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性教育课程议题(十九)观点:新版性教育课程的重要性

来源:贴心姐妹网   更新:2015-09-10 12:01:15   作者:Maria Yau(邱绮雯)
性教育课程议题(十九)观点:新版性教育课程的重要性

 

图/贴心姐妹网记者    多伦多教育局研究统筹邱绮雯今年4月在约克区家长会组织的“安省性教育论坛”上发言

The Importance of the Newly Revised Sexual Health Curriculum

The following is the script prepared by Maria Y.M. Yau who presented as one of the panelists at the Ontario Sex Education Forum organized by York Region Parent Association on April 25, 2015.

Good afternoon. Thanks to the organizers for inviting me to share my thoughts on this very sensitive but important issue. As an immigrant parent, a person of faith, and also professionally an educational researcher for nearly 30 years, I have explored the revised curriculum, its rationale, and its implications. Aside from familiarizing myself with the content, I consulted with experts in the field, particularly sexual health educators, who have in‐depth first‐hand knowledge of the needs of children in this area. Due to the limited time given to each panelist today, I’ll mainly present the facts with research evidence in order to address some of the key concerns some parents have about this newly revised curriculum.

1. I understand that one of the main issues concerning parents have is that the content of the new sexual health curriculum is not age appropriate and is killing the innocence of our young children.

If you have a chance to review the actual curriculum, you will notice that discussions about sexual behaviour do not start until Grade 7/8, when students have already reached their puberty and adolescence. To be more specific:

● According to the newly revised curriculum, Grade 1 students will be learning, among many other health issues, about their body parts including the proper names for their private parts. Being able to use the proper names for the latter is crucial in order to protect our young children and to allow them to communicate clearly in case of abuse, illness or injury.

● Grade 3 curriculum talks about respect for others from different backgrounds, specifically family structures. Here, they are not teaching about sex, but talking about the realities in this world and how to respect each other’s differences whether we like them or not.

● In Grade 6, no one is teaching about masturbation. However, if students ask (usually anonymously) about it (which means it’s not unknown to them), teachers cannot dismiss the questions. That’s why, when asked there are prompts or examples to help teachers respond (because teachers themselves may not be comfortable or know how to answer).

While students in elementary school do and will have sexually‐related questions, I think as parents sometimes we may be a bit naive to underestimate the level of sexual awareness or curiosity among school‐age children. As many may already be aware of, the age when puberty hits has become much earlier ‐ which now can be as young as 7. With the early onset of puberty and body change, children’s sexual curiosity happens naturally and earlier than we as parents expect. On the other hand, as parents, many of us rarely or never talk about these issues with our children thinking that they are too young to know, or that we ourselves either don’t know enough or don’t feel comfortable to talk about. These subject matters are thus avoided as taboo or even sometimes being demonized at home. No wonder many of our children feel either too awkward, embarrassed, or even afraid, shameful or even guilty to ask their parents.

Who can our children turn to? Obviously, their friends who often know no better; but more commonly and more dangerously is the internet which is at their fingertips. We should realize that many kids are already aware of, from these various sources, the very things, such as different forms of sexual behaviour, that are uncomfortable or even disturbing for most parents. One can imagine the potential harm and danger that could have already affected our children by exposure to irresponsible sexual behaviours, immoral sexual images or videos which they can easily and secretly access to online. In fact, a survey found that “1 in 4 kids have been unintentionally exposed to sexual content online, with about 6% being traumatized by the experience.” In another study, about ¼ of Grade 7‐11 students admitted seeking out pornography online. 

That’s why one of the main revisions in the new curriculum is on internet safety. Personally, I find it an urgent matter to educate our children by people who have been trained with facts and accurate information to help them filter or discern what they are seeing or bombarded with daily, and sometimes inevitably, on TV or in social media.

2. The second major parents’ concern, which I imagine is their biggest fear is that the new curriculum is promoting or teaching our children sexual behaviour.

