To this day sexual education continues to cause controversy, whether it relates to the topics being taught or merely the fact that it exists in our society.
We aim to give comprehensive and concise information about the areas where you need to be informed. To answer questions everyone has, but few know the answer to.
Why sexual education is important
Sexual education spans multiple areas, including sexual health, reproduction, relationships, sexual attitudes, body image and sexual orientation to mention a few.
According to studies conducted by UNESCO and NICE, effective sexual education programs contribute to lower rates of teenage pregnancies and abortions, an increase in reports of sexual abuse, fewer sexual partners and a later sexual debut amongst teenagers, as well as increased use of contraceptives and condoms.
A handful of studies are particularly worth considering. Studies that have investigated the relationships between access to sexual education and the rate of teenage pregnancy in England have found the rates to decrease and stay lower in areas where there is a higher level of quality education. This has been replicated in California in the USA, where the teenage pregnancy rates decreased by more than half once sexual education was made mandatory in schools and free contraceptives became available. Similarly, Finland reported an increase in teenage abortions once their sexual education programme was compromised by lower funding. This was quickly reversed by re-introducing the original curriculum.
How sexual education is different between countries
There are many ways in which sexual education differs between countries, such as the age of children when it commences, the frequency of the education and the topics covered. For instance, whilst children in Ireland are taught basic sexual education at the age of four, children in Finland do not receive training until later. Whilst this may seem like two opposing sources, they are in fact similar in many ways as children are taught topics that are appropriate for their age and developmental stage.
The way that topics are treated also varies between countries. Whilst children in the US are aware of abstinence programs (which have mostly been discredited), teenagers in Norway receive an ‘introductory packet’ which includes condoms and sanitary items for girls.
Clearly sexual education is a loaded topic that often reflects the politics and cultural pressures that may exist in that country. As a result of this some countries (such as Singapore and Sweden) allow for parents to withdraw their children from classes discussing topics relating to sexual education.