Children are innocent and should be left alone, say some parents, while others insist that they should be taught about sex and their bodies especially with the growth of ‘porn culture’. Amina Ahmed brings you both sides of the argument
If there’s one topic that gets people worked up, it’s whether children at primary and secondary level should be taught about sex. The culture in UK does not discourage having sex before marriage or at a fairly young age and therefore to know how to do it ‘safely’ is considered very important. Young people from all backgrounds and cultures who live in the West are influenced by this philosophy, so should they know everything about sex in order to enjoy it, but avoid teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. I put this question to several parents from different backgrounds.
Sadiya Ahmed (40) has two girls and a boy at primary and secondary level and thinks it is hard for parents to ‘broach the subject out of the blue’ and so schools should educate their children about it. “Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about sex and it’s important for children to understand it in a classroom. You don’t know what friends are telling them and after learning about it properly they have something to balance it out,” she said.
Under the Education Act of 1996, children are educated about STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and HIV and encouraged to respect family life. It is compulsory for schools to teach the biological aspects of puberty, reproduction and the spread of viruses and infections. These topics are mandatory, part of the National Curriculum for Science, and are taught to children in primary and secondary school.
However, the NHS website states: “The broader subject of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) is currently not compulsory in schools even though schools are recommended to offer it as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship. In practice, the majority of schools do provide at least a certain amount of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) as part of their PSHE Curriculum. What is included in SRE is variable from school to school. Both primary and secondary schools must have an up-to-date policy that describes the content and organization of SRE taught outside the Science Curriculum.”
Parents are allowed to withdraw their children from such classes and that is where the argument starts. Should parents withdraw their children from classes which many people think are essential? Since other pupils will be learning about sex, is there any point taking your child out of such classes – they’ll end up hearing a twisted version in the playground anyway so why not let them learn about it in a scientific way.
Many parents seem to blame the school for not keeping a good relationship with parents regarding this issue. Misinformed parents assume the worst when they hear their children will be taught about ‘sex’ while others have to go out of their way to discover what is taught. For instance, there was an uproar a few years back when some parents found out that a video called Living and Growing was shown throughout the country in primary and secondary schools to children as young as nine.
Katherine Penton (42) who has three children of primary and secondary school age, said: “It is necessary to teach them facts, and what is inappropriate. Lots of schools break down the embarrassment however we should be embarrassed – it stops us from doing those things. The materials being used to teach them were bordering on pornography. It showed cartoon characters having sex in four different positions and jumping on the bed having fun with a feather. The voice-over was misleading. ‘You don’t get pregnant every time you have sex – but when you choose you can have a baby’. There was no talk about how you make that choice. It wasn’t deemed necessary to tell them about contraception as they are too young. I agree with the need for sex education but it needs to be very carefully taught – with the emphasis on relationships rather than sex and it should also stick to the basic facts at primary school level.”
Kauser Ali has two daughters who home-schools so that they are shielded from such influences. She agreed with Katherine: “It’s not about why but about how. Taught in a scientific way on a need to know basis, at secondary school is ok, but taught about love, boyfriends and homosexuality and showing graphic cartoons at primary school, no,” she said.
One young woman who was a teenage mom twice feels that sex education didn’t really help. “I don’t think sex education has anything to do with becoming a teenage parent. If I’m honest I used to have a laugh in my lessons. My teacher made things a lot more fun for us but I still became a teenage parent twice – one at 17 and again at 19,” Dani Krishna said.
Is it just the culture that needs to be changed? Sex is taken lightly here and being a teenage virgin is a big deal. Or is teaching children about it making the situation worse? I posed the question to several parents on Facebook:
Imran Malik said: “Teaching children sex education at the youngest age possible can backfire as it creates the risk of curiosity which can lead children wanting to try sex early. Also the younger they are, the less self-control they have, which can result into young pregnancy. So it’s bit tricky.”
Yumna Faisal agreed. “Why tell them something you want them to stay away from. If they know about it, they are going to be tempted to know more and explore it when the only thing on their mind should be studies. That is what they go to school for, isn’t it?” she said.