MOE does not hire anyone who committed sexual offences or violent crime: Maliki Osman

The government is reviewing the screening framework for those working with children.

Sulaiman Daud | September 13, 2022, 12:56 PM

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The Ministry of Education (MOE) does not hire anyone who has committed offences of “moral turpitude”, which include sexual and violent crimes, Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman said in Parliament on Sept. 12.

He was responding to a Parliamentary Question filed by Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Tay on whether MOE will consider prohibiting those who had committed or convicted of sexual offences and violent crimes from practising as an educator, tuition teacher or enrichment teacher.

MOE committed to providing safe learning environment for students

“We expect our educators to conduct themselves in a manner which upholds the integrity of the profession and the trust placed in them,” Maliki said.

He added that MOE takes a serious view of any misconduct by educators and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to the ministry’s standards. Such actions include dismissal from service.

Maliki stressed that “MOE and its educational institutions, including our kindergartens, are committed to providing a safe learning environment for students”.

Tutors with MOE registered centres must be registered, freelance tutors not covered by the regulations

However, the private tuition industry is “diverse, with a wide range of providers and settings.” This includes tuition and enrichment centres, as well as freelance private tutors and enrichment teachers.

Centres offering tuition or enrichment programmes to 10 or more students must be registered with MOE under the Education Act, Maliki noted.

As such, tutors working at these centres must also be registered with MOE, he added.

He highlighted that applicants must declare whether they have been convicted of any offence punishable with imprisonment, including sexual offences or violent crimes, during the registration process. MOE will not register any applicant who declares that they have been convicted of such serious offences.

Nonetheless, as these applicants are employees of private businesses, Maliki said that MOE does not conduct background checks.

Freelance tutors and enrichment teachers offering private lessons outside of centres, on the other hand, are not covered by the regulations.

This includes home tutors and agencies that provide matching services between private tutors and students as they do not need to be registered with MOE.

“The government is reviewing how best to strengthen the screening framework for those working with children,” Maliki said.

“This includes whether to make it mandatory for freelance providers of services for children to be screened for serious offences, including sexual offences,” Maliki added.

MHA considering steps for applicants employed to work with children to be screened

In a written reply in April 2021, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said that the Registration of Criminals Act allows the Police to maintain a non-public record of persons convicted of serious offences, including sexual offences.

However, as these records are non-public, members of the public, including parents, do not have access to them.

He noted that the government aimed to strike a balance between ensuring that persons who have committed serious sexual crimes are not employed in positions which may put children at risk; and at the same time, not to add to the stigmatisation of ex-offenders and hinder their rehabilitation and reintegration.

He was responding to MP Murali Pillai’s question on parents of minors who wish to make background checks of persons to ascertain that they have not been convicted of sexual offences against minors before engaging them as freelance tutors or instructors for their children.

“We are considering whether more steps need to be taken, to make it mandatory that all persons employed in similar sectors working with children be screened. There are some practical difficulties in taking this approach, which we are thinking through,” Shanmugam said.

Shanmugam also said: “It is a further step, from that, to allow parents to screen potential tutors for the tutors’ past offences,” but he added that he could “see the reasonableness in the MP’s request” of having background checks of persons before engaging them as freelance tutors or instructors for children.

Top image via MCI/YouTube