Having studied the curriculum and consulted with experts in the field, I can assure you that the very opposite is the case. The curriculum is not teaching children how to have sex; rather it’s about how to teach our children to take care of their body. By teaching about “body science” and sexual health, e.g., understanding that sexual activity regardless of form can be dangerous in contracting STIs or HIV, students learn how to stay healthy and protect themselves. Research after research has shown that “when young people are provided with a comprehensive sexual health education program they are more likely to wait longer and be safer when becoming sexually active.”

As a matter of fact, this very new curriculum explicitly encourages abstinence (in Gr. 7‐8) – i.e., delaying sex. Furthermore, it should be reminded that in this new revision sexual health is only one part of the whole curriculum and is not supposed to be taught in isolation. Rather, it is integrated with other health components including physical, mental, and emotional. For instance, the curriculum talks about the importance of healthy relationships, learning about “refusal skills” (how to say “No”), and the skills to stand up for themselves as a way to help our children to defend themselves from emotional or sexual abuse or even sexual pressure from peers. Again research has shown that in high school nearly ½ of the girls “have reported to being at the receiving end of unwanted sexual comments or gestures”, and over ¼ of Grade 9‐11 girls reported to have been pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do.”

Moreover, the curriculum throughout stresses the importance of showing respect and taking responsibility for not causing harm to others – which include not pressuring or forcing others to perform unwanted sexual activity. It teaches the importance of one’s selfesteem and healthy relationships that should not be based upon popularity, body shape or sexuality, etc. It is dangerous that some zero in on criticizing this new curriculum as one that only talks about sex when it emphasizes a holistic understanding of one’s well‐being and safety through learning about oneself as well as physical, social, emotional and sexual health.

3. The third point I’d like to address is the concern that this new curriculum lacks moral standards.

I don’t agree with this. Again having reviewed the materials, I could sum up three key points about this particular part of the new curriculum. By providing our children with proper knowledge, we are teaching children how to:

a) take care of their body and health – whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or sexual

b) protect their boundaries, especially against sexual abuse or sexual pressure; and

c) respect others ‐ including not hurting or causing harm to others – either physically, verbally, emotionally or sexually.

Aren’t these basic morals that all humans regardless of background should observe? I agree that in addition to these morals there are values, which can vary from group to group in a multicultural society like ours ‐ due to cultural, religious, and/or family differences. Hence, it has been emphasized throughout the curriculum that parents are to “play an integral role in their children’s education, especially … on sexuality and sexual health.” While schools provide “factual, accurate information about their health and well‐being”, parents “are responsible for sharing their values, morals, cultural and religious beliefs with their children.” This is indeed a win‐win situation and a solution to accommodate the diversity in our society.

4. There is also a criticism that the new curriculum was put together without consultation with parents.

Being an educational researcher with a large school system for nearly 30 years, I can assure you that any development or major revision of public policies, especially the highly sensitive ones, has to go through very thorough and arduous process supported by research, expert advice, wide consultation with different stakeholder groups, a long series of discussions and debates, as well as numerous rounds of revisions. I have seen and personally experienced these painstaking processes.

If you have a chance to read from the Ministry source, you would realize that the revision of this very curriculum has taken a very long time ‐ more than 7 years (since 2007), and has undergone the most extensive consultation process ever undertaken by the ministry ‐ involving a wide spectrum of stakeholder groups including of course parents, students themselves, teachers, faculties, post‐secondary institutions, the health sectors, etc. Even as of last year, over 4,000 school parents from every Ontario elementary school were given the opportunity to provide their input. In fact, I believe the largest contingency of stakeholder groups being consulted in this curriculum was the parents.

What should be our next steps?

As far as I know, the Ministry and school boards are already preparing trustees, senior staff, school administrators and teachers for the new curriculum. Additional resources are developed for teachers. At the same time, the Ministry has made available for parents Parent Guides and Quick Facts on what will be taught to their children. