news

Startling proof: Sex education isn't working.

Calls for our national curriculum to go further in its detail

Here are some statistics that may startle you – almost one in three Australian teenagers have had sexual intercourse without a condom by the time they reach year 12.

Up to 500,000 Australians are estimated to have chlamydia and not even know it.

So it was a concern when sexual health advocates declared the draft national curriculum on sex education a ”dreadful attempt” at teaching sexual health in high schools when it was first released late last year.

The curriculum, which is still in its draft stages, has been criticized for allowing schools to simply side step any sexual health issues they feel uncomfortable with.

In Australia a survey last year asked 1,219 young Australians between the ages of 15 and 29 about their formal and informal sex education.

85% said they gained information from the internet while only 69% got information from their school.

64% said they learnt about sex from pornography.

More than 80% of these young people thought that sex-ed should be the same in every school.

The concern for many Australian parents is that if young people do not get the education they need at school they will turn to the internet.

Calls for sex education to teach boys to respect girls

Sex educators are worried that our curriculum will not do enough to counteract the rise of sexting and pornography and will lead to a generation of young men and women with unrealistic attitudes towards sex – and a generation of young men with dangerous attitudes towards girls.

Australia should perhaps take note of the way the issue is becoming front page news in the UK with a leading online mum’s site – Mumsnet joining prominent campaigners to petition for sex education to be compulsory in UK schools. And the reason they want is compulsory – in order to teach boys to respect girls.

The letter states that one in three girls is groped or has some other form of unwanted sexual touching at school.

They write that easy access to online pornography, which is often violent, has resulted in many young men believing that this sort of sex is the norm.

“In an age of one-click-away violent and degrading pornography online that is becoming the default sex-educator for some young people, this is woefully inadequate,” the letter says.

It has been signed by the heads of leading UK domestic violence charities, academics, Laura Bates, founder of the new Everyday Sexism campaign, and Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet.

“Since then internet use has grown exponentially and the lack of reference to the internet, online bullying or mobile technology in the guidelines seems hopelessly out of touch,” she said.

“Four in five of our users think sex education should address issues like pornography and sexting, and from a relatively young age.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The SMH reported last year that there were widespread concerns about the new national Australian curriculum. The chief executive of Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS, Alischa Ross told the SMH that ”there is an extraordinary emphasis on movement and physical activity and very little in that personal, social and community health strand,” she said.

She said that the curriculum allows for individual schools to interpret the curriculum as they see fit, “which means they can quite easily omit important content if they decide they don’t want to teach it. They could replace lessons on sexual health with lessons on abstaining from sex … and that’s terrifying.”

However the Australian Family Association spokesman Tempe Harvey said the curriculum already went too far in making sexual health education compulsory.

”This amounts to a one-size-fits-all morality education being forced on parents against their will,” Ms Harvey said. ”It should be optional as an extracurricular activity.

”Many parents would like their children taught abstinence before anything else and that would not be an option if their children are subjected to these classes. They will be told you can do whatever you like as long as you’re wearing a condom.”

The Dutch teach – “If you are going to have sex have it safely”

An Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority spokesman said in the SMH article that the authority rejected the criticism and believed it had ”struck the right balance”.

A petition on change.org disputes this and calls for the Australian curriculum to go further than the current draft, calling for it to include criteria for a comprehensive sex education:

-understanding and preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections including methods of barrier protection

-understanding and preventing unwanted pregnancy

-accepting and being respectful of LGBTIQ individuals

-respecting one’s sexual partner and what constitutes consent

Perhaps Australia needs to look to systems such as the Dutch sex ed curriculum whichstems from a core value that if you are going to have sex, do it safely.

Sex educator Matty Silver writes that the Dutch philosophy is a simple one. “Young people have the right to adequate sex education so that they can make well-informed choices in sexuality and relationships.

“The country has the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy in the Western world and the average age for their first experience of sexual intercourse is one year older than in Britain.”

Something both Australia and UK educators could learn a thing or two from.

To access the change.org petition click here.

00:00 / ???