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Singapore Ministry of Education says teachers do not impose personal views, advocate for any party in school lessons about Israel-Hamas war
Published on: Saturday, February 24, 2024
By: Today, Malay Mail
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Singapore Ministry of Education says teachers do not impose personal views, advocate for any party in school lessons about Israel-Hamas war
A man sits amid the debris of destroyed houses in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip February 22, 2024. — AFP pic
SINGAPORE: Responding to some concerns online about what schools are teaching on the Israel-Hamas war, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that teachers do not impose their personal views, “nor do they advocate for the interests of any particular parties involved in the conflict”.

For younger students, the lessons hone in on empathy for the victims of the conflict, while lessons for older students also focus on verification of information sources and appreciating diversity in perspectives, the ministry said yesterday (February 23) in response to TODAY’s queries.

Its statement came after numerous posts began circulating on social media channels on Friday, voicing concerns over what schools are teaching students about the conflict in Gaza.

Among others, the posts claimed that the narrative presented to the students was not neutral or objective since it only covered the events from Oct 7, without giving historical context of the wider conflict between Israel and Palestine that dates back some seven decades ago.

The posts also said that teachers were not allowed to give further input in the lessons beyond what was prescribed to them.

TODAY understands that the topic on the Israel-Hamas conflict has been covered in Character and Citizenship Education lessons from February this year.

TODAY also understands that its contents cover the developments of the violence from Oct 7 up to December 2023, given the constraints of the one-hour lesson time as well as the lead time required to prepare and disseminate the resources.

Numerous key developments have happened since December, with the calls by the international community growing louder as the civilian death toll continues to climb.

For example, the world court in January ordered Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide as it wages war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

On Febriary 20, 13 members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, but it was vetoed by the United States.

Lessons slides seen by TODAY included a brief one-page summary of some key events of the Israel-Palestine conflict since the 1940s.

What happens during the lessons

Yesterday, MOE said that Character and Citizenship Education lessons cover “discussions on a range of contemporary issues”.

These include “casual racism”, mental well-being as well as global events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The lesson on the Israel-Hamas conflict, in particular, aims to give students a safe space to understand the complex situation and develop their own views, it added.

The students are also taught to “appreciate the diverse perspectives involved, discern the information about the issue, and understand the situation from Singapore’s perspectives, including the need to preserve our cohesion and harmony”.

Teachers were trained to use “age-appropriate methods” to help students of different level — from upper primary to pre-university — appreciate different dimensions of the issue.

“In conducting these lessons, our teachers do not impose their personal views on the students, nor do they advocate for the interests of any particular parties involved in the conflict,” MOE said.

“Our curated resources are differentiated by levels for ease of use by our educators.”

Students are given the opportunity to share their thoughts in a safe environment while being respectful and sensitive to the views of others. They are encouraged to channel their energies into positive actions.

“Our teachers also check in on the emotional well-being of our students and identify those that may require greater support. We do not poll the students on their beliefs.”

Members of Parliament had in November called for discussions to be held in schools to educate the young.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Education, said then that as educational institutions engage students in understanding global issues, including the conflict in the Middle East, “we will continue to emphasise Singapore’s multicultural context and the importance of preserving our precious racial and religious harmony”.

He said that schools here provide a safe environment for students to “engage in civil, respectful and balanced discourse and allow different opinions to be voiced and discussed objectively”.

Israel’s latest military campaign in Gaza — which followed Hamas’ attack on Oct 7 that led to the death of about 1,160 people in Israel — has killed at least 29,410 people, mostly women and children. This is based on the latest count by Gaza’s health ministry.

At a G20 meeting in Brazil, Dr Maliki said that Singapore supports an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to facilitate the urgent delivery of aid to affected civilians, while also calling for “the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all civilian hostages”.

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