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History Of Sex Education Children And Young People Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 5413 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Sex Education became known in the 1890s.The social reformers who studied the degeneration of the traditional family and the increase of people suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, believed that sex education is the best way to decrease these problems (Elia,2009; Goldfard, 2009; Irvine, 2002; Luker, 2006). The American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) is believed to be the first group which supported sex education (Luker, 2006; Elia, 2009). According to ASHA, sex education promoted health in different ways, for examples, social, mental, spiritual and physical.

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Due to the social changes which were taking place during the 1960s and 1970s, Sex Education became more and more popular. During these years, subjects like Biology started to impart certain topics such as the reproductive system of human beings and methods of contraception to students. By the year 1980s, changes were brought as far as sex education was concerned. Parenting and communication in relation to sex were emphasized but sex education was not efficient. However, in the mid 1980, there was a change in the viewing of sex education. Before mid 1980, sex education was not very important but later on, when it was found that there was a new Sexually Transmitted infection, AIDS; sex education gained an important place. AIDS was spreading all around the world at an alarming speed (Reiss, 2005).Professor Michael Reiss5 (Guest6, External Institutions7, University of London8, Institute of Education, University of London9) Professor Michael Reiss5 (Guest6, External Institutions7, University of London8, Institute of Education, University of London9) Professor Michael Reiss5 (Guest6, External Institutions7, University of London8, Institute of Education, University of London9) Professor Michael Reiss5 (Guest6, External Institutions7, University of London8, Institute of Education, University of London9)

Defining sex education

According to the President of SIECUS (Sex Information and Educational Council of the US), 1993, sex education is all about obtaining information about identity, relationships as well as knowing about intimacy. Sex education consists of sexual development, reproductive system, affection, body image and gender roles.

Sexual health education is a set of skills training which result in specific behavioural outcomes (Mueller, Gavin and Kulkami, 2008). Through sex education, students are expected to have healthy sex education and healthy sexual behaviours (Fisher and Fisher, 2002). It is also believed that an effective sex education respects the beliefs of all people irrespective of their religion, race, age and gender (Ministry of Health, 2003).

Sex education in Mauritius

In Mauritius, sex education is imparted to students as from primary level itself. At primary level, students learn about sex under the subject known as “Health Education.” This subject covers the physical and psychological changes and also encourages students to act in a responsible manner as far as making the right choices is concerned. At this stage, students learn about minor things such as the differences between boys and girls and about the importance of their body. They are told not to allow other to touch them and to report if ever any such thing has happened to them.

At the secondary level, sex education forms part of the curriculum, in subjects like Health & Physical Education, Integrated Science and Biology. These subjects focus on our body and its changes at puberty and about the reproductive system. (Ministry of EDUCATION, Mauritius, 2010). However, it can be seen that although sex education is found in the curriculum, yet several topics are not covered such as the protective measures and STDs.

On the 15th of March, 2013, there was an article in the newspaper Le Mauricien which focussed on the importance of sex education in Mauritius. More and more teenagers are becoming sexually active but they do not have an understanding about sex and even their own sexuality. Due to these, there is an alarming increase in teenage pregnancy in Mauritius. This affects the life of many teenage girls. For examples, they are stressed and even come up with financial and even emotional challenges. Many teenagers have to leave school once they are pregnant. It is believed that sex education in schools is the best way to solve this problem. In this way, adolescents in Mauritius, will have the correct information about their bodies, sexual development and the protective measures. If sex and sexuality are still considered as a taboo, then the society will face more and more problems (MIVANAH Irlen, 2013).

Similarly, Monique Dinan (Founder and Member of Movement D’aide a La Maternite (MAM)2012, is on the view that teenage pregnancies have increased to a large extent. She believes that this problem should be solved at an early age and this is the reason why she feels that it is important to educate the youths about sex so that they know about sexual responsibility.

