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Singapore: 17-year old student’s open letter to principal on BGR workshop goes viral

"Gals" don't mean what they say? Does a no actually mean yes?
EdChron Desk on October 8, 2014 - 9:02 am in Asia, EdNews, MAIN, World

 

<Update 10 October 2014: Focus on the Family Singapore has denied EdChron.com’s request for a soft copy of the booklet for review. See below.>

ASIA / Singapore – In a viral post that has now attracted over 2,000 shares, a junior college student from Singapore wrote an open letter to her principal to air her concerns about a recent BGR workshop approved by the school.

The workshop was conducted by Focus on The Family Singapore, a “donor-supported Institution of a Public Character dedicated to helping families thrive”. According to its website, “It’s UNcomplicated (IUC) is a relationship program designed 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. IUC is a program tailored specifically for junior colleges and mixed-level schools by Focus in partnership with Social Development Network.”

Social Development Network

The Social Development Network is a government unit under the Ministry of Social and Family Development. The vision of SDN “is to promote marriages and nurture a culture where singles view marriage as one of their top life goals”.

Social Development Unit (SDU) was formed in 1984 to promote marriages among graduate singles, while Social Development Services (SDS) was set up in 1985 to promote marriages among non-graduate singles. The two units were merged in 2009 and renamed Social Development Network (SDN). The new SDN now forges an extensive network of singles, resources and partners in the private, people and public sectors to create an overall environment conducive for singles to meet and form meaningful relationships.

“Gals” don’t mean what they say

Agatha Tan, a student at Hwa Chong Institution posted her open letter on Facebook on 6 October 2014. She stated “from merely glancing through this booklet, I learned a simple yet important lesson: that bigotry is very much alive and it was naïve of me to think I could be safe from it even in school.”

Excerpts from Agatha Tan’s Facebook post:

While I do have many concerns with regards to this workshop and its content which I consider to be pressing, the most pressing is perhaps that the workshop and booklet actively serve to promote rape culture in school. On the cover page of the booklet itself, it is written, “no means yes?” and “yes means no?”

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The facilitators from FotF neglected to mention that thinking a girl means “yes” when she says “no” is actually completely wrong. Rather, they spent their four hours with us discussing things such as what a girl “really means” when she says something else, as opposed to guys who are “direct” and “always mean what they say” (editor’s note: photos from Agatha below). By telling the student population this, FotF sends a dangerous message: that you should always assume that a girl means something else (like “yes”) when really she just means “no”.”

focus-on-the-family-02

Guys, on the other hand, are portrayed as guardians who can ultimately do no wrong even when they are evidently doing wrong. “Guys need respect” and “guys are insecure” are just some of the things written in the booklet. “While guys don’t want a girl to pretend to be clueless,” it writes, “they also don’t want a girlfriend that questions their opinions and argues with their decisions all the time”. What this really means is that guys apparently do not want a girl who thinks for herself. I am sure you agree that as a student, being told that I should refrain from having opinions of my own and daring to express them for the sake of keeping a guy’s ego intact is contrary to everything my education has taught me. Similarly, that I should take it upon myself, as a girl, to boost a guy’s ego by showering him with compliments in public because it is my responsibility to do so is equally demeaning.

focus-on-the-family-06 focus-on-the-family-04 focus-on-the-family-05

Guys are visual

The most alarming thing I read in the booklet provided was that “A guy can’t not want to look” and that what a girl is wearing matters only “lest she become an “eye magnet” that cannot be avoided” (Editor’s note: image above). There are two main problems with this –firstly, that guys are apparently incapable of controlling themselves or their hormones at all, and this is excusable because it’s in their natures, and second, that as a girl, when I dress, I should be thinking of what guys think rather than what I think.

-end of excerpts-

It seems the majority who shared the posts are in support of her views:

FotF states 85% positive feedback

Yahoo reports the school is seeking feedback from other participants on the workshop. “The school provided information on the programme and gave parents and students the option to opt out of the workshop,” the HCI spokesperson said. “We are in touch with the student to understand her feedback and would also gather feedback from the other students.”
Focus on the Family’s spokesman, Vicky Ho, said that FotF was “in touch with the relevant parties to address the student’s concern.”
“It’s UNcomplicated is not a sexuality education program. It is designed to be a relationship program 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. The curriculum is based on well-researched material by various trusted family life and relationship experts. Our workshops have received positive feedback of more than 85% of the students rating it as Very Good/Good,” said Ho.
EdChron.com has requested from FotF Singapore a soft copy of the booklet for review. You may read Agatha Tan’s full letter here. All photos courtesy of Agatha Tan.
Update on 10 October 2014:
EdChron.com’s request for a soft copy of the booklet for review has been declined. In a response by Vicky Ho via email, the reply states the handbook “is availed only to workshop participants. We – and the authorities we work with – have clarified that this is not sexuality education material but teaches on boy-girl relationships, as it is presently still understood in our local context of Singapore.”
In any case, we are not the IP owner of the program and are not presently able to avail the booklet outside of stipulated workshops.”

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