Sex education is the term used to describe a wide range of concepts related to the human anatomy, the reproductive system, sexual intercourse, emotional attachment, celibacy, and rights and responsibilities. Sexual education is usually provided by school teachers, parents, and community health care institutions.
The concept of sex education is seen differently by different individuals involved in it. Some people focus more on the sexuality, or anatomically and psychologically being a man or a woman. Others view sex education as improving on the institution of family by protecting and nurturing the right values. Yet a few others see it as a tool to improve the social, mental, and physical aspects of sexual reproduction.
Sexual education is supposed to cultivate the right kind of attitudes in children when it comes to all aspect of sex, including family planning, fertility, being involved in a relationship, physical sexual pleasure, sexually transmitted diseases, and so on. Sexual education needs to be adapted for children at all levels and made useful and interesting to be successful. In any case, all expects agree that some form of sexual education should exist to help plan and prepare for personal conduct and relationships. Other than a school, or a parent, media is also a source of sex education, and so are friends.
When it comes to schools, sex education is sometimes a full class in junior high or high school, whereas sometimes it is a part of a biology or phys ed class. There are still schools in the US that provide no sexual education as it is difficult to decide when to start teaching children about sex as well as which topics to cover at what age. Opinions of experts are very much divided as to what should be taught as a part of sexual education. Some believe that the problem of teenage pregnancy is too difficult to assess in a classroom, and still others argue that instead of sexual there should be prevention education classes involving a broader community.
Interestingly, those countries that oppose teaching children about sexuality, such as the United Kingdom and the US, have higher rates of unwanted teenage pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents. In other places like Africa, due to the AIDS epidemic most experts agree that it is absolutely vital that some form of sex education are available to young people. When it comes to the opinions of the parents in the US, over 80% believe that there should be a sex education class in both junior high and high school, and that it would also make it easier for them to talk to their children about sex at home. Not surprisingly, over 90% of teenagers would want a sex ed class in school while at the same time they would also like to be able to talk about it at home.
Objectives of Sex Education
Some of the main objectives of sex education include building positive rather than negative attitudes when it comes to love and sex while at the same time teaching responsible behavior towards self and others. Another important aspect of sex education is making sure young people understand their sexuality as a vital part of being human so that their development into adulthood can go as smoothly and naturally as possible.
There should be an emphasis on the fact that one’s sexuality is not necessarily a private matter as it has many social, moral, and even legal connotations if it involves endangering another person’s rights. Young people also need to be aware of the importance of reducing sexually transmitted diseases, and especially AIDS, while at the same time having a clear understanding of the concepts such as menstruation, masturbation, and the like. In general, helping children and teenagers develop a positive, responsible, and open mental outlook on sex should be the key element in sexual education.
The problems of unwanted teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases inspired researchers to look into the effectiveness of various sex education methods and approaches. One meta-analysis compared sex education programs to abstinence-only programs, and found that for the women in the abstinence- only programs the chance of pregnancies did not decrease but rather increased compared to their sex education program counterparts.
There have been studies dealing with prevention programs that started with children as early as 5 years old and found fewer teenage pregnancies among the participants in comparison with children who did not go through such programs. There have also been studies on abstinence-only programs that showed no long term effect on sexual conduct of its participants later in life.
Future research should definitely focus on trying to isolate social, psychological, and physical aspects that play a role in increasing the rates of unwanted teenage pregnancies, and also look into the countries with low rates of such pregnancies, such as the Netherlands, to investigate the similarities and differences between the two cultures that may be playing a part in the sexual attitudes and behaviors of their adolescents.