All systems go for Sex Ed in high school


Morality. Constitutionality. Preparedness. Maturity of students. Will the implementation of sex education in pilot schools this school year finally put a stop to all these adverse issues?
By Ina Hernando-Malipot – It’s final. The Department of Education will integrate sex education as a subject in the basic curriculum of almost 150 schools this coming school year.

Much as it is already a done deal, issues about its full implementation has yet to be settled what with strong oppositions coming from various stakeholders, including the Catholic Church.

Education Secretary Mona Valisno said the DepEd has been strongly pushing for the integration of sex education in the basic education curriculum — specifically in elementary subjects — because there is a need to raise awareness of young people on sexuality, hygiene, interpersonal relationships, and gender issues and status.

Valisno said that sex education will help make the youth aware on the consequences of premarital sex and address the rising cases of sex-related diseases among young people.

“We have now reached an alarming rate because of lack of knowledge in the subject. The Philippines is currently witnessing an increase of new Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection among 15 to 24 year old Filipinos from 41 in 2007 to 218 in 2009,” she revealed.

Apart from rising cases of infection, Valisno explained that misperception about HIV is still prevalent among Filipino youth and more are engaging in pre-marital sex.

“Sex education in the basic curriculum is also very timely with all the distractions available for young students. There is nothing wrong with it since the topic is being taught and discussed in subjects like Science and Edukasyong Pantahan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP),” she said.

Valisno said it will be so much better if teachers in our schools will discuss sex education with students instead of letting them pick up ideas about sex from dubious sources such as the Internet.

“It would be best if sex education will be formally included in the education system to make learning about it mandatory,” she explained.

SEX ED, RP STYLE

“Sex education” refers to a broad term that is used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, contraception, and other aspects of human sexual behavior.

It also encompasses education about all aspects of sexuality — including information about family planning; reproduction such as fertilization, conception and development of the embryo and fetus through to childbirth; information about all aspects of one’s sexuality including the body image, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, values, decision making, communication, dating, relationships, sexually transmitted infections (STSTIs) and how to avoid these, and various birth control methods.

In many countries worldwide, sex education is taught formally in schools by trained teachers as well as health care providers. It is taught as a full course as part of the curriculum in junior high school or high school or a part of a unit within more broad classes such as biology, health, home economics or physical education classes.

Many international agencies such as United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have published reports that support the effectiveness of sex education programs.

However, in the Philippines, sex education remains a controversial issue especially with regard to the age at which children should start receiving such education, the amount of detail that is revealed, and topics dealing with human sexual behavior such as safe sex practices, masturbation, premarital sex, and sexual ethics.

WHAT’S STOPPING IT?

Aside from morality issues, the program’s full implementation faces constitutionality issues.

Ang Kapatiran party candidate Jo Aurea Imbong claimed that only parents should teach children about sex and reproductive health since the 1987 Constitution mandates it.

DepEd Undersecretary for Legal Franklin Sunga said there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits sex education in schools. “The Constitution, in Section II, Art. XIV, mandates the state to establish adequate and relevant education and that educating the youth about adolescent reproductive health falls under the responsibilities of the state,” he explains.

While DepEd believes that there should be no debate with the contention that parents have the primary role to teach the youth about sex and reproductive health, the schools – as the second home of the child – also has this responsibility,” Sunga added.

MAKING IT HAPPEN

Since 2005, the DepEd has been doing the necessary steps to integrate sex education. Continuous dialogues between groups that are for and against it are being held regularly.

The hesitation of most parents as well as the readiness of the teachers are also major reasons why sex education has not been fully implemented.

According DepEd Assistant Secretary for Programs and Projects Terecita Inciong, to appease the worries of parents and the educators themselves, sex education will be integrated in the basic curriculum through the “Adult Reproductive Health” program.

“We will be giving the schools modules that are more focused on adolescent reproductive health, rising teenage pregnancies, responsible parenthood, gender equality and sustainable environment rather than dwelling on sex alone,” she explained.

Currently, sex education lessons are incorporated in the subjects of third and fourth year high school students. “The lessons include topics about human reproductive system, hygiene, ovulation, reproduction and birth spacing methods,” Inciong explained.

Earlier this year, the DepEd has signed an agreement with the UNICEF. The partnership is considered as “soft implementation” of the sex education program since it aims to educate the youth on the perils of sex at an early age through the campaign called “Power of You.”

Assistant Secretary and DepEd spokesperson Jonathan Malaya says that around 30 schools in the National Capital Region, Cebu, Zamboanga, Davao, Olongapo and Masbate will benefit from the information program. Overall, the campaign aims to reach at least 12,000 high-school students and inform them about sex-related diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

WHERE IT SHOULD START

Ideally, sex education should be provided by parents. However, many lack the necessary knowledge themselves and a large number of Filipino parents are not comfortable talking about this sensitive matter with their children.

This is the reason why many young people derive their information from their friends, websites, magazines, and other sources which most of the time leads to misconceptions.

According to Malaya, to make the best out of the sex education inclusion, parents and teachers should form a tandem. “It is better that the students get the right information from the right sources rather than them getting the wrong information from the streets,” he said.

He explains that the benefits of the program far outweigh the perceived disadvantages because adequate guidance will help prevent teenage pregnancies or diseases.

Margarita Reyes, a parent to Grade IV student Mark and first year high school student Mariana, believes that sex education is something that should be taught in schools.

“Minsan kasi, ang hirap para sa parents na kagaya ko na kausapin yung anak ko sa topics na ganyan kasi di naman sila nag-oopen up. At least kung na-introduce sa schools, they won’t be ashamed to ask questions kapag nasa bahay sila,” she admitted.

Mark looks forward to discussing sex education in school but Mariana is hesitant.

“Kasi for girls, parang nakakahiya na pag-usapan yung issues na ganun na kasama ang boys. Sana kung idi-discuss nila yung sex education, separate yung boys sa girls para walang ilangan, tawanan at tuksuhan,” she said.

Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) chairperson Benjo Basas said they fully support DepEd. “Ang concern lang namin is for them to provide an appropriate term for it kasi yung word na ‘sex’ ay iba ang meaning pagdating sa mga bata at pati sa parents nila,” he warned.

Basas also hoped that intensive training will be given to teachers. “Dapat may training kasi hindi naman lahat ng teachers liberated, marami pa ring conservative katulad ng parents. If they are not given training, baka magkamali din sila sa mga ituturo nila,” he explained.

DepEd however assured that formal training will be given to teachers once the pilot run is done. “We are still in the process of refining the inclusion of sex education in the basic education curriculum to make it more effective once full implementation is agreed upon,” Malaya concluded.

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