Sex education is instruction on issues relating to sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, sexual abstinence, and birth control. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, formal school programs, and public health campaigns.
Traditionally, adolescents in many cultures were not given any information on sexual matters, with discussion of these issues being considered taboo. Such instruction as was given was traditionally left to a child's parents, and often this was put off until just before a child's marriage. The progressive education movement of the late 19th century, however, led to the introduction of "social hygiene" in North American school curricula and the advent of school-based sex education. Despite early inroads of school-based sex education, most of the information on sexual matters in the mid-20th century was obtained informally from friends and the media, and much of this information was deficient or doubtful value, especially during the period following puberty when curiosity of sexual matters was the most acute. This deficiency became increasingly evident by the increasing incidence of teenage pregnancies, especially in Western countries after the 1960s. As part of each country's efforts to reduce such pregnancies, programs of sex education were instituted, initially over strong opposition from parent and religious groups.
The outbreak of Planned Parenthood consider that broad sex education programs have global benefits, such as controlling the risk of overpopulation and the advancement of women's rights (see also reproductive rights). The use of mass media campaigns has sometimes resulted in high levels of "awareness" coupled with essentially superficial knowledge of HIV transmission.
According to SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 93% of adults they surveyed support sexuality education in high school and 84% support it in junior high school. In fact, 88% of parents of junior high school students and 80% of parents of high school students believe that sex education in school makes it easier for them to talk to their adolescents about sex. Also, 92% of adolescents report that they want both to talk to their parents about sex and to have comprehensive in-school sex education. Furthermore, a "...study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective."
- Definitions 1
- Evidence 2
- Sources 3
- Public opinion 4
By area 5
- Africa 5.1
- Thailand 5.2.1
- India 5.2.2
- Other countries 5.2.3
- Finland 5.3.1
- France 5.3.2
- Germany 5.3.3
- Poland 5.3.4
- Portugal 5.3.5
- The Netherlands 5.3.6
- Slovak Republic 5.3.7
- Sweden 5.3.8
- Switzerland 5.3.9
United Kingdom 5.3.10
- England and Wales 18.104.22.168
- Scotland 22.214.171.124
North America 5.4
- Canada 5.4.1
United States 5.4.2
- Virginia 126.96.36.199
- Texas 188.8.131.52
- Australia 5.5.1
- New Zealand 5.5.2
- Morality 6
- LGBT sex education 7
- See also 8
- References 9
- Further reading 10
- External links 11
Burt defined sex education as the study of the characteristics of beings: a male and female. Such characteristics make up the person's sexuality. Sexuality is an important aspect of the life of a human being and almost all people, including children, want to know about it. Sex education includes all the educational measures which - regardless of the particular method used - may center on sex. He further said that sex education stands for protection, presentation extension, improvement and development of the family based on accepted ethical ideas.
Leepson sees sex education as instruction in various physiological, psychological and sociological aspects of sexual response and reproduction. Kearney (2008) also defined sex education as "involving a comprehensive course of action by the school, calculated to bring about the socially desirable attitudes, practices and personal conduct on the part of children and adults, that will best protect the individual as a human and the family as a social institution." Thus, sex education may also be described as "sexuality education", which means that it encompasses education about all aspects of sexuality, including information about family planning, reproduction (fertilization, conception and development of the embryo and fetus, through to childbirth), plus information about all aspects of one's sexuality including: body image, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, values, decision making, communication, dating, relationships, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and how to avoid them, and birth control methods. Various aspect of sex education are considered appropriate in school depending on the age of the students or what the children are able to comprehend at a particular point in time. Rubin and Kindendall expressed that sex education is not merely a unit in reproduction and teaching how babies are conceived and born. It has a far richer scope and goal of helping the youngster incorporate sex most meaningfully into his present and future life, to provide him with some basic understanding on virtually every aspect of sex by the time he reaches full maturity.
Evidence shows that a combination of comprehensive sex education and access to birth control appears to decrease the rates of unintended pregnancies among teenagers. A meta-analysis compared comprehensive sex education programs with abstinence-only programs found that abstinence-only programs did not reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, but rather may increased it.
"Few sexual health interventions are designed with input from adolescents. Adolescents have suggested that sex education should be more positive with less emphasis on anatomy and scare tactics; it should focus on negotiation skills in sexual relationships and communication; and details of sexual health clinics should be advertised in areas that adolescents frequent (for example, school toilets, shopping centres)."
Also, a U.S. review concludes that "the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that sex education that discusses contraception does not increase sexual activity". The 2007 study found that "No comprehensive program hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex, results that many people fear." Further, the report showed "Comprehensive programs worked for both genders, for all major ethnic groups, for sexually inexperienced and experienced teens, in different settings, and in different communities."
Sex education may be taught informally, such as when someone receives information from a conversation with a parent, friend, religious leader, or through the media. It may also be delivered through sex self-help authors, magazine advice columnists, sex columnists, or sex education web sites. Formal sex education occurs when schools or health care providers offer sex education. Slyer stated that sex education teaches the young person what he or she should know for his or her personal conduct and relationship with others. Gruenberg also stated that sex education is necessary to prepare the young for the task ahead. According to him, officials generally agree that some kind of planned sex education is necessary.
Sometimes formal sex education is taught as a full course as part of the curriculum in junior high school or high school. Other times it is only one unit within a more broad biology class, health class, home economics class, or physical education class. Some schools offer no sex education, since it remains a controversial issue in several countries, particularly the United States (especially with regard to the age at which children should start receiving such education, the amount of detail that is revealed, including LGBT sex education, and topics dealing with human sexual behavior, e.g. safe sex practices, masturbation, premarital sex, and sexual ethics).
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. Leepson asserted that the majority of people favors some sort of sex instruction in public schools, and this 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. He suggested that sex education should be taught in the classroom. The problem of pregnancy in adolescents is delicate and difficult to assess using sex education. But Calderone believed otherwise, stating that the answer to adolescents' sexual woes and pregnancy can not lie primarily in school programmes which at best can only be remedial; what is needed is prevention education and as such parents should be involved.
When sex education is contentiously debated, the chief controversial points are whether covering child sexuality is valuable or detrimental; whether LGBT sex education should be integrated into the curriculum; the use of birth control such as condoms and hormonal contraception; and the impact of such use on pregnancy outside marriage, teenage pregnancy, and the transmission of STIs. Increasing support for abstinence-only sex education by conservative groups has been one of the primary causes of this controversy. Countries with conservative attitudes towards sex education (including the UK and the U.S.) have a higher incidence of STIs and teenage pregnancy.
A survey conducted in Britain, Canada and the United States by Angus Reid Public Opinion in November 2011 asked adult respondents to look back to the time when they were teenagers, and describe how useful several sources were in enabling them to learn more about sex. By far, the largest proportion of respondents in the three countries (74% in Canada, 67% in Britain and 63% in the United States) said that conversations with friends were "very useful" or "moderately useful." The next reputable source was the media (television, books, movies, magazines), mentioned by three-in-five British (65%) and Canadians (62%) and more than half of Americans (54%) as useful.
There are some striking differences on two other sources. While half of Canadians (54%) and Americans (52%) found their sex education courses at school to be useful, only 43% of British share the same view. And while more than half of Americans (57%) say conversations with family were useful, only 49% of Canadians and 35 percent of British had the same experience.
Sex education in Africa has focused on stemming the growing  The Global Gag Rule was again suspended as one of the first official acts by United States President Barack Obama. The incidences of new HIV transmissions in Uganda decreased dramatically when Clinton supported a comprehensive sex education approach (including information about contraception and abortion). According to Ugandan AIDS activists, the Global Gag Rule undermined community efforts to reduce HIV prevalence and HIV transmission.
The state of sex education programs in Asia is at various stages of development.
