Some teachers received rude & abusive comments over Israel-Hamas lesson material: Chan Chun Sing

MOE takes attacks against teachers seriously, Israel-Hamas lesson material will be updated

As parents took issue with lessons in Singapore schools that discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict, teachers have been on the receiving end of brickbats, it has been revealed.

Some of them were even subjected to rude and abusive comments.

Source: John Schnobrich on Unsplash. Photo for illustration purposes only.

Moving forward, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will update the lesson material in response to the feedback.

Online vitriol directed towards teachers over Israel-Hamas lesson material

Speaking on the issue in Parliament on Monday (4 Mar), Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said Singaporeans generally express views “in a civil and respectful way”.

However, the Israel-Hamas lesson material for Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) classes has caused “online vitriol and anger” to be directed towards MOE and teachers.

Source: MCI Singapore on YouTube

Besides rude and abusive comments received by some teachers, one of them had her photo circulated online. He added:

The caption contained a racial slur, insulting her as an uneducated person of her ethnicity, and encouraged others to make this educator’s photo go ‘viral’ online.

MOE takes incident seriously, it cannot be condoned

MOE takes this incident “very seriously”, said Mr Chan, as personal attacks and racial slurs against fellow Singaporeans “cannot be condoned”.

We also have to be positive role models for our children, he added.

He promised that all cases of abuse, harassment, or threats against teachers would be investigated.

The teachers will have MOE’s support and the “full protection of the law”.


Source: Google Maps

Chan warns against ‘external interference’

In his speech, Mr Chan warned against “potential external interference”.

He said these parties were trying to “incite anger and unhappiness” by joining online discussions and adding in comments to rile netizens up.

Others have also attempted to “play on Singaporeans’ conscience to adopt their positions”, he added, noting:

It is not difficult to guess the agenda of these external parties.

Singaporeans must be wary of attempts to undermine our cohesion, the minister urged.

Lesson slides picked out & circulated online

For example, one slide from an MOE lesson presentation was circulated online, Mr Chan said.

The slide was selectively picked out to assert that students were being taught that the Israel-Hamas conflict started only on 7 Oct 2023. Mr Chan added:

This insinuated that MOE was pro-Israel, and that we characterised one side as aggressor and the other as victim.

In fact, the slide was one of many and the words on it were: “events since 7 Oct”, the minister clarified.

It followed a slide that emphasised “the long, complex and often violent history of conflict in the region”.

Source: Motaz Azaiza on Facebook

MOE also provided background material on historical developments behind the conflict that was to be shared with students who wished for more information. But the CCE lesson’s learning objective was not to teach history, he noted.

This incident was an example of online misrepresentation, Mr Chan said, adding:

In the online space, it is not always easy to separate those who question the material with well-meaning intentions, from those who join the fray with ulterior intent, to stir up negative emotions on this sensitive topic.

In another case, another slide was circulated online where an example of two students quarrelling after a football match was used to illustrate the Israel-Hamas conflict.

This led some to suggest that MOE had trivalised the issue by equating it with a football match.

However, Mr Chan explained that that particular slide was used only at one particular school, and it was inserted by the teacher to help the students relate to the issue.

Thus, the slide was taken out of context, he said.

The slides wouldn’t be released to the public because they “would not do justice to the teaching by the teachers because the slides do not speak”.

Israel-Hamas lesson material to be updated

In response to feedback and ongoing developments, the Israel-Hamas lesson material will be updated, Mr Chan revealed.

This will be done by customising them further for students of different age groups.

For younger students, they will be simplified even more, with a focus on sensitising them to the plight of innocent victims.

They will also be advised on how they can express sympathy for and empathise with others, and how they can manage their emotions.

Older students will be taught to be more discerning of the information they get from various sources.

Source: Chan Chun Sing on Facebook. Photo for illustration purposes only.

As for the “most mature” students, lesson material will be updated based on more recent events. This will help them to better understand Singapore’s national interest.

That includes Singapore’s response to the conflict and our position on the Israel-Palestine issue over the decades.

In tandem, teachers will be better equipped to lead the CCE lesson. For instance, they can attend extra CCE workshops with specialists and experienced teachers.

Additionally, broader efforts are in motion to train teachers to teach CCE. The Singapore Centre for CCE at the National Institute of Education (NIE) was set up last May to support professional development for educators in CCE.

As it’s the duty of educators to guide the next generation, Mr Chan hopes the public will support them in this “important yet challenging” task.

Also read: Israel has ‘gone too far’ with military response to Hamas attack: Vivian Balakrishnan

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Featured image adapted from MCI Singapore on YouTube and John Schnobrich on Unsplash. Photo on the right for illustration purposes only.

Jeremy Lee

Analog person making do with a digital world.

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