Sex education, finally

By T.K. Letchumy Tamboo, The Malay Mail

AFTER a six-year delay, sex education is likely to be taught to Year Six and Form Three students next year as a pilot project in several schools in the country.

The decision to introduce social and reproductive health education (SRHE) into primary and secondary school classrooms came about from discussions between the Education Ministry and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil told The Malay Mail it would be taught as a co-curricular subject after the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examinations.

“We have sent the proposal for the subject to be taught in schools to the Education Ministry and they have agreed, in principle, to study the implementation of teaching the subject in schools.

“Hopefully, it could be implemented next year after the UPSR and the PMR examinations.

“If everything goes well, the implementation of this subject will start as a pilot project first in several schools we have identified.”

Sex education in schools was mooted in 2005 as a joint effort by both ministries and got the Cabinet’s green light in December 2006.

It received a mixed reaction from various quarters despite its aims of educating the young to respect gender and sexuality, with the ultimate aim of reducing sexual crimes.

The latest developments arose from findings of the two ministries’ pilot project, named ‘I’m In Control’, a sexual reproductive health module introduced to Form Four and Five students from five secondary schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Kelantan and Pahang.

It also went on trial at three kafe@TEEN centres, a one-stop service centre providing information and education related to adolescent reproductive health, counselling and medical treatment for reproductive health problems to adolescents, aged 13 to 24.

The module, being tested by the National Population and Family Development Board (NPFDB) from mid-2009 to the end of this year, includes pointers like assertive techniques to avoid premarital sex and how to identify and avoid high-risk situations.

Shahrizat said 308 students attended the workshops.

The pilot project continued last year with 14 more workshops at the same schools and kafe@TEEN centres, in which 597 students took part.

“Feedback from the participating students, teachers and parents was positive,” she said.

Shahrizat said further discussions were held between both ministries between February and July to study ways in which SRHE could be introduced and implemented in schools at the national level.

She said the ministry was looking at using different avenues to reach out and make SRHE available to a wider audience through a larger project, called Upscaling Kafe@TEEN Programmes, which began in 2008 and expected to end next year.

“In line with this, ‘I’m In Control’ workshops have been conducted by selected non-governmental organisations and NPFDB trainers nationwide,” she said.

This year, emphasis was given to train trainers on the parents’ edition of the ‘I’m In Control’ module. Two training of trainers (TOT) sessions were held in August involving 88 NPFDB officers, followed by 10 dialogue sessions between parents and teachers until the year-end.

Evaluation of the project’s overall effectiveness would be conducted during the final year, 2012.

Earlier this year, SRHE officially became a subject taught in the National Service Training Programme.