Only in Thailand has there been progress on sex education, with the boundaries being pushed forward with each revision of the curriculum. Thailand has already introduced sexuality education. The first national policy on sexuality education in schools was announced in 1938, but sex education was not taught in schools until 1978. Then it was called "Life and Family Studies", and its content consisted of issues related to the reproductive system and personal hygiene. The education curriculum has been revised several times, involving efforts from both government and non-government sectors, and sex education has been accepted as a problem solving tool for adolescent SRH issues. This has been a consequence of educational reform following the National Education Act B.E. 2542, increasing awareness of problems related to adolescents’ sexual practices, and the emergence of women’s sexuality, and queer movements. Another new approach in sexuality education curricula in Thailand has been the Teenpath Project developed by PATH, Thailand. PATH has also succeeded in institutionalizing sexuality education curricula in schools since 2003.
In India, there are many programs promoting sex education including information on AIDS in schools as well public education and advertising. AIDS clinics providing information and assistance can be found in most cities and many small villages.
India has a strong prevention program which goes hand in hand with care, support and treatment. We have been able to contain the epidemic with a prevalence of just 0.31%. We have also brought about a decline of 50% in new infections annually.— Shri Gulam Nabi Azad, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare, 2011.
Indonesia, Mongolia and South Korea have a systematic policy framework for teaching about sex within schools. Malaysia and Thailand have assessed adolescent reproductive health needs with a view to developing adolescent-specific training, messages and materials.
In China and Sri Lanka, sex education traditionally consists of reading the reproduction section of biology textbooks. In Sri Lanka young people are taught when they are 17–18 years old. However, in 2000 a new five-year project was introduced by the China Family Planning Association to "promote reproductive health education among Chinese teenagers and unmarried youth" in twelve urban districts and three counties. This included discussion about sex within human relationships as well as pregnancy and HIV prevention.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation and the BBC World Service ran a 12-part series known as Sexwise, which discussed sex education, family life education, contraception and parenting. It was first launched in South Asia and then extended worldwide.
Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung recommend sex education of children at all ages.
In Finland, sexual education is usually incorporated into various obligatory courses, mainly as part of biology lessons (in lower grades) and later in a course related to general health issues.
In France, sex education has been part of school curricula since 1973. Schools are expected to provide 30 to 40 hours of sex education, and pass out condoms, to students in grades 8 and 9. In January 2000, the French government launched an information campaign on contraception with TV and radio spots and the distribution of five million leaflets on contraception to high school students. In September 2013, the government launched a new program called “les ABCD de l’égalité” (the ABCD of equality) whose main aim is to “fight gender stereotypes at school”. The ultimate goal is to foster mutual respect between boys and girls early on so that it impacts their conception of the world later on.
In Germany, sex education has been part of school curricula since 1970. Since 1992 sex education is a governmental duty by law.
It normally covers all subjects concerning the process of growing up, bodily changes during puberty, emotions involved, the biological process of reproduction, sexual activity, partnership, homosexuality, unwanted pregnancies and the complications of abortion, the dangers of sexual violence, child abuse, and sex-transmitted diseases. It is comprehensive enough that it sometimes also includes things in its curricula such as sex positions. Most schools offer courses on the correct usage of contraception.
A sex survey by the
- Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
- Facts on Sex Education in the United States From the Guttmacher Institute
- Doinitright.org Place where teens can ask anonymous questions about sexual health
- STD Testing Resource for STD test clinics in the United States
- Sex information website by the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Seksuele Hervorming (Dutch Society for Sexual Reform)
- Sexwise Sex information for teenagers in the UK
- Youth-Policy Youth reproductive health and HIV/AIDS policy in developing countries
- TeenSource.org Sex education site for teens
- Sex, Etc. The national magazine and Web site written by teens, for teens, on sexual health issues.
- The SexEdLibrary A comprehensive resource for sexuality education teachers.
- Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe Research site from the field of sex education, contraception and family planning (Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA))
- Youth sexuality in the internet age - a qualitative study of the social and sexual relationships of young people (commissioned by the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA))
Library resources about
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- Deschamps, 1999
- "Joy of sex education" by George Monbiot, The Guardian, 11 May 2004
- Mario Canseco (30 November 2011). "Americans, Britons and Canadians Disagree on Sex Education".
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- Adolescents In Changing Times: Issues And Perspectives For Adolescent Reproductive Health In The ESCAP Region United Nations Social and Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific
- Sex Has Many Accents TIME
- Sex education begins to break taboos China Development Brief, 2005-06-03
- Involve The Young! Interview with Dr Pramilla Senanayake, assistant director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation
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- Kontula, Osmo (Nov 2010). "The Evolution of Sex Education and Students' Sexual Knowledge in Finland in the 2000s" 10 (4). pp. 373–386.
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- "European Sex Survey". Spiegel.de. 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
- Complaints against Germany about mandatory sex education classes declared inadmissible ECtHR press release 153 (2011), 22.09.2011
- "Edukacja seksualna w polityce władz centralnych po transformacji ustrojowej". Racjonalista.pl. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
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- The Dutch model UNESCO Courier
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- "Teen pregnancy rates go back up". BBC News. 2009-02-26.
- "Teen Sex Survey". Channel 4. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
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"Teen Birth Rate Rises for First Time in 14 Years" (Press release). CDC National Center for Health Statistics. 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
The report shows that between 2005 and 2006, the birth rate for teenagers aged 15-19 rose 3 percent, from 40.5 live births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2005 to 41.9 births per 1,000 in 2006. This follows a 14-year downward trend in which the teen birth rate fell by 34 percent from its all-time peak of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.
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- Hauser, Debra (2004). "Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact". Advocates for Youth. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
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- Comprehensive Sex Education is More Effective at Stopping the Spread of HIV Infection
- AMA Policy Finder - American Medical Association
- NASP Position Statement on Sexuality Education
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- Adolescent Health
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- States that decline abstinence-only funding include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
- "Maine Declines Federal Funds for Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs, Says New Guidelines Prohibit 'Safe-Sex' Curriculum". Medical News Today. 2005-09-23. Retrieved 2007-05-24.
- Huffstutter, P.J. (2007-04-09). "States refraining from abstinence-only sex education". Boston Globe (Los Angeles Times). Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- "An Overview of Federal Abstinence-Only Funding" (PDF). 
- Mixon, Melissa (2007-10-06). "Abstinence programs brace for major funding cut". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- "Study: Abstinence programs no guarantee". CNN.com. Associated Press. 2007-04-14. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-04-18.
- "Mathematica Findings Too Narrow" (Press release). National Abstinence Education Association. 2007-04-13. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- Mulrine, Anna (27 May 2002). "Risky Business". U.S. News & World Report. pp. 42–49.
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- "Texas House of Representatives : Representative Villarreal, Mike". House.state.tx.us. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
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- The ABC of Sex Education for Trainables, a short film informing people about the need to educate the mentally disabled ("trainables") about sex
- About Your Sexuality
- Adolescent sexuality
- AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETCs) in the US
- Harm reduction
- Harmful to Minors, a book by Judith Levine, which deals with sexual morality and sex education in the United States
- Our Whole Lives
- Permissive society
- Refusal skills
- Section 28 (UK)
- Sex manual
- Sexual revolution
- Social conservatism
- The birds and the bees
- World War II U.S. Military Sex Education
Proponents of LGBT sex education argue that encompassing homosexuality into the curricula would provide LGBT students with the sexual health information they need, and help to ameliorate problems such as low self-esteem and depression that research has shown can be present in LGBT individuals. They also claim that it could reduce homophobic bullying. Opponents often argue that teaching LGBT sex education would be disrespectful to some religions and expose students to inappropriate topics. They say that including homosexuality in the curriculum would violate parents’ rights to control what their children are exposed to and that schools should not inflict a particular political view on students. Currently, many sex education curricula do not include LGBT topics and research has reported that students often feel that they do not receive adequate instruction in LGBT sex topics.
