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Sex Education in Primary School in China

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China boasts one of the largest adolescent populations in the world, with 165 million in total. In recent decades, Chinese adolescents have reached sexual maturity at increasingly early ages, and more and more young people in China are open to premarital sex while at the same time they general lack sexual and reproductive health knowledge and awareness of safe sex. In light of this situation and the risks adolescents face in terms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancies, abortions and sexual and gender-based violence, education about sexuality is of utmost importance.

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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. 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

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 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 abstinency-only funding programs, Title V, was extended only until December 31, 2007; Congress is debating whether to continue it past that date. 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.

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Other than family teaching, minors can get informal sex education from their peers and media and formal education from their school curriculum. School curriculum places sex education in higher grades above middle school whose students have a higher comprehension rate of sex education compared to lower grade students. There has been a debate on whether children should be taught sex education in school or not and there are proponents and opponents in the debate

This essay takes the position that children should be taught sex education in school since there is lack of parent involvement and accurate information. Parents are interested in having their children go through teen-years without engaging in risky sexual behaviors that jeopardizes their futures as adults. As the first reference point for adolescent, parents are seen to be the best sex education teachers however; parents avoid the topic of sex education because of their concerns that such education will encourage their children to engage in sex (Somers & Surmann, 2004). Secondly, they fear that they may not possess accurate knowledge on the matter and as a result, parents fail to provide the most important education necessary for adolescents to avoid risky sexual behavior (Somers & Surmann, 2004). Teaching sex education as part of school curriculum would therefore be a welcome move which would help children access the right information regarding sex and relationships. The fact that some parents lack time, in addition to accurate information, to engage their children on sex due to busy schedules is reasonable enough to allow sex education to be taught in schools. When children do not receive the right information about sex from either parents or in schools, they definitely get information from their peers and the media. This information is usually misleading and it ends up exposing children to risky sexual behaviors. In addition to being misleading, such information is not discriminative of the age of the child since it is usually not age-censored.

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By and large, Chinese sex education is often very reductive or even completely absent. With the number of abortions and contractions of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) rising at an alarming rate, something clearly needs to change

Sex education is not compulsory in China which leads to great gaps in children’s knowledge as they enter adulthood. Allegedly, a Chinese couple laid next to each other in bed for three years trying to get pregnant. Many Chinese universities have installed vending machines selling home testing kits for HIV to students. Additionally, some schools have been battling the taboo by using sex education textbooks. While designed to tackle the problem, the books sparked uproar from parents and were quickly removed from schools.

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Frean, A. (2008). ‘Pupils as young as 5 to be given sex education.’ The Times, October 24, 2008. Retrieved from

Kohler, P. K., Manhart L. E. and Lefferty W. E. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescents Health, 42: 344-351

Somers, C. L. and Surmann A. T. (2004). Adolescents’ preferences for source of sex education. Child Study Journal, 34(1): 47-59

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