Need for Sex Education in Schools

I was not shying away from this topic. Yes, it is late, but better late then never. I was going through my notes on the subject when I realized that I have not posted anything on this topic. I talked about Social stigma of an unwed mother, but this topic should have come somewhere at that time only. I wrote that post in May 2009 and at that time only in April, a parliamentary committee had put forward his stand on the issue.

The committee recommended that there should be no sex education in schools. The committee itself refused a power point presentation on the question “after going through the hard copy because of its explicit contents.  The Committee felt that it was not comfortable with it and could be embarrassing especially to the lady Members and other lady staff present.”

The committee had also recommended that the chapters like ‘Physical and Mental Development in Adolescents’ and ‘HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ be removed from the general curriculum. Instead, they want these topics to be included in biology syllabus at plus two stage of schooling.

“Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy.” It also recommended that students should be made aware of the fact that indulging in sex outside the institution of marriage was against social ethos.

In school, during a biology class (we were in class X at that time) everyone was waiting expectantly when our teacher skipped an entire chapter, which was schedule for that day. The chapter included the anatomy of the female breast. Similarly, topics on Human Reproduction were also skipped.  In place of introducing us on the topics, we were introduced to yet another stigma of our society.  Somehow, I wonder, we live in the world of stigmas. Even after charting out a fantastic path in the field of sciences, rationalism, education,  etc.  we still have these kinds of stigmas prevailing in the society. It is not only the case in India but many countries in the world.

I also wonder teachers are regarded as the most-ideal person. In my opinion they are the people who can end torrent of wretchedness by educating the society. They are the people who can emancipate the society from the stigmas that it faces. But somehow the incident in my school-days made me realize that even teachers succumb to these stigmas. When emancipator is not free from these mores then how will they be able to free the society.  There is something wrong in our education system because education which is considered as an emancipator is itself controlled.

Sex-education has become an intensely controversial issue because unlike most subjects, sex education is concerned with an especially sensitive and highly personal part of human life. I understand that sex even if done at the proper time, with a proper person, in a proper place, is a topic that makes many Indians uncomfortable. You cannot discuss this topic at home or school as “nice kids are not supposed to take any interest in ‘these’ things.”

However, there are many, including me, who think that sex-education should be imparted in schools. Given to understand that there are 2.47 million cases of HIV infected persons in the country and with sexual transmission being the predominant mode of HIV transmission, I do not see any reason to deny adolescents the right knowledge on the subject.

Teaching topics like ‘Physical and Mental Development in Adolescents’ and ‘HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ as par of biology is a work of deception. As Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich commented that sex education of his time was a work of deception, focusing on biology while concealing excitement-arousal, which is what a pubescent individual, is mostly interested in. Reich added that this emphasis obscures what he believed to be a basic psychological principle that all worries and difficulties originate from unsatisfied sexual impulses.

As per NACO’s website,

In India people in the age group of 15-29 years comprise almost 25 percent of the country’s population; however, they account for 31 percent of AIDS burden. This clearly indicates that young people are at high risk of contracting HIV infection. Most young people become sexually active during adolescence. In the absence of right guidance and information at this stage they are more likely to have multi-partner unprotected sex with high risk behaviour groups.

With increasing exposure to television and internet, children will gain knowledge about sex eventually. The purpose of sex education should therefore be to teach them what safe, healthy and acceptable sexual behaviour is covering proponents of reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, contraception, and other aspects of human sexual behaviour.

