Singapore’s Early Childhood Development Agency said yesterday that it was aware of depictions of animal cruelty in a preschool workbook – but said there was not much it could do about it.
The agency’s response came after a parent complained last week about an illustration in their 4-year-old son’s Mandarin-language homework that showed a boy ripping off a wolf’s tail. The agency, aka ECDA, said that while lesson materials and curriculums are up to the discretion of schools, they should routinely review lesson materials in concert with parents.
“Preschools have the discretion to plan and develop their own learning materials in line with the objectives of [education standards],” the agency said in a statement. “At the same time, preschools are encouraged to work together with parents on their children’s development, and constantly review their learning materials to ensure that the intended learning outcomes are achieved.”
The anonymous parent last week shared their concerns about the child’s assignment in an online childcare forum. The lesson was meant to teach students how to draw strokes that follow the shape created by the boy pulling off the animal’s tail, though entirely non-intuitive. “The young owner has cut off the evil wolf’s tail,” it is labeled.
“Absolutely shocked to see my 4yo son being sent home with this kind of learning material. He’s a dog lover and this is super inappropriate and violent! Is this normal??? I’m disgusted,” the parent said.
The name of the school was not revealed by the parent, who claimed to have raised the matter with the unidentified school and was told that it was the first complaint it had received about the learning material it apparently had used for years. The parent also said that the complaint would be raised with the principal.
“Just because it’s been used for years and no one has said anything (which, by the way, scares me even more), it doesn’t make it okay. I feel like my concerns have been dismissed and they’re just brushing it off like I’m the crazy one. Am I??” the parent added.
Other parents jumped in the comments to express their shock.
“Thank [you] for voicing out your concerns [in] advocating for all animal lovers out there!! [What] are they teaching the kids???!! That [it’s] ok to abuse animals? Goodness… terrible values,” Sharmaine Koh wrote.
“Very bad material….no matter what the animal is on the picture, we shouldn’t be encouraging violence through our learning materials,” Juvy Mac wrote.
The Ministry of Education declined to comment for this story, noting that it does not have a role in independently operated preschools.
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