Stop calling it sex education, please

By Stephanie Sta Maria, Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Sex education will not be introduced in schools and that is final, according to a representative from the Education Ministry.

Hence he appealed to the public and media to cease discussions and references to sex education in schools.

A keen debate on sex education was sparked during a forum on abandonment of babies held by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) yesterday.

All six panellists strongly recommended it as a solution to curb this worrying issue but also emphasised the need for it to be properly implemented.

However, the ministry official, who only wanted to be known as Zahari, declared that sex education would not be introduced in schools.

“Please stop calling it sex education,” he said. “It is a taboo subject and people will think that the ministry is teaching children how to have sex. No we are not doing this and there will be no sex education!”

“But what we will introduce in January next year is a new curriculum called Reproductive and Social Health Education or PEERS. And the deputy education minister (Puad Zarkashi) has already explained this recently.”

On Dec 6, Puad announced that PEERS would be introduced in both primary and secondary schools in 2011.

The curriculum will include the risk of pre-marital sex, personal grooming, saying no to inappropriate touch, as well as emotional and conflict management

Appropriate teachers

Zahari’s unexpected statement, however, caught the panellists off guard especially since most of them had earlier outlined detailed recommendations for the drawing up of a sex education framework.

One of them, Ramani Gurusamy from the National Women’s Organisation (NCWO), then queried whether the ministry had already acquired the appropriate teachers for this curriculum.

“The teachers have already been selected and we will strengthen their skills to meet the PEERS standards,” Zahari said.

However, he added: “But we have a shortage of Health Education teachers as compared to those who teach Physical Education.”

“We have no choice but to rope in teachers who are not specifically trained in this field and train them ourselves. But we will have well-trained teachers.”

The executive director of Women’s Aid Organisation, Ivy Josiah, expressed concern over the PEERS curriculum and questioned whether it would match a similarly-named programme under the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN).

“I know that the LPPKN has an excellent programme,” she told Zahari. “I’m just wondering whether it is synchronised with PEERS.”

Ivy had earlier pointed out that the question was no longer whether sex education should be taught but rather how it should be taught.

She had proposed a policy favouring sex education, openness about sex, consistent messages sent throughout society and better access to contraception.

“The purpose of sex education is to help reduce risky behaviour and teach adolescents how to minimise the risk if sexual behaviour occurs,” she said.

“Rather than encourage promiscuity, it delays the desire to have sex. Countries like Canada, England, France, Holland and Sweden have introduced sex education and their rate of teenage pregnancies has fallen.”

Added enhancement

A participant, meanwhile, grilled Zahari as to whether the Moral and religious classes were now redundant.

“We had previously suggested that sex education be included under these two subjects,” she said. “Now you are increasing the number of subjects and it will be so burdensome for students.”

Zahari clarified that there would be no such increase and PEERS would be an added enhancement to the existing Health Education class.