Focus on the Family Clarifies It’s UNcomplicated Program

10 October 2014

Dear Friends of Focus on the Family,

We want to thank those of you who have expressed your support for our work and our team during this challenging time. Your affirmation of our impact and vision is of great encouragement to us to keep on promoting and protecting the institution of marriage and family. We are particularly touched by the courageous ones who have attempted to provide the public with a different perspective1 of the situation.

BACKGROUND
Focus on the Family Singapore has been conducting sexuality and relationship programs for the past 12 years. Specifically, It’s UNcomplicated (IUC) has been attended by more than 14,000 students from 13 schools since its launch in 2013.

IUC is a relationship program developed exclusively for Institutes of Higher Learning to help young people achieve healthy relationships for life by unravelling the world of the opposite sex, uncovering the truths of love and dating, and revealing what it takes to have healthy and meaningful relationships.

We were informed in July 2014 that this program will cease end-2014 as schools will be using their own in-house program for Junior Colleges (JCs).

CURRICULUM
Targeted at 17- to 18-year olds, the program adopts a magazine approach for ease of understanding, from its titling to its content and illustrations. This is reflected in the handbook which is availed as additional take-home material.

That said, the curriculum is based on well-researched material by various trusted family life and relationship experts. Some of these experts include people like Dr Gary Chapman (noted for his concept of Love Languages) and Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn (social researchers in the United States) whose work is internationally recognized and has been widely accepted by the general public.

In addition, there is increasing research that supports the course content, such as neurological studies showing how male-female brain differences may contribute to generalized differences in behaviour between the two genders. A reference list of research materials has been provided to the relevant authorities.

Given its use for schools, IUC was developed to ensure it carries no religious content. As with other community programs conducted by faith-based organizations, there is also no attempt to proselytize or share the faith and beliefs.

WORKSHOP
Since its launch in 2013, our IUC workshops have consistently received positive feedback of more than 85% of the students rating it as “Very Good/Good” and 89% rating the overall presentation of our facilitators as “Very Good/Good”. We have been conducting relationship workshops at HCI since 2011 with good feedback.

In the segment about male-female differences, the objective is to help participants understand more about the opposite sex, so they are better equipped to communicate and interact with them. The unit was consistently rated as the most helpful of 4 units across all 10 HCI workshops.

It’s unfortunate that what was meant to be a light-hearted workshop to engage students was taken out of context and misinterpreted. As an approved service provider, we definitely do not promote a rape culture.

INCIDENT
There were a total of 10 workshops conducted at HCI on Oct 3, 2014, attended by more than 1,000 students. In feedback forms which students submitted anonymously, 73.0% rated the workshop as Very Good/Good, and 87.7% of the students rated the facilitators as Very Good/Good.

We acknowledge that the workshop in question was not perfect, as with even the very best of our workshops, there is always room for improvement. However we believe that the facilitators did their very best in this challenging situation.

As Focus is an external service provider, our facilitators are instructed to adhere to approved content. Our facilitators’ efforts to stay on track may have been misunderstood as imposing certain views and that the facilitator is unconcerned with students’ questions.

We recognize that values-based content will never achieve full consensus, and make it a practice to allow participants in all our workshops (including IUC) to respectfully disagree. We have since offered through the school to dialogue with the students who raised concerns.

APPROACH
We have been in touch with the school and the relevant government authorities about this situation. We are regretful that the handbook has offended a group of students from HCI and caused such strong reactions from a JC female student. We appreciate all feedback – whether positive or negative. There is definitely always room for improvement and necessary updates. We will especially ensure that the style, tone and facilitation of our youth programs keep up with the needs of the evolving young generation and give less room for misinterpretation.

At the heart of it, we adhere that the relationship principles and values the program intends to promote remain true and are still helpful to our youth today for building healthy relationships with a committed and thriving lifelong marriage in mind. In any case, we know that 83% of singles in Singapore desire to get married with 80% wanting 2 or more children (Marriage and Parenthood Study 2012). IUC does not seek to tackle all audiences; it would be this majority that the program is catered for. Our desire as a family life organization is to help families thrive.

For Family,
Joanna Koh-Hoe (CEO)

Contact Person:
Vicky Ho (Head, Corporate Communications)
If you wish to have a copy of the additional take-home material, please email corpcomms@family.org.sg


Example of one of many responses written in support of the programme and/or Focus:

1 Response to article "Hwa Chong alumni launch online petition against relationship workshop"