One major source of controversy in the realm of sex education is whether LGBT sex education should be integrated into school curricula. LGBT sex education includes safe sex practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual individuals and general instruction in topics related to homosexuality. Studies have shown that many schools do not offer such education today.
LGBT sex education
Many religions teach that sexual behavior outside of marriage is immoral and/or psychologically damaging, and many adherents desire this morality to be taught as a part of sex education. They may believe that sexual knowledge is necessary, or simply unavoidable, hence their preference for curricula based on abstinence.
Some claim that certain sex education curricula break down pre-existing notions of modesty or encourage acceptance of what they consider immoral practices, such as homosexuality or premarital sex. A supporting web site is the Coalition for Positive Sexuality. Naturally, those that believe that homosexuality and premarital sex are a normal part of the range of human sexuality disagree with them.
Another question in the sex education debate is whether the state or the family should teach sexual mores. Some believe that sexual mores should be left to the family, and sex-education represents state interference.
Another viewpoint on sex education, historically inspired by sexologists like sexual oppression and to make up their own minds. In addition, sexual oppression may be viewed as socially harmful. Sex and relationship experts like Reid Mihalko of "Reid About Sex" suggests that open dialogue about physical intimacy and health education can generate more self-esteem, self-confidence, humor, and general health.
One approach to sex education is to view it as necessary to reduce the risk of certain sexual behaviors and equip individuals to make informed decisions about their personal sexual activity.
The Health / Hauora curriculum, including the sexuality education component, is the only part of the New Zealand Curriculum / Te Matauranga o Aotearoa (the former for English-medium schools, the latter for Māori-medium schools) in which state and state-integrated schools must legally consult with the school community regarding its delivery, and the consultations must occur at least once every two years. Parents can ask for their children to be removed from the sexuality education component of the health curriculum for any reason, provided they apply in writing to the school principal, and do so at least 24 hours beforehand so alternative arrangements can be made. However, this does not prevent a teacher answering sexuality education questions if a student, excluded or not, asks them.
In New Zealand, sexuality education is part of the Health and Physical Education curriculum, which is compulsory for the first ten years of schooling (Years 1 to 10) but optional beyond that. Sexual and reproductive health education begins at Year 7, although broader issues such as physical, emotional and social development, personal and interpersonal skills, and (non-sexual) relationships begin as early as Year 1.
In 1981 the Consultative Council recommended the adoption of a set of guidelines for the provision of Health and Human Relations Education in schools as well as a Curriculum Statement to assist schools in the development of their programs. These were presented to the Victorian Cabinet in December 1981 and adopted as Government policy.
Support services for the Consultative Council were provided by a new Health and Human Relations Unit within the Special Services Division of the Education Department of Victoria and was responsible for the implementation of the Government's policy and guidelines in this area. The Unit advised principals, school councils, teachers, parents, tertiary institutions and others in all aspects of Health and Human Relations Education.
- to advise and to be consulted on all aspects of Health and Human Relations' Education in schools;
- to develop, for consideration of the Government, appropriate curriculum for schools;
- to advise and recommend the standards for in-service courses for teachers and relevant members of the school community.
The Council had three major functions:
A Consultative Council for Health and Human Relations Education was established in December 1980 under the chairmanship of Dame Margaret Blackwood; its members possessed considerable expertise in the area.
The Government of Victoria (Australia) developed a policy for the promotion of Health and Human Relations Education in schools in 1980 that was introduced into the State's primary and secondary schools during 1981. The initiative was developed and implemented by the Honorable Norman Lacy MP, Minister for Educational Services from 1979-1982.
- Human Vitae teaches that the faithful must form their 'consciences' as a guide to Christ-like decision making in regard to sex education.
- the young should not engage in premarital sex, adultery, fornication or other acts of impurity or scandals to others
- Pope John Paul II says that sex education is "a basic right and duty of parents."