Importance of sex education

Due to the absence of sex education, the society faces several problems such as students drop out from school ( Hofferth and Reid, 2002), the economy of the country is affected (Maynard, 1997) and there is also an increase risk of serious problems for the child such as drug abuse and crime (Jaffee, 2002). It is also important to incorporate sex education at school due in order to prevent students from having Sexually Transmitted Diseases. STDs result in simple and serious problems such as chronic pelvic pain, infertility, cancer and death (Sulack, 2003).

SIECUS (1999) believes that there are four goals while implementing sex education for adolescents. The goals are to allow the young people to have accurate information about sexuality, to allow the adolescents to understand and develop their attitudes and values, to enable them to develop relationships and finally, to help them to become responsible as far as sexual relationships are concerned. Walker, Green and Tilford (2003) are on the view that today sex education is given lots of importance. They even believe that sex education is important to handle public health problems such as teenage pregnancies and several sexually transmitted diseases. Welllings (2001) considers the schools to be a major source of sex education for young ones especially those between the ages of 16-19.

There are several challenges faced by policy makers and educators today in order to make sure that the youth of today will be productive, will assume their responsibility, will be not only caring but will be healthy people. This means that formal and informal educational institutions now do not only focus on nurturing the intellect of the youth but they consider the essential needs of education. Sex education is one of the most important needs. In order to have a productive youth, researchers and policy makers are focusing on sex education for the adolescents ( Zain Al- Dien 2010). Zain Al- Dien (2010) puts forward that sex education will help students in placing the sexual aspects of life in their honest perspective and it will also provide the students with valid and true information about sex which is going to reduce several misconceptions.

A study carried out by Kehily and Nayak, it was found that students are ashamed to talk about sex to their parents and they are even afraid as they believe that if they talk about sex to their parents, their parents will think that they are sexually active (Kehily and Nayak, 1996).

Several studies on sex education have been carried out by researchers. SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation and government agencies (example U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) are on the view that sex education will decrease teenage pregnancy. They have found that there is a relationship between the absence of sex education and the increase in teenage pregnancy. Thus, according to them, sex education is the primary cause of teenage pregnancy (Ruddick 1993; Kirby 2002; Moore et al.1995).

Today, AIDS (immunodeficiency syndrome) is becoming one main causes of death across the world. There are the needs to encourage AIDS prevention, education as well as counseling for adolescents (Dehne and Riedner, 2005). UNICEF (2000), points out that to know whether HIV/AIDS is being combated, it is important to look at its impact on young people. It is vital to know whether they are receiving the right education about HIV/AIDS, how to protect themselves against it.

Teenage pregnancy is now known as an epidemic as there are too many cases. There are three main reasons why teenage pregnancy is regarded as a problematic issue. The first one is that children had to look after children which means that both the mother and child are children. The second one is that unmarried mother affect the life of their children as there are several problems which are associated with unmarried mothers. The third one is because teenage pregnancy leads to abortion which in turn affects the health of the teenagers (Luker, 1996). Sex education is considered to be the weapon which can fight teenage pregnancy (Ruddick 1993; Kirby 2002; Moore et al. 1995).

Teenage pregnancies can be linked to several social, health and economic problems. Several teenage parents are faced with poverty, they are not well educated and as such do not have an employment. It has also been deduced from research that the babies of teenage mothers are average weight. The babies of teenage mother are 60 % more likely to die than babies of older mothers. Only 44% of young mothers who are below 20 years old breastfeed their babies, 64% of mothers who are between 20 to 24 years old do so and 80 % of older mothers breastfeed their baby. It was also found that baby girls, whose mothers were teenagers, were most likely to become young mothers themselves. Most of the children born from teenage mothers, belonged to one parent family and as such, they did not have an appropriate house and food (Cohen, 2006).

Government of England believes that all schools should focus on the physical, moral and emotional aspects of sex, sexuality and their sexual health in their teachings. According to England and Wales, this should make sure that young people should:

“(learn) about physical, moral and emotional development. It is about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex, sexuality and sexual health (DfEE, 2000).

