Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Singapore to allow girls to join boy scout groups

IT'S SCOUT BONDING Supporters `welcomed the opportunity,' but others have their doubts, and have called the situation `regrettable'

DPA , SINGAPORE

A decision to allow girls to join boys as scouts in Singapore's primary and secondary schools caused a stir yesterday, with opponents citing the differences between the sexes as a reason to keep them separated.

Starting in January, girls will be able to join their male schoolmates as scouts, the education ministry announced on Friday, informing all Singapore's 357 primary and secondary schools of the change.

But Yvonne Lin, chief commissioner of the Girl Guides Singapore (GGS), told the New Paper the announcement was "regrettable."

Lord Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the scouts and guides nearly a century ago, created two organizations because of the "`fundamental differences' between the sexes," GGS deputy chief commissioner Jessie Tan was quoted as saying.

The scouts focus on outdoor education for youth, while guides seek development for girls in home, community and outdoor settings.

More than three-quarters or 119 of the 155 countries with scouts currently have girls in their organizations, including Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan, proponents noted.

"We felt that we need to keep up with the times," said Singapore Scouts Association commissioner Nicholas Tang. "In this whole region, Singapore is the only one without girls in scouting in schools."

Some of the girls queried expressed fears of feeling awkward and more withdrawn in the presence of boys.

Others said they welcomed the opportunity.

"It's not girl or boy bonding," said 14-year-old Tiong Yayan. "It's scout bonding."

"Society has changed" since Baden-Powell wrote Scouting For Boys, a veteran scout leader told the newspaper.

"The girls want to assert their rights," he added.

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