The argument in favour of sex-education in school can be summed up with argument put forward by Gandhiji,

 We cannot properly control or conquer the sexual passion by turning a blind eye to it. I am, therefore, strongly in favour of teaching young boys and girls the significance and right use of their generative organs… But the sex education that I stand for must have for its object the conquest and sublimation of the sex passion. Such education should automatically serve to bring home to children the essential distinction between man and brute, to make them realize that it is man’s special privileged and pride to be gifted with the faculties of head and heart both; that he is a thinking no less than a feeling animal, as the very derivation of the word shows, and to renounce the sovereignty of reason over the blind instincts is, therefore, to renounce a man’s estate. In man, reason quickens and guides the feeling, in brute, the soul lies ever dormant. To awaken the heart is to awaken the dormant soul, to awaken reason, and to inculcate discrimination between good and evil… To-day, our entire environment—our reading, our thinking, our social behaviour—is generally calculated to sub-serve and cater for the sex urge. To break through its coils is no easy task. But it is a task worthy of our highest endeavour.

Sexual education may thus be seen as providing individuals with the knowledge necessary to liberate themselves from socially organized sexual oppression and to make up their own minds. An open dialogue about physical intimacy and health education can generate more self-esteem, self-confidence, humour and general health.

9 thoughts on “Need for Sex Education in Schools”

  1. I would suggest you to put a hyper link to your blog name which u hv mentioned in first para “Social Stigma”. this would help people who have not read it

    India being a conservative country would not easily implement sex education in schools moreover you know how Indian politicians are. They would do anything to keep India grounded and illiterate and hold back all the wealth with themselves that needs to be disseminated among educational campaigns.

    Corruption and bad politics is the root cause. A poor family would not know what is good or bad for them. they are not even ready to send their children in schools, sex education is out of the picture for them.

    An organized systematic change is required to reinforce and implement the education.

  2. As a student I too faced similar situation of the topics being skipped by the teachers. As I was growing up I always wondered as to why it was a stigma. After doing lot of reading I went to roots of it. What I understand is the reality behind such sigma is rooted not at social level but at spiritual & religious level. Later some how it became a taboo at social level. Because of the complex situation of today with an attitude of negation of all that is old or traditional & with wide acceptance of western liberal values,
    The statements like- “Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy.” It also recommended that students should be made aware of the fact that indulging in sex outside the institution of marriage was against social ethos.”- are bound to make no sense.

    This kind of reason can boomerang with youngsters.They argue” why is it immoral & unethical?”. “How can it be unhealthy with proper precautions?”
    How can teachers or parents who have never tried anything beyond academics answer such questions?

    Now I am myself a teacher. In spite of very much willing to take up the subject I find it difficult to put across these things to my students not because of any stigma but because it is extremely difficult to make them understand that indulging in unethical sexual behavior harms the indulgent more than the society .

    As a mother with my teenage daughter I can easily put things across as I have made her understand certain aspects of spirituality and its applicability in day today life. But being teacher in a secular school I can not do the same.

    As a teacher I am always supportive of ‘ Sex education” & also have tried the same in value education classes & what I have realized is that it becomes difficult or almost impossible to reason the unethical & immoral nature of premature, premarital or extra marital sex with out scaring the students about social stigmas.

    Unhealthy aspect has always been easier but there are answers for it & the protection is always readily available.

    1. You are right that the stigma is rooted in the religious and spiritual level.

      The other day I was having discussion with few of my friends. One of them said that if teacher will try to educate the students on the topic then it will be a fun lecture and rather than learning they will waste the period in making mockery. I was silent when another of my friend responded to this. This second friend of mine is from Jabalpur and studied in a government school there. In his school there was a teacher named Mrs Johnson. What I admire about the teacher is that she took the class on the topics that I mentioned in the main post and there was no one in the class who was giggling or making fun. Everyone was listening to her.

      So, it is the ability of the teacher to deal with the subject and students. It is not that students are always going to make fun of things. They want to know and learn. They are inquisitive and excited about the topic. And they have all the right to know the right thing.

      We need to educate teachers so that they may take the classes on the topic with ease.

  3. “And they have all the right to know the right thing.” Yes , I agree. But what is this “right thing”. That is the question?

    I had attended seminars & workshops on this subject as a teacher. But this is the issue that has been never resolved.

