modules. However, in doing so, schools must ensure that any programmes run by external agencies are secular and sensitive to the multi-religious make-up of our society. Parents can choose to opt their children out of these programmes.
4Last year, 11 secondary schools engaged AWARE to run workshops for their students. The number of students involved in each school ranged from about 20 to 100, and each workshop lasted 3 hours. The objectives of these workshops were to provide students with accurate information on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)/HIV, to help students understand the consequences of premarital sexual activity, and to equip students with skills such as decision-making and resisting negative peer pressure.
5AWARE also conducted assembly talks, typically of 45-minute duration, for students in a few secondary schools. Some of the areas covered in the talks included body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, sexual harassment and the role of women in today’s context.
6The schools that engaged AWARE found that the content and messages of the sessions conducted were appropriate for their students and adhered to guidelines to respect the values of different religious groups. The schools did not receive any negative feedback from students or parents who attended the workshops and talks.
7In particular, MOE has also not received any complaint from parents or Dr Thio Su Mien, who was reported to have made specific claims about sexuality education in our schools. MOE has contacted Dr Thio Su Mien to seek clarifications and facts to substantiate her claims.
8If parents and members of the public know of specific instances where guidelines have not been adhered to, they should report them directly to MOE to investigate. MOE recognises that sexuality education is sensitive. In conducting these programmes, the views of parents will be respected and values taught should not deviate from the social norms accepted by mainstream society in Singapore.
I am an AWARE Comprehensive Sex Education trainer.
Here are some updates in response.
I also strongly denounce using death threats against anyone.
Contents of blog post
1. Exclusive info passed on to me
2. Response to the Media articles released SINCE 24th Apr.
3. THE email from Thio Su Mien
4. Links to all online posts about Aware’s Comprehensive Sex Ed that I could find
Latest : Updated 25th Apr 3pm New additions of the day in RED
but then, a bomb gets dropped into my corner and i’ve to deal with it.
I’m glad I spoke up for the GLBTQ when I had the chance to.
Because today, you spoke up for me
ITEM 1. Exclusive info passed on to me
Some ex-AWARE staff has informed us that the EGM preparations are now handled by the New Exco’s VOLUNTEERS ONLY.
The AWARE staff (REALLY BRAVE PEOPLE, Please send them flowers) have been reassigned to do other things. Or fired ( Manager got fired on the night of the Great Lock Out remember?).
I vouch for the authenticity of this info. They are people working at the heart of the AWARE saga but cannot use their name publically now.
I pdf it so that it does not get altered as it gets circulated
ITEM 2 Response to the Media articles released 24th Apr
On the death threats the New Exco received. I want to declare my STRONG PROTEST against the use of death threats against anyone — not matter how much you may disagree, or even how much wrong they do you , death threats must NEVER be used, and NEVER be condoned.
On allowing Men to vote in AWARE. —– There are 2 schools of thought within Aware, one believing it should be a Women’s organisation by ONLY women (so that it’s representative of women’s needs) , and the other believing that you don’t have to be a woman to stand up for gender equality (like you don’t have to be an animal to stand up for animal rights, a child to stand up for children’s rights). We put this motion to VOTE, and we respect the voted outcome
We do not take over an organisation simply because we belong to one school of thought or another
On the positions of all the players –
The Old Guard of AWARE makes their statements — http://we-are-aware.sg/statements
The New Exco makes their statements —
The Government makes their statements —
The gay community makes their statements —
I’m waiting for the National Council of Churches of Singapore
to make their statement.
With the public sentiment the way it is, the NCCS, I believe,should NOT remain silent.
The closest thing is a 2003 statement on homosexuality
But the AWARE saga is NOT about homosexuality per se. It is about how different parties put forth differing views in civil society, where each others’ views conflict at a fundamental personal level. I’ll like to hear NCCS. If you’ll like to as well, do write in
Joshua Lim is currently making a movie about a student in a Christian Theology Seminary who’s in a gay relationship. It speaks of how he struggles with his faith and love. Joshua is a Singaporean film-maker who is now pursuing a Masters in Theology and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary.
His first film, The Olive Depression was about what it means to retain your humanity, your choice, your freedom, in an environment where these are crimes.
On what Dr Thio Su Mien alleged about our Comprehensive Sex Ed program
Our class takes a lifelong perspective. All school education applies throughout our lives, and most girls would have sex at some point, whether it is next year, next decade or when they are 50.
Abstinence only message will be applicable for now, and will no longer be applicable when they are married. Focuses on teenage sex gives people the false impression that sex is dangerous only for teens, and age alone somehow makes it safe. That’s not true.
The independently verifiable facts are that each year approx 30K babies are born, 12 – 14 K abortions are done, of which 2/3 are on married women. The majority of female HIV patients are infected by their faithful partners – boyfriend or husband.
This was unacceptable to me, that in an educated society like Singapore, women are putting themselves in a position where they even have to consider an abortion – I wanted to do something about this. And so we need to empower women with the info and skills to prevent them from getting into this position at all. I believe that this is the most rational position that anyone who is genuinely respectful of life ( i’m coming from a Christian perspective here, and I am a Christian) can take.
What do we teach about homosexuality?
We don’t impose our views. In the first 2 sessions, we explore view points by asking the students what they think. Our aim is to open up students to the fact that there are many different views, and to open up their minds to all these different views so that they can think about it, and make their own choices based on their own personal values.
The bottom line is , respect for each other, even though we disagree. If the students bring it up, we acknowledge that some religions do hold homosexuality as being wrong. But just as we’ve learnt to respect each other’s religion where dietary restrictions are concerned, and not to impose on each other, we can also respect each other’s religious views in the same manner.
Our Program contents?
Part 1 : Exploring different views and values — we do not use the terms “right” and “wrong” on any view
Part 2: factual info on contraception and STIs — here we do have “right” and “wrong” eg. AIDS can be cured is clearly wrong
We do tell the girls that condoms are not 100% effective, and that it depends a lot on the user to be consistent, and to use it correctly. Which is why we teach condom usage — there are wives who suspect their husbands of philandering and using condoms is one way they can protect themselves. I bring up research done in NUH where only 1 out of 2000 patients cited condom failure as the reason for abortion — most cite reasons where abortion could be prevented had they used the appropriate contraception.
Part 3: Negotiation and communication skills — That girls all have sex for fun or are simply promiscuous is a myth. We hear stories where girls have sex because they did not know how to communicate / negotiate they’re wants. We also know that many girls go out with people they know very little of, and they want to be safe but don’t know how. So we explore different ways they can be safe, but do not impose a singular method that they must follow. Eg. Giving scenarios and discussing which is safe and which is more vulnerable.
ITEM 3 : THE email from Thio Su Mien
Someone told me that this broke out on STOMP:
PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL
Please see Attachments on some recent developments in Aware. Aware is a woman’s organization which conducts comprehensive sexual programmes for girls and it runs this programme in some of the schools. They encourage girls to express their full sexuality and this includes experimenting with other girls. It would be a good idea to join it and change its focus to other problems of women and families.
..Please ask your like-minded friends to join Aware so that you can give the vote to those who wish to be an agent of change for the Lord. They could also contribute to the activities of the oprganization as there is much to be done for women and families in this dowturn of the economy. Unfortunately, I cannot surface but shall be assisting in the background . I attach the Aware membership application form for your use. The Aware application form has a section as to who ( if any) told you about Aware. You can just leave it blank . Please let me know whether you can join and attend the AGM which will be towards the end of March 2009. The fee is $40/ and should be mailed to the Aware Office ( see application form).
Look forward to hearing from you. Please call me. May I have your phone no?
ITEM 4. Links to all online posts about Aware’s Comprehensive Sex Ed that I could find
(please add more links in my comments if you know of more)
Aware’s holistic approach to sex education
AWARE’s accomplishments (from our facebook group)
Need to Bring Sexuality into the Open (Constance’s letter about AWARE’s CSE)
Education key to tackling problem of underage sex (Written by AWARE)
Sex Education — 3rd world mentalities in a supposed 1st world country
(written by Mathangi, fellow AWARE member)
Discussion about her article is here:
( STRICTLY REPRESENTATIVE OF MY OWN PERSONAL VIEWS ONLY, UNLESS STATED)
Just because I have my own personal views does not mean that I have to impose it on others, during our CSE class.
A lifelong approach to sexuality education is needed.
(Unpublished letter for AWARE)
AWARE’s comprehensive sex ed programme.
(published letter on behalf of AWARE)
The limitations of the “Be Faithful” message
Teenage Magazine gives misleading advice on teenage sex
(Unpublisehed letter for AWARE)
Preventing HIV and STIs – what the state and church will not tell you
HIV is likely to go undiagnosed or undetected
When should law and policy disregard moral values