The Catholic Church believes that parents are the first educators and should rightfully fight for their duty as so in regard to sex education:
Catholic schools in Texas follow Catholic Church teachings in regard to Sex Education. Some opponents of sex education in Catholic schools believe sex ed programs are doing more harm to the young than good. Opponents of sex education contend that children are not mentally and emotionally ready for this type of instruction, and believe that exposing the young to sex ed programs may foster the students with the preoccupation of sex.
- HB 1567/ SB 1076 – Introduced in 2009 by Villarreal, this bill would have required instruction on contraceptive use to be scientifically accurate when it is taught as part of a school's sexual health curriculum. It did not receive a hearing.
- HB 741/SB 515 – In 2011, Representatives Joaquin Castro and Mike Villarreal introduced a bill calling for abstinence-plus sexual health education bill. The bill would have medically accurate information, including: abstinence, contraception, and what it really takes to be a parent. The bill received a hearing but was left in committee.
- SB 852/HB 1624 – In Feb 2011, Senator Ellis proposed The Education Works bill. This bill would require schools that teach sex education to provide evidence-based, age-appropriate information that emphasizes the importance of abstinence as the only 100% effective method of avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, while also teaching about contraceptive methods to avoid STIs and pregnancy.
According to Texas State Representative Mike Villarreal, "We have a responsibility to ensure that our children receive accurate information in the classroom, particularly when students' health is at stake," Villarreal said. "We're dealing with a myriad of problems in Texas as a result of our sky high teen pregnancy rates. We cannot allow our schools to provide erroneous information - the stakes are far too high." With this in mind, many state legislators have proposed bills to improve the sexual education in Texas Schools.
- Shaming and fear-based instruction are commonly used for teaching Sex Ed
- Gender stereotypes are promoted
- A majority of students receive no information about human sexuality except abstinence
- The materials used regularly contain factual errors and distort the truth about condoms and STDs
Since the enactment of this policy, several research studies have been done to evaluate the Sex Ed Policy, namely the abstinence-only aspect of the teaching. Drs. David Wiley and Kelly Wilson published the Just Say Don’t Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools report where they found that:
Additionally, school districts are not authorized to distribute condoms in connection with instruction relating to human sexuality.
- present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age;
- devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior;
- emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity, if used consistently and correctly, is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity;
- direct adolescents to a standard of behavior in which abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and infection with HIV or AIDS; and
- teach contraception and condom use in terms of real-world failure rates, not statistics based on laboratory rates, if instruction on contraception and condoms is included in curriculum content.
Sex education in Texas has recently become a policy of much focus in the state. With the rise of recent protests and proposed bills in the Texas House, the current policy has been the focus of much scrutiny. As of 1997, when Senate Bill 1 was enacted, Texas has left the decision of inclusion of sex education classes within schools up to the individual districts. The school board members are entitled to approve all curricula that are taught; however the bill has certain criteria that a school must abide by when choosing to teach Sex Ed. These include:
Virginia uses the sex education program called The National Campaign to prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy. The National Campaign was created in 1996 and focuses on preventing teen and unplanned pregnancies of young adults. The National Campaign set a goal to reduce teen pregnancy rate by 1/3 in 10 years. The Virginia Department of Health ranked Virginia 19th in teen pregnancy birth rates in 1996. Virginia was also rated 35.2 teen births per 1000 girls aged 15–19 in 2006. The Healthy people 2010 goal is a teen pregnancy rate at or below 43 pregnancies per 1000 females age 15-17.
According to Anna Mulrine of U.S. News & World Report, records show that professionals still do not know which method of sex education works best to keep teens from engaging in sexual activity, but they are still working to find out.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2007, teen pregnancies in the United States showed a 3% increase in the teen birth rate from 2005 to 2006, to nearly 42 births per 1,000.
The impact of the rise in abstinence-only education remains a question. To date, no published studies of abstinence-only programs have found consistent and significant program effects on delaying the onset of intercourse. In 2007, a study ordered by the U.S. Congress found that middle school students who took part in abstinence-only sex education programs were just as likely to have sex (and use contraception) in their teenage years as those who did not. Abstinence-only advocates claimed that the study was flawed because it was too narrow and began when abstinence-only curricula were in their infancy, and that other studies have demonstrated positive effects.