    If the right things means anatomy & safe sex….. teachers of my generation are perfectly comfortable teaching this. Regarding the explicit content …..that is everywhere i.e on the internet, books, CDs in short no dearth of it. What is lacking is right attitude & a proper perspective ? This can not be taught in a 45 min classroom. It has to be inculcated right from a very young age. And this is where we are failing as parents as teachers & as a society. Even the so called liberal society of westerners have failed in this aspect. The failing relationships & family structures are proof of this.

    In my view inculcation of spiritual values irrespective of religion is the only way i.e every human being is born divine has to be proved & techniques to experience it should be taught right from the early age. Once an individual knows ( not believes but knows) this he himself will understand the implications of healthy & unhealthy sex.

  4. We are not talking about 45-min one-time classroom session. It is about many 45-min class-room session. That will means teacher will have ample time to set the context and inculcate these things.

    We are talking about failing relationships and family structures in western countries but this pattern is taking serious form in India as well. I have many of my friends who are facing such relationships. So, it means there is something wrong. We are not as liberal as we are thought to be.

    I will leave the method of teaching for the teachers to decide. It is a topic on which teacher should feel comfortable in spreading the awareness that is required of him or her. If you that spirituality is the way then that should be.

    1. The teacher is free to adopt any method or use any reference books as far as math & science. But in every country there are strict norms when it comes to story telling, history & Value education. As a teacher I was shocked to know that there is ‘ Indian history for British” & ” Indian history for Indians” . In middle east the value education is “Islamic studies” for Muslims & moral sciences for non Muslims. In democratic countries like U.K, U.S.A , India etc. religious stories are a strict no no in value education classes. With so many restrictions, teachers experience terrible limitation while imparting certain values.

      Yes if the teacher is comfortable , the students will listen silently , they also understand the pros & cons but when it comes to application of the what they have learnt they fail miserably.

      We should never forget that sex is a powerful instinct. Most of the people who commit blunders in such matters & suffer emotionally and physically are quite rational people otherwise.

      All this happens because still we are unable to crack the question ” what is the “right thing”.
      In normal mode of classroom this can not be taught without complete freedom given to a teacher from all the angles. Mostly people are skeptical because here it is not just the physical factor but there are lot of strong & sublime emotional factors. It can completely make a person or suck him up. This skepticism & uncertainty of the out come has created the stigmas.

      Complete freedom has destroyed family structure in America. We are all aware of it. But we are afraid to include it in curriculum endorsing America an example for such a thing. Because politically it would be incorrect. So the whole issue is not as simple as it appears to be.

  5. The very need of having a debate over Sex ‘EDUCATION’ highlights the sorry attitude our society has developed for the topic. However it is a must due to the split in society between those who believe that it is required or not.

    The main issue that needs to be addressed is how to take the issue to the young children. It is mainly the comfort level of the person who is delivering it (and we need not restrict to teachers in school. It is inclusive of parents, relatives and the society as a whole.) We are part of a generation where our parents and teachers lived in society which carried a stigma for sex education/dialogues. So it was but natural that the right kind of education was not received.

    In a previous reply to this thread it was mentioned that there will be mockery in the classroom (I myself have experienced this during school ‘Sex education’ session) over the topic. However this is just a natural reaction from a dialogue deprived young community and will wane off as the dialogue starts. This needs the system(schools / parents/ other institutes) to start a dialogue which is sustained over a period of time and is not restricted to a few lessons and superficial introductions.

    Also, the individuals imparting knowledge on sex should be first free from bias about social acceptance and strands of morality. The decision of what to do should be left to individuals after explaining the pros and cons. In course of time we will see that most individuals will do what is right for them. The very suppression of expression and creation of a ‘hush hush’ atmosphere perpetuates unhealthy atmosphere and wrong(or rather harmful) actions.

  6. @PD you are correct. “Also, the individuals imparting knowledge on sex should be first free from bias about social acceptance and strands of morality. The decision of what to do should be left to individuals after explaining the pros and cons. In course of time we will see that most individuals will do what is right for them.”

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