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Sex Education in Singapore (I)
What should be taught in sex education?

Most of the 1,500 people, who responded to the [27 February, 2000] Straits Times Interactive poll on sex education, said that schools should conduct formal sex-education classes so as to prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and out-of-wedlock pregnancy. I wonder ...
  • if the respondents have a common understanding of sex education and

  • would the poll results be different if the respondents knew what would be covered in sex education classes?

This article helps you to look at three important issues:

  1. What should be taught in sex education?

  2. Who should teach sex education?

  3. How early should sex education start?
The curriculum controversy centers mainly around abstinence-only or the safer-sex approaches.

Supporters of the abstinence-only approach argue that abstinence from sexual activity is the only guarantee against pregnancy, AIDS and STDs while safer-sex offers only risk reduction. The counter-argument is that the abstinence-approach is not a solution for sexually active teens. What should we do then? Separate the 2 groups? How? Do we know who they are? Can we expect them to separate themselves? Would teens admit publicly that they are sexually active? Design a curriculum to target the majority? But which group is the majority? Do we have the facts?

Then there is the abstinence-plus approach, a combination of abstinence-only and safer-sex approaches ... urging teens to abstain from sexual activity until marriage but if you can't wait, you should use a condom. But would this present a mixed and contradictory message to teens? Would teens interpret the demonstration of how to use a condom as permission to engage in pre-marital sex? By the phrase, "if you can't wait" ... are we lowering our expectation or standard ... are we saying, "We really don't expect you to abstain!" Abstinence till marriage is not an easy goal but set low standards and you will get mediocre results. Even for sexually active teens, choosing abstinence results in the same benefits from this point onwards.
"... As a young person in the centre of this debate about sex education for the young, I wonder what exactly I am being taught. Is premarital sex right? If it is not, why then am I being 'educated' on how to have 'safe sex'? Is not 'safe sex' still premarital sex? Please educate us young ones on what needs to be practised. Don't give us a reason or an excuse to have premarital sex. The curriculum on 'safe sex' methods only condones and endorses the concept of premarital sex. The young may be in the 'raging hormones' phase of life. That, however, does not make us mindless beings or animals - unable to control and master passions, feelings and emotions. The power to choose abstinence is given to every human being, regardless of age. I have chosen abstinence, because I have been taught clearly that premarital sex - safe or not - is wrong. Make my job simple: Just teach me what you want me to practise."
Miss Bennett Isabel
Straits Times Forum, October 23, 2008
Assuming that we can present both approaches (without contradiction) to teens, would parents be comfortable with the abstinence-plus approach? To some parents of certain religious groups, the issue is more than the consequences of pregnancy, AIDS and STDs. The core issue is that pre-marital sex is morally wrong 1 (whether or not you get pregnant, AIDS or STDs)! A counter-argument is that sex education is about teaching responsibility not morals. But can we separate morals and values from sex education?

Yet another issue is "Whose religious affiliations should have priority ... the parent or the child?" For young children, we can safely say that parental religious affiliation takes priority but can we say the same for teens?

What about topics like masturbation and petting ... are they part of the sex education curriculum? According to medical doctors that I spoke with, masturbation does not affect one's health. Unlike sexual intercourse, masturbation does not affect another person. So are we going to advocate masturbation as a means of releasing sexual tension? While the act of masturbation in and of itself is not wrong, sexual fantasy (about someone other than your legal spouse) or impure thoughts that often accompany masturbation are wrong 2 in the views of some religions. Note that you can't stop thoughts from entering your mind but you can stop them from controlling your life.

Being with someone you love will arouse emotions and hormones. You feel good. Now there is nothing wrong with sexual desire. But when an unmarried couple engages in petting, they are entering dangerous grounds. Petting is tantamount to foreplay with a culmination in sexual intercourse and/or orgasm. If your religion forbids pre-marital sex then getting your body ready for it would be playing with fire! 3

1 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Cor. 6:18)

2 ... But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28).
Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. (Prov. 5:15)

3 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? (Prov. 6:27)
[ Anatomy of Lust ]    [ War Within Continues ]    [ Battle Strategies ]

What should be taught in sex education? May 2000 Alan S.L. Wong; Updated October 2008