On the other hand, proponents of abstinence-only sex education object to curricula that fail to teach their standard of moral behavior; they maintain that a morality which is based on sex only within the bounds of marriage is "healthy and constructive" and that value-free knowledge of the body may lead to immoral, unhealthy, and harmful practices. Within the last decade, the federal government has encouraged abstinence-only education by steering over a billion dollars to such programs. Some 25 states now decline the funding so that they can continue to teach comprehensive sex education. Funding for one of the federal government's two main abstinence-only funding programs, Title V, was extended only until December 31, 2007; Congress is debating whether to continue it past that date.
Proponents of comprehensive sex education, which include the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the Society for Adolescent Medicine and the American College Health Association, argue that sexual behavior after puberty is a given, and it is therefore crucial to provide information about the risks and how they can be minimized; they also claim that denying teens such factual information leads to unwanted pregnancies and STIs.
The difference between these two approaches, and their impact on teen behavior, remains a controversial subject. In the U.S., teenage birth rates had been dropping since 1991, but a 2007 report showed a 3% increase from 2005 to 2006. From 1991 to 2005, the percentage of teens reporting that they had ever had sex or were currently sexually active showed small declines. However, the U.S. still has the highest teen birth rate and one of the highest rates of STIs among teens in the industrialized world. Public opinion polls conducted over the years have found that the vast majority of Americans favor broader sex education programs over those that teach only abstinence, although abstinence educators recently published poll data with the opposite conclusion.
Abstinence-only sex education tells teenagers that they should be sexually abstinent until marriage and does not provide information about contraception. In the Kaiser study, 34% of high-school principals said their school's main message was abstinence-only.
Only two forms of sex education are taught in American schools: "abstinence plus" and "abstinence-only". "Abstinence plus" (also known as comprehensive sex ed) covers abstinence as a positive choice, but also teaches about contraception and the avoidance of STIs when sexually active. A 2002 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 58% of secondary school principals describe their sex education curriculum as "abstinence plus".
For example, a 1999 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that most U.S. sex education courses in grades 7 through 12 cover puberty, HIV, STIs, abstinence, implications of teenage pregnancy, and how to resist peer pressure. Other studied topics, such as methods of birth control and infection prevention, sexual orientation, sexual abuse, and factual and ethical information about abortion, varied more widely.
Almost all U.S. students receive some form of sex education at least once between grades 7 and 12; many schools begin addressing some topics in grades 5 or 6. However, what students learn varies widely, because curriculum decisions are so decentralized. Many states have laws governing what is taught in sex education classes and contain provisions to allow parents to opt out. Some state laws leave curriculum decisions to individual school districts.
As education is a provincial concern, sex education varies across Canada. Ontario has a provincial curriculum created in 1998. An updated version was first proposed in 2010, but was shelved by the Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty. Mandatory sex education was removed from the Quebec provincial curriculum in 2005. It is currently based on the discretion of each teacher. With rates of syphilis and gonorrhea rising in the province since this change, several researchers and sex educators are criticizing the current policy, most notably Lisa Trimble and Stephanie Mitelman.
The main sex education programme in Scotland is Healthy Respect, which focuses not only on the biological aspects of reproduction but also on relationships and emotions. Education about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases are included in the programme as a way of encouraging good sexual health. In response to a refusal by Catholic schools to commit to the programme, however, a separate sex education programme has been developed for use in those schools. Funded by the Scottish Government, the programme Called to Love focuses on encouraging children to delay sex until marriage, and does not cover contraception, and as such is a form of abstinence-only sex education.
