For many parents the talk about sex is uncomfortable. Who wouldn't feel uncomfortable discussing penises and vaginas with their kids? It is also uncomfortable for the kids as well. However, somebody has to teach the children about human sexuality lest they learn it from bad sources that peddle wrong information.
Many parents depend on schools to educate their children about sex. However, in many schools, nothing much about the subject is taught. In the U.S. schools, for example, studies have shown that formal sex education has been on a steady decline for 20 years now. A lot of emotion and religious beliefs control how this topic is discussed in America.
In other countries however sex education is taught in quite interesting ways.
1. The Netherlands & Scandinavia Begin From an Early Age
The Dutch usually begin teaching their kindergartners about puppy love during their annual “spring fever week”. Norway has “Puberteten” a cheerfully explicit sex education video series that targets children from 8-12 years old. In Sweden, the primary school kids watch videos about their private parts which they refer to as “Snoop” and “Snippa” before they tackle heavier subjects in the later grades. These sex education efforts have actually been fruitful because today both Norway and the Netherlands have the lowest levels of teen pregnancy rates in the world.
2. The United Kingdom Handles It Formally
You are probably thinking "formal", "proper" and "precise" when you think of England. Well, the English are indeed proper when it comes to formal sex education. The sex and relationship education is compulsory for all students who are 11-years old and going up. However, these lessons are not included in the day to day curriculum, but are instead added as an afterthought and only included at the end of the year as simply a one day lecture.
The British have also made it an option for parents to remove their children from the class if they object to the subject matter and many actually do which is unfortunate. This results in a lot of kids finding out about sex from other unfriendly sources like British television or the internet which could have very misleading information.
3. How China Deals With The Awkward Talk
Back in 2011, a Chinese couple actually made headlines for trying to get pregnant by simply laying next to each other in bed for 3 years. Now that is proof of a lack of Sexual Education. With more than a billion Chinese, there is no doubt that most of them definitely know how babies are made. Still, that couple is a good sign of how uneven China’s sex education has been. The rule under Chairman Mao was famously "proper" that it wasn't until the 80s that sex education became compulsory for all high schools. Still today some women in China can pay almost half their monthly wage to receive private sex classes.
4. South Africa Using the Fear Factor
Sex education in South Africa is better today than the days of apartheid where the main aim was to discourage sexual encounters between the different races. Today in the official South African "Life Orientation" curriculum, having sex is packaged and presented as risky business. The focus is mainly on diseases such as HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual violence. Anything apart from strict hetero sex is, "unnatural". Studies have shown that students find these lessons boring and irrelevant. They actually know things that their teachers aren't telling them and one of them is that "Sex is actually fun"
5. Latin America and Liberal Cuba
The world has this perception of Latin America as a very sexy passionate place. However, that is yet to translate into comprehensive sex education for the young Latina people there. Argentina, for example, offers free contraceptives for everyone 14 years and older, however, conservative mindsets continue to prevent better sex education in the schools.
In El Salvador, for example, there is actually no formal sex education which is why it has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the region. Only Cuba which has a compulsory sex education in their schools right from preschool to college has low rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.
6. The Vatican has Lightened Up
Yes, even the Vatican is sitting up and taking notice. Pope Francis and his crew did actually revise their guidelines for Church sex education just the other day. Of course, this sparked controversy across the Catholic world and not in protest but because the Christian critics voiced that the new guidelines take the responsibility for a child’s sexual education out of the control of their parents.
The objection to these new guidelines by the Vatican was against the fact that: the boys and girls are taught sex education together. The lessons don't encourage celibacy and hardly condemn practices such as prostitution, homosexuality, adultery, masturbation and the use of condoms. To make matters worse, the lessons also use Elton John an openly gay celebrity as a good example of “gifted and famous”.
It is evident that the subject of sex education is a touchy one. As we have seen, in countries where it is mandatory in schools, the levels of irresponsible sexual behavior are low and the reverse is for countries where it isn’t. One thing is evident though; parents have failed to teach their children about sex and left the responsibility to schools and churches. As much as it is uncomfortable, parents should take up their role and teach their children the right way when it comes to sexual matters rather than relying on schools and churches.