Friday, April 30, 2010

Sexual Education: Where to draw the lines?

It was reported in today's Straits Times ("Govt calls for more transparency in sexuality education", ST, 30/4/2010) that the "MOE's philosophy on sexuality education is that it does not encourage nor promote masturbation, abortion and oral and anal sex. Its sexuality education programme does not condone promiscuity and sexual experimentation by teenagers, or promote homosexuality, but promotes abstinence and teaches teenagers how to say no to sex. However, contraception is taught in schools to protect young people against diseases and unwanted pregnancies".

Reading the above, the question that came to my mind was: does this mean that issues, such as masturbation, oral and anal sex and homosexuality, are not and/or cannot be taught in local sex education classes? Or are teachers/instructors allowed to teach about these issues but must portray them in a negative light? [as we know from the AWARE saga, being "neutral" about such issues is also not welcomed]

If it is the latter, then I must say that while I can empathise with the non-encouragement and non-promotion of abortion and oral and anal sex and homosexuality, I will however find the stance somewhat too harsh over masturbation. This is considering that it is perhaps "natural" or "normal" for teenagers to explore their bodies during puberty and thus any portrayal of such actions as negative would most likely impose a heavy psychological and moral burden of guilt on those youth who may be engaging in such actions and are going through these sex education classes. It may even result in a repressed sexuality in some. A similar argument may be made with regards to teenagers experiencing natural homosexual tendencies.

In the end, a delicate balance needs to be made between recognising the inherent sexual curiousity of teenagers and providing boundaries to this curiousity.

Of course, with regards to providing boundaries to sexual curiousity, there is the difficult and inevitable question of how strict or lax these boundaries should be.

If they are too lax, a situation of sexual hedonism or permissiveness may be created. But if they are too strict, we may have a lot of sexually repressed and/or morally/psychologically tortured teenagers on our hands.

Lines need to be drawn but where to draw them, that is the question.

Fortunately, the silver lining here is that while the MOE's stance is pro-abstinence, it however does not only teaches this but also provide information about contraception.


Anonymous said...

I'M a student in Guyana, and i admire your honesty and passion on the subject, BUT don't you think its a little too over rated?

Anonymous said...

By the way, don't you think Parent's Have a say in this?

LCC said...

To Anonymous (14/5/2010, 1744h and 1750h) [I am guessing it's the same person],

Thank you for the comment.

What's the "it" which you think is "a little too over rated"?

As for whether parents have a role to play in their children's sexual education, I would definitely say "Yes"! Parents definitely have an important role to play in their children's sexual education.

However, I am not sure if it is universal or just a phenomenon particular to my country, it would appear that parents tend to have difficulties in discussing the subject of sexual education with their children. Parents may also lack the appropriate knowledge and expertise to properly educate their children about sexual issues. Conversely, children may not feel comfortable enough to approach their parents about sexual issues.

Thus, in light of the above, while parents have an important role to play in the sexual education of their children, there is perhaps also a strong need for schools to provide sexual education.

Of course, if I am not wrong, as is the case in my country, parents who feel the sexual education syllabus in schools is not to their liking may opt to have their children not attend the sexual education classes provided by the schools. In such cases, the burden of providing sexual education would then fall fully onto the parents.

Amber said...

Highly insightful post. Sex education aims to provide information to students about attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, interactions and intimacy. This is also a means to develop teenager's abilities so they make educated choices concerning their behavior. This is a vital program as this helps to protect teens from abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies or STDs. Given the uncomfortable role of parents to discuss matters concerning sex, it is all the more imperative the this must be implemented in schools.

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