In England and Wales, sex education is not compulsory in schools as parents can refuse to let their children take part in the lessons. The curriculum focuses on the reproductive system, foetal development, and the physical and emotional changes of adolescence, while information about contraception and safe sex is discretionary and discussion about relationships is often neglected. Britain has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe and sex education is a heated issue in government and media reports. In a 2000 study by the University of Brighton, many 14- to 15-year-olds reported disappointment with the content of sex education lessons and felt that lack of confidentiality prevents teenagers from asking teachers about contraception. However, in a 2008 study conducted by YouGov for Channel 4 it was revealed that only three in ten teenagers say they need more sex and relationships education.
England and Wales
In the German part of the country, the situation is somewhat different. Sex education as a school implemented program is a fairly recent subject, the responsibility given to school teachers. Though federal structures give authority to each State to decide, there are efforts, notably under the auspices of Santé sexuelle Suisse - the Swiss branch of IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) - to look for and propose possible models of application which take into account all factors of sex education according to their different levels of concern, parents, teachers, and external experts.
Finally, the objectives include an enforcement of their capacity to decide for themselves and their ability to express their feeling about a situation and say "No". In secondary schools, there are programs at ages 13–14 and 16-17 with the basic objective to give students a secure moment with caring, well informed adults. With confidentiality and mutual respect, students can talk to an adult who understands youth needs and what they should know about sexual life in conformity with age and maturity.
Interventions in primary schools were started during the '80s, with the basic objective of empowering children, strengthening their resources, and giving the capacity to discriminate what is right or wrong based upon what is and isn't allowed by law and society. They are also given knowledge of their own rights, told that they can have their own feelings about themselves, and informed on who to talk to in case they feel uncomfortable about a private matter and wish to talk about it.
In Switzerland, the content and amount of sex education is decided at the cantonal level. In Geneva, courses have been given at the secondary level first for girls since 1926 and compulsory programs have been implemented at secondary level for all classes since the 1950s. In most French-speaking cantons since the '70s, generalized courses have been implemented by states with duly formed and trained specialists working within school health services at the secondary level.
In Sweden, sex education has been a mandatory part of school education since 1956. The subject is usually started between ages 7 and 10, and continues up through the grades, incorporated into different subjects such as biology and history.
In the Slovak republic (sometimes shortened to "Slovakia") the content of sex education varies from school to school, most frequently as a segment of a larger lesson plan of a subject akin to "Nature science" in English (this course covers both biology and petrology). Generally the sex ed content taught in Slovakia is quite basic, sometimes lacking, though exactly what any given lesson contains varies among schools and is dependent on the teacher's knowledge of the subject. It is not uncommon for teachers to rely on students asking questions (as opposed to documentaries, discussions, textbooks and in-class debates). Classes are usually divided into boys and girls. Boys are taught the basics of sex, usually limited to dialogue between student and teacher of annotated diagrams of genitalia; while girls are additionally taught about menstruation and pregnancy.
Subsidized by the Dutch government, the "Long Live Love" package (Lang leve de liefde), developed in the late 1980s, aims to give teenagers the skills to make their own decisions regarding health and sexuality. Nearly all secondary schools provide sex education, as part of biology classes and over half of primary schools discuss sexuality and contraception. Starting the 2012 school year, age-appropriate sex education - including education about sexual diversity - will be compulsory in all secondary and primary schools. The curriculum focuses on biological aspects of reproduction as well as on values, attitudes, communication and negotiation skills. The media has encouraged open dialogue and the health-care system guarantees confidentiality and a non-judgmental approach. The Netherlands has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world, and the Dutch approach is often seen as a model for other countries.
Some sex education is taught as part of biology-related curricula. There is also an official program intended to provide sex education for students.
From a Western point of view, sex education in Poland has never actually developed. At the time of the People's Republic of Poland, since 1973, it was one of the school subjects; however, it was relatively poor and did not achieve any actual success. After 1989, it practically vanished from the school life - it is currently a subject called "Family Life Education" (wychowanie do życia w rodzinie) rather than "Sex Education" (edukacja seksualna) - and is confined to several schools that explicitly require parental consent in order to attend sex ed classes. This policy is largely due to the strong objection against sex education raised by the Catholic Church.