The above quotation shows to which extent sex education is important in the lives of teenagers as through sex education, these young people are going to have a brighter future.

It is important to note that that at the launch of a booklet on the rights of the child on the 09th of June, 2012, at Bell Village SSS, the Ministry of Education declared that sex education will form part of the curriculum as from the year 2013. According to him, the reasons behind implementing sex education in schools are because the students are coming up with strange ideas and there are several under 15 years old mothers in Mauritius. According to the Ministry of Education, sometimes during activity period, sex education is taught to students but this is not sufficient. He also believes that sex education will be imparted in different ways that is according to students’ age groups. The Ministry of Education also came upon the view that it is important to make students and parents understand the importance of sex education at schools before its implementation.

Sex education will help the young generation to succeed in life by having a bright future. It is also believed that whatever young people do when they are adolescents; those actions have great impacts in their whole lives (Perlman 2009).Thus, it is important for them to have an effective sex education.

According to The Department for Education and Skills, United Kingdom (2003), sex is used as a means of not only selling food but cars also. Due to these reasons, it becomes important to teach students about sexual relationships so that they do not receive wrong information about the subject.

It has also been argued that those who are handicapped and suffer from any illness should also be imparted with sex education. The sex education should cater for their needs and this should be taken into consideration when developing the curriculum (Ministry of Health, 2003).

Establishing sex education in schools

The formal school system is the most important venue where sex education can be imparted to students. The project of implementing sex education in school is still a controversial idea. There are different schools such as schools in the North America who have already included sex education in their curriculum as they believe that sex education will protect the students from unplanned pregnancies and even sexually transmitted infections. Boyce, Warre and King (2000) believe through sex education, all negative outcomes related to sex such as STDs and unwanted pregnancies should decrease. However, in some countries sex education remains a taboo as the people are on the views that if children learn about sex education they will be involved in sexual relationships and they even believe that sex education will corrupt the morals of students and will provide them with sexual ideas and as a result, they will be eager to experiment sex (Zain Al-Dien 2010). School-based sex education has been considered as the main source of information about sex; others included parents, peers and media (Juping Yu 2010).

Teen pregnancies are unexpected (Henshaw, 1998) which means that teen’s pregnancies are not deliberate acts and they took place as teen have a lack a knowledge about their reproductive system. Mkumbo and Ingham (2010) are on the view that sex education in schools, protect youngsters against HIV/AIDS and undesired pregnancy and will also prevent them to get involved into risky sexual behaviours.

It is fundamental to inculcate sex education in the school curriculum. It is believed that a curriculum- based sex education programs generally contribute towards positive effects on sexual behaviours in the sense that students delay in being sexually active or they take their precautions (Kirby, Laris, Rolleri, 2007).

Thomson (1994) further stresses upon the fact that:

“The sex education that girls and boys receive within the home is significantly different. Girls tend to be educated within a protective discourse emphasizing the dangers of boys, pregnancy and being ‘caught out’ while boys are more likely to be teased and encouraged in the development of their sexuality.”

The above quotation shows that girls learn about sex at home but it constructs female sexuality as passive. They do not learn about several important topics apart from being pregnant. When boys talk about sex at home, they are teased and are encouraged to develop their sexuality. This shows that the information that students are having about sex at home, is not enough. Sex education at school, will allow students to know more and to clear the doubts that they have about sex.

Researchers have also come up with the view that students look for information on sex from their friend, especially best friend, films, magazines and books (Griffin, 1984, Hey, 1997; McRobbie, 1978). However, sex education in schools is important in order to have discussions on the different issues read or seen by students about sex (McRobbie, 1978). Likewise, Bhattacharya (2000) and Wlash-Childers (1997) have researched upon the fact that adolescents learn about sex through mass media. But Bhattacharya (2000) even advocated that the sex education that adolescents have through mass media, is not useful and effective.

