Archive for Friday, October 24, 2008

Kindergarten sex ed becoming mandatory in England

October 24, 2008

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— It's a controversial idea in a land known for prudishness about sex - teaching kids as young as 5 about the birds and bees.

But with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe, the British government is bringing sex education to all schools in England - including kindergartens.

While countries like France, Holland and China already require sex education, few places demand that it be introduced at such a young age.

"It's vital that this information doesn't come from playground rumor or the mixed messages from the media about sex," Schools Minister Jim Knight said Thursday, announcing that sex ed would be added to the national curriculum.

English schools now are required to teach basic lessons on reproduction as part of the science curriculum. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have separate education departments and standards. Only Scotland makes sex education voluntary.

The government hasn't detailed what the new curriculum will look like, but schools will be asked to provide lessons on relationships and contraception, topics not previously required. Lessons will become more sophisticated as kids get older.

Elementary schools can offer lessons in naming body parts, preparing for puberty and relationship feelings, Knight said.

For the very young, sex ed will mainly be about self-awareness, he said.

"We are not talking about 5-year-old kids being taught sex," he said. "What we're talking about for key stage 1 (ages 5-7) is children knowing about themselves, their differences, their friendships and how to manage their feelings."

But not everyone feels the state should decide when and how to broach the topic.

"I am not the parent who calls her son's penis a wee-wee. But I should decide if the word penis enters my child's vocabulary at 5 or not," said Elizabeth Talbot of London, who has two sons, ages 4 and 6 months.

The government said children over 11 - the age at which kids generally go to secondary school in England - could learn how to develop respectful relationships and how risky sexual behavior contributes to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Britain has among the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe, with government figures showing that about 39,000 girls between ages 15 and 17 became pregnant in 2006, the year for which the most recent figures are available. An additional 7,200 girls between the ages of 13 and 14 were reported pregnant the same year.

Yet the country has long been considered more prudish and reserved than its continental neighbors.

"Everybody has sex at some point or other in their lives ... (but) we're not willing to prepare them," said Gill Frances, who served as part of a group that advised lawmakers on the new sex ed policy.

French students get sex ed in middle and high schools. Norwegian students typically get mandatory sex education around age 15. The topic is not mandatory but left up to principals and teachers in Italy.

In Finland, at age 11 or 12 children in school are taught about reproduction but sexual health and human relations begins between age 14 or 15. The Finish children's watchdog, the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, last month proposed distributing free condoms to ninth-graders (16-year-olds) in schools to the stop spread of sexually transmitted diseases; education authorities rejected it.

In the United States, which lacks a national curriculum, the decision to offer sex education is left to individual states and districts. In recent years, the federal government has funded programs promoting sexual abstinence. The abstinence programs are favored by religious conservatives.

Comments

Ragingbear 6 years, 6 months ago

Try not using the TV and Internet as a babysitter. Radical, I know. But it works.

meggers 6 years, 6 months ago

humble_simpleton,When you say that most children aren't capable of sex until at least ten or twelve years old, I think you miss the point entirely. Children are often sexually molested and exploited at very young ages. One of the reasons it's important to teach them about appropriate relationships and their body at a young age is so that they can recognize when someone is touching them inappropriately. This doesn't need to be done using "crude images and vulgar vocabularies", as you suggest, but by using the correct terminology for various parts of the body and letting them know which areas are off-limits to others.

humble_simpleton 6 years, 6 months ago

There is something just not quite right about the inocense of a child being forcefullly removed at such a young age. Children at age five are still learning to speak, they don't need their developing brains seared with crude images and vulgar vocabularies. Most arn't even capable of sex until at least 10 to 12

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Looks like humble simpleton learned everything s/he knows in kindergarten.

Confrontation 6 years, 6 months ago

That was the creepiest post of the day, humble_simpleton.

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