MOE 'more than transparent' on Israel-Hamas conflict CCE lessons: Chan Chun Sing

He said the Israel-Hamas conflict will not be the only "sensitive, emotive issue" that Singaporeans will come across.

Julia Yee | April 02, 2024, 05:33 PM



A debate over the inclusion of the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Ministry of Education's (MOE) Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum broke out in parliament again on Apr. 2, 2024.

Leong Mun Wai wants to see the slides

Non-constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai suggested that the government was not being "transparent" by not releasing the teaching materials to the public.

MOE previously stated that it would not release the lesson slides to the public.

Leong expressed his "deep disappointment" over the government's decision, which caused him to ponder two questions in particular.

"My first question is, despite what the minister has said, how is it justifiable not to release the CCE lesson slides to the public when the materials had already been imparted to our children?" he asked.

His second question was whether he could have the government's "commitment" to making all future CCE teaching materials public.

Leong added that he "actually made an effort" to venture into a bookstore for a Primary Six CCE textbook.

"From the content of the textbook, you cannot imagine that a complex and controversial current issue like that Israel-Hamas conflict will be taught to our children," he said.

Slides may be taken out of context

Chan reiterated that the slides alone "do not fully communicate" how the subject is taught.

"We welcome parents with concerns to come and see the teachers who will explain to them how the lesson is conducted. This is much better than just looking at a set of slides without explanation."

He continued that schools are prepared to "engage" parents in such dialogue, but most schools have not received such requests.

CCE lessons provide "safe space"

Chan also remarked that the Israel-Hamas conflict will not be the only "sensitive, emotive issue" that Singaporeans will come across.

Hence, such CCE lessons will help people "understand their emotions" and "the diversity of perspectives within our society", he said.

The lessons also provide a "safe space" for students to "grapple" with issues and verify information they encounter online.

Chan talks about the definition of "consult"

Responding to queries about whether or not MOE had a prior consultation with community and religious leaders, Chan stated that MOE had consulted various stakeholders.

But he cautioned that one has "to be clear" what one means when using the word "consult":

"Do we mean to consult to do or not to do or do we mean to consult on the content of what to do?"

Ultimately, consultation does not remove MOE's "leadership responsibility" to decide what is "right and necessary", he said.

He added that "none of us, not even historians", can come up with "what would be considered a fair representation from everyone's perspective".

"Our job as part of the CCE lessons is to help people understand the differences. manage those differences, respect those differences."

MOE being "more than transparent"

Leong then pressed on with questions about "transparency" and "clarity" in the process of crafting the lesson materials.

Chan reiterated that MOE is being "more than transparent" on the issue, being prepared to show the parents the material and explain how the materials are used.

"So if anything," Chan concluded, the government is "going out of [its] way" to assure parents how the lessons are conducted.

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Top images via MCI