The Ministry of Education expects all our educators to know and to uphold the standards of conduct expected of them. We take a serious view of any form of misconduct, particularly those involving students. At the same time, we educate our students about their right to safety and protection.
For all educators, MOE has made clear our expectations that they are to conduct themselves in a manner that upholds the integrity of the profession and the trust placed in them. We have a stringent selection and screening system in place for teachers, including an interview by a panel of experienced senior educators. Besides intellectual and interpersonal qualities, individuals are also assessed for their motivation, sense of responsibility, understanding of accountability and commitment to the ethos of the teaching profession.
When educators formally enter the service, there are a number of platforms to remind them of the values and beliefs that define the teaching profession, and to reinforce the expectations of educators’ conduct. These platforms include induction briefings for Beginning Teachers, discussion of case studies at the school level for all teachers and milestone programmes for key personnel.
In 2012, in consultation with the fraternity, MOE codified the values, beliefs and conduct expected of educators. The Code of Professional Conduct for Educators was shared with all educators in 2013 to provide guidance on how educators are expected to carry themselves. Importantly, the Code sets out the boundaries educators are to observe in their relationship with students. Using the Code, school leaders have continued to conduct regular conversations with their staff to deepen the ethos of the profession.
Despite these efforts, some educators have transgressed and fallen short of the standards of behaviour expected of them. The teaching fraternity has expressed outrage at these cases. The Ministry of Education takes a very serious view of such misconduct by educators – my instruction is that if there is any complaint of improper behaviour, each and every case must be thoroughly investigated, and where there is evidence of violation of the Code or of criminal behaviour, the officer involved will be dealt with severely.
MOE and the teaching fraternity are determined to uphold the trust and confidence that parents and the community have in our educators. MOE will work with schools to intensify the communication and engagement with teachers on the Professional Code of Conduct, make explicit the professional boundaries that must not be breached in educators’ interactions with students as well as step up vigilance to safeguard and protect our students. MOE is also going through past cases to draw relevant lessons from these.
Students need not and should not be passive victims. Our schools teach them their right to safety and protection so that they can recognise unacceptable behaviour and seek help. At the Primary level, students are taught how to recognise abuse, to identify the types of behaviour that are of concern or are socially unacceptable, and how to seek help. At the Secondary level, students are taught what constitutes sexual grooming, how to protect themselves from others with malicious intent, and help-seeking skills.
We also seek the support of parents. Your close relationship and conversations with your children may enable early signs of problems faced by them to be detected for early interventions. We share your concern to ensure your children are protected from sexual predators.
In conclusion, I wish to emphasise that there is a strong collective will and commitment among the whole teaching fraternity, schools and MOE to uphold the trust placed by parents and students in educators. We are deeply disappointed with the cases of misconduct that have happened. While we cannot completely prevent human failings, I want to assure Members that we do not tolerate such wrong-doers. Whenever we uncover any case of sexual misconduct between educators and students, they will be thoroughly investigated and the transgressors will be severely dealt with.