The Curriculum for Sex Education differs from school to school which means that schools found in different regions and states will have different curriculum for Sex Education. However, students’ health, preventive measures and Sexually Transmitted Diseases form part of almost all the Sex Education Curriculum. There should be curriculum-based sex education at it positively influences the lives of teenagers. For examples, teenagers have sexual intercourse at a later stage, they use condoms and have knowledge about contraceptives (Kirby; Laris; Rolleri, 2007).

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Establishing Sex Education for Students of Secondary levels

When children are growing into adults, they go through one of the most disturbing and change-laden phases in the life cycle which is known as adolescence. This phase is believed to be from the age of 10 to 22 years old which is divided into three periods: early adolescence which is from 10 to 14 years old, middle adolescence which is from 15 to 17 years old and late adolescence which is from 18 to 22 years old (Balk, 1995). During this period, adolescents undergo cognitive, social, biological and intrapsychic changes (Hill, 1980; Balk, 1995). It is at this stage itself that sexual development takes place (Herold and Marshall 1996). Adolescents experience hormonal changes, there are changes in the reproductive organs and in the feelings of adolescents. They think a lot about sexuality (Miller and Dyk, 1993). Brooks-Gunn and Paikoff (1997) are on the views that the sexual health of adolescents depend on these characteristics: know about the changes in their bodies and accept these changes positively, they are comfortable with sexual arousal, they are responsible for their sexual behavior (such as masturbation and sexual intercourse) and they are aware about protected sex.

Several measures have been taken and are still being taken to reduce and to even eliminate adolescent sexual activity. However, due to the increase in adolescents’ sexual activity, it has been found that it is normal to be sexually active during adolescence. It is believed that adolescents who are indulge in sexual activities at the age of 14 or younger, become victims of several health problems (Lammers, Ireland, Resnick, & Blum, 2000; Zabin, 1990; Leitenberg & Saltzman, 2000). It has even been argued that for a youth to have a bright future and to contribute towards the society, he must have knowledge about healthy sex education at the secondary level. Hueber and Gilman (2006) agree that it is only through school satisfaction that a student is satisfied with his life. Byers (2003), outlines the relationship between student satisfaction and a sexual health education.

Love and romance occupy important places in the lives of teenagers. As such, sex education should be implemented within relationship that is it should help teenagers to have a better understanding of their sexual life. At this phase of life, approaches which discourage sexual relationship should not be used (Reddy 2003; Shefer and Foster 2001).

It is believed that if students complete their secondary schools having knowledge of sex education they have a healthy sex life in the future (Meaney, 2009).

Teachers and sex education

Teachers play important roles in any educational system. However, in order to have a successful sex education in schools, it is important to have well-trained teachers (Kirby, Laris and Loreri (2006). Teachers who lack training and are not confident as far as sex education is concerned, will fail to deliver the lesson effectively (McCall and McKay, 2004).

Due to a lack of training and confidence, teachers are even ashamed to carry out the class on sex education. Thus, teachers deal with the basics and they even ignore certain topics. It is believed that the reason why sex education is embarrassing is because students use sexuality as a vehicle for humour. Thus, classrooms are disrupted by students and this embarrasses the teachers (Kehily and Nayak, 1996). Similarly, Daria and Campbell, (2004) are on the views that an exciting sex education depends on trained teachers so that students and teachers are not embarrassed.

Administrators, school superintendents and educators should work together and assume their responsibilities in order to make Sexuality education in school successful and efficient (Harrris, 2011).

Teachers’ knowledge of the subject matter, perception of the curriculum and the willingness to teach are important before implementing a curriculum (Scribber, 2000). It is important for teachers to feel confident as far as the subject matter is concerned in order to go towards an efficient and innovative approach of teaching sex education. Researchers also found that teachers who are interested with adolescents are more likely to impart sex education successfully (Harris,


Wight and Buston (2003), have identified four reasons why teachers are reluctant to teach sex education. Firstly, according to the norms set in the society, sex should not be discussed openly as having conversation on sexuality issues in society are considered to be embarrassing. Secondly, some teachers are on the views that they face problem to understand youths’ lifestyles as well as the recent development in sex education. As such, they will not be able to teach sex education effectively. Thirdly, being parents themselves, they object to teach sex education due to its content. Finally, teachers do not have enough time to teach sex education due to their work load.

Pattman and Chege (2003) believe that although sex education is imparted to students, yet teachers do not encourage students to participate. This is not going to make sex education successful as students need to be active and need to ask questions in order to clear their doubts. Some teachers even believe that sex education should not be imparted to students as they are still innocent (Bhana, 2008).

In different societies and countries, sex remains a taboo. As people are silent as far as matters on sex are concerned, these silences enable poor delivery of the lesson. Teachers still consider sex to be a taboo. As such, teachers are faced with a lack of vocabulary while delivery the lesson (Campbell; Foulis; Mainmane and Sibiya 2005).

Gender and Sex Education

It is important to note that both boys and girls should be imparted with sex education. At several instances, boys are excluded from topics such as sex education (Wood 1998). Wood believes that the notion of masculinity and being male is rarely discussed. Fishers (1994) believes that it is important to impart sex education to boys also. Thomson and Scott (1991) are on the views that sex education has a positive impact on the lives of young women.

UNAIDS Action Framework reports that gender inequality and unequal power relationships are the main reasons behind the increase in Aids. Both males and females should learn about sex. UNICEF (2002) focuses on both sexes while talking about STDs. This association asks whether the young people are receiving the right sex education or not.

According to HIV and Healthy Communities: strategy 2010-2012, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, both males and females should know about Sexually Transmitted Diseases. They should know about how to protect themselves as both genders are at risks. They should have the same education, so that they are not abused. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance also believes in gender equality so that both males and females are equally protected and it also believes that school can brings this change that is promoting gender equality. This is important that males and females will know about the importance of each other and thus, will respect each other.

Hurdles in the implementation of sex education at school

Some people including parents, teachers and other stakeholders believe that sex education is important in the lives of students while others believe that sex education should not be implemented due to several reasons. This debate had been existed since the past and it is still present today. Some believe that sex education will allow one to interfere in the life of another person and this is not allowed (Elia,2009; Irvine, 2002; Luker, 2006). Some people have doubts about whether sex education will improve the life of an individual or not. Some people are on the view that sex education will not tackle problems related to sex but will arouse sexual curiosity (Elia, 2009). Some stakeholders are on the opinion that students will not concentrate on academic topics if sex education is implemented in school (Elia, 2009; Goldfarb, 2009).

Parents can go against the introduction of sex education in schools as many of them consider sex to be a taboo and this matter is rarely or never discussed by parents. Boyd and McKay(1996) point out that in order to make the implementation of sex education at schools, parents need to cooperate and similarly Schaalma (2004) says that the attitudes and views of parents need to be taken into consideration while implementing sex education at schools.

At different instances, sex education is taught by staffs who lack training and are not confident about the subject matter (Scott and Thomson, 1992; Byers et al., 2003; Lester and Allan, 2006).

Content of Sex Education

After carrying a research in the USA, it was seen that there were several problematic issues related to the health of adolescents. It was decided that sex education should be imparted to the adolescents and as such its content was decided. The researchers decided that the lessons should cover protective measures such as using condom, it should be a two way system where students are participating and the class should be interactive. They even believe that the lesson should provide important information such how family planning services can be contacted. It should also teach students how to remain firm when their peer pressure is forcing them to have sex till the students are not ready for it. It should also cater for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, how they are transmitted and how to protect oneself against STDs. The lesson should include role playing and those who are teaching should be prepared (Wight, 1993). Similarly Wood (1998) focuses on the content of Sex Education. According to him, male and female reproductive systems, the contraceptive methods and family planning should form part of the content. Similarly Pearson (1999) emphasizes on the content of sex education. He believes that topics such as abortion, homosexuality, STDs, morality, sexual abuse, training and confidentiality should be part of the contents. He also focuses on the importance of resource persons who can help to make the topic more efficient.

Delivering Sex Education

To make sex education successful, efficient teaching strategies should be implemented. Wood (1998) has identified the different teaching strategies. According to him, the teachers should move around the class. The teacher should make use of simple language so that students understand. Questions should be asked at regular basis. If students do not answer the questions, the teacher should use prompt or use simplify his language. If students cannot understand the questions, teachers should change the teaching strategies. Continuous assessment should be carried out. He even believes that it is important to repeat the key words. Every lesson should be evaluated through specific questions.

Wight (1999) had identified some of the teaching strategies which will make sex education interesting for all students. He believes that simple questions should be asked time and again. Teaching strategies should differentiate that is there should be differences in the way that upper and lower secondary students are being taught as well as low and high ability students are being taught. He even believes that short exercises can help in the successful implementation of sex education. For him, the lesson should be student centered where students are participating actively.

Sampling methods:

This chapter analyses the methods which have been used in order to collect data for the analysis. Qualitative research has been opted and as such, interviews and questionnaires have been selected. As far as Qualitative research is concerned, the findings have not been acquired through statistics or other ways of quantification (Strauss and Corbin, 1999). But contrasted to qualitative research, quantitative research as the word itself suggests, is based on quantity that is statistics.

There are two main types of sampling methods; probability sampling ad non-probability sampling. Probability sampling also referred as random sampling is one in which getting any scenario or results can be accommodated or calculated scientifically. For example, research on the usage of two particular mobile phone operators; that is the number or users from each operator can be calculated.

On the other hand, non-probability sampling is a method used based on the prior knowledge of the subject being researched and on targeted samples who already have an expertise on the matter being interviewed for. Non-probability sampling is often used for social and psychological researches so as to get a broad idea about a massive population just by interviewing a random sample about that particular population. For example, interviewing doctors about a particular drug that is being implemented in the health sector.

Purposive Sampling

In this sampling method, we sample with an objective or purpose in our mind. We usually would have one or several specific focus groups we are searching. Purposive sampling is very useful for situations where we need to acquire focus sample in a small time lapse and where sampling for symmetry is not the main concern. With a purposive sampling, we are likely to get the views of our target population, but we are also likely to overweight subgroups in our population that are more readily reachable. Judgmental sampling also referred as Purposive sampling is as non-probability sampling method of sampling that is based on the idea that the interviewer or researcher already knows what are the required qualities from the interviewees thus making them the proper ones for the study.

Advantages of Judgmental sampling over other sampling methods.

This type of approach is better understood and straight forward compared to other sampling methods as the interviewer is already an expert in the field and the persons sampled are also well convenient in the topic. Also, judgmental sampling will be a better solution for this research as it is less time consuming as a large number of interviewers are not needed. Judgmental sampling will also be an advantage as no statistical knowledge is required. Also judgmental sampling method does not require vaste knowledge about mathematics and again as having never done advance Mathematics at secondary level this will be the best choice to carry out this research on teachers’ views on the topic.

Composition of the chosen focus group of teachers.

Like mentioned above all the subjects to be interviewed were from the secondary education sector from different institutions so as to get a broader idea about the subject. The group which was chosen consisted of 25 teachers, including 10 male and 15 female teachers from different institutions. Also, among the chosen teachers there was an equal ratio of age group, marital status, and level of education. Higher School Certificate, Diploma, BSc and Masters Degree, and lastly their level of experience. The sample chosen, though small in size will definitely give a broad view about how and why sex education can be introduced at secondary level.

Focus groups.

For the interview about whether sex education should be implemented at school, interview was chosen for some teachers as a qualitative means of research.


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