A group of petitioners who say they are alumni of Hwa Chong Institution have expressed shock at the “relationship programme” in their school. Concerns over the programme, titled, “Uncomplicated”, was first raised by Ms Agatha Tan, a first-year student at HCI, on her Facebook page yesterday.
Read about Ms Tan’s post here: “Christian charity defends ‘relationship programme’ in school“.
Alumni members have penned an open letter and petition to the principal of HCI, Dr Hon Chiew Weng, and the teachers of the school.
You can read the petition here as well.
Dear Dr. Hon and teachers of Hwa Chong Institution,
We are a group of Hwa Chong Institution alumni and we refer to the Facebook note which was written by Ms Agatha Tan on 7th October, which has since gone viral (http://goo.gl/WQO9Bc). We are shocked to read that Focus on The Family was allowed to conduct a workshop about relationships which perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. We would like to express our heartfelt support for Ms Tan, who has brilliantly pointed out why the workshop was problematic on many levels.
We cherish our education at Hwa Chong and feel that ‘workshops’ such as these contribute to the creation of an unsafe space for its students. It is also disturbing that our beloved alma mater may be negligent or even complicit to let this workshop through the vetting process, if there was any. Some of us are parents and teachers and we want Hwa Chong to be a safe space that young people can speak up about their concerns and not get shut down. We also want Hwa Chong to be a space that encourages truly healthy opposite-sex relationships, not ones based on a model of male dominance. We find it hugely problematic that the girls in Hwa Chong are being explicitly told that they have to suppress dissenting opinions if they want to maintain a relationship with a male partner. Furthermore, it is also very harmful for boys to be told indirectly that they are entitled to relationships with girls who do not ‘question their opinions and argue with them all the time.’ FoTF’s framing of these as ‘truths of love and dating’ (to quote their head of corporate communications http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/christian-charity-defends-workshop-which-hwa-chong-stude) reinforce gender norms that contribute to hindering open communication between opposite-sex partners.
We need the assurance that our young people can be safe from such sexism and micro-transgressions, if they are currently in Hwa Chong or choose to attend Hwa Chong in the future. The school can also do more to encourage diversity of views and healthy debate. Dismissing students’ opinions only cause young people to be apathetic about issues, which seriously compromises the quality of education provided by Hwa Chong, and its ability to nurture active citizens.
Even if the programme from FoTF is approved by the Ministry of Education, Hwa Chong Institution is an independent school and should have the freedom to exercise some choice over the ‘workshops’ provided to students. We also note that FoTF chose not to be transparent regarding its stand on masturbation and homosexuality during a media query (http://news.asiaone.com/News/Education/Story/A1Story20100430-213339.html). Even if students and parents have the option to opt out of such programme provided by external vendors, the vendors need to be transparent about their stand on various issues for students to make an informed decision.
We, the undersigned, call for the programme from FoTF to be suspended immediately in order to address all these concerns. There should also be increased channels during school hours for debate and discussion amongst students on gender and sexuality.
We look forward to an official response from you.