Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sex education in schools will remain secular - Feb 14, 2006

MOE: Guidance Branch - Sexuality Education

Shianux(Han) does a thorough fisking of an ST letter. It's so deverstating that I don't really think I can add anything to it. But the writer of the letter comes out looking either like a very sloppy research or a very incredulous one.

The top two links and their contents seems alright on a first reading, sort of like an all things to all person's kind of policy one would run when trying to find a compromise between the very real health issues that a comprehensive sex education is meant to address and on the other hand "to understand and respect the attitudes, values and beliefs regarding sexuality propagated by other communities."

Whatever that means.

I haven't had the opportunity to review the new curriculum and I don't think I had any sexual education back when I was in secondary school (beyond the very clinical one in my biology textbook) and warnings not to get distracted by members of the opposite sex (it seems that our seniors were tying up with their opposite counterpart from RGS).

The same went for junior college, this despite being what could be one of the most liberal and 'western' programme that one could be in JC. So it's very fortunate (and probably amazing) that none of my classmates got involved in the very real problems that comes with sex in whatever form.

Here's the interesting thing...
Complementing the curricular programme is the co-curricular package called the Growing Years series. It is developmental in nature, spanning the upper primary, lower secondary, upper secondary to post-secondary levels. Feedback from key stakeholders were gathered and incorporated in the development of the materials at every stage. The stakeholders, who represent the different religious and racial groups, include parents, community representatives, medical practitioners, social workers, youth workers, psychologists, legal professionals, students and teachers.

The Growing Years series addresses the subject of human sexuality from a holistic perspective, involving the intellectual, emotional, social, physical and ethical aspects of sexuality. These are covered under four main themes: Human Development, Interpersonal Relationships, Sexual Health and Behaviour, and, Society and Culture. Topics covered include the understanding gender identity, building rewarding and responsible relationships, consequences of teenage sexual activity and pregnancies (including abortion), masturbation, pornography, homosexuality, dating and going steady, cohabitation and marriage, and influence of the media. Abstinence is presented and promoted as it provides teenagers with the highest level of protection, being 100% safe against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. As the Growing Years series is value-based, parents are given the choice to opt their children out of the programme if they so desire. The opt-out rate by parents has been very low, at less than 1%.

One wonders whose values are being presented here. A quick glance at the list of stakeholders indicates that there is likely to be some form of conflict as to which of the policies are best likely to work.

Furthermore, it looks to me that some stakeholders are more equal than others if I read this paragraph right. The notion of value-based I think must be taken in contrast to the Framework for Sexuality Education which presumably focuses more on the basic science(?) in "provid(ing) accurate knowledge about human sexuality and the consequences of sexual activity so that pupils would be able to make carefully considered and informed decisions on sexuality matters". In which case, I think the narrow moralistic stance are more likely to win out in a simple situation of the most conservative denominator winning. I cannot see these groups willing to accept the notion that homosexuality may not be unnatural or a choice or that masturbation is a good alternative to sex.

The other worrying thing is that of the rise of "everything but" we see in America in response to pro-abstinence/abstinence only policies in schools. Since the focus is on vaginal intercourse, students end up staying within the letter but not the spirit of the law as they engage in other sexual activity that carries with it a similar if not higher risk of STDs (if not pregnancy). So while it may be technically accurate to say that abstinence is 100% effective, one needs to ask abstinent from what?

My posts on this topic may seem repetitious but what is worth mentioning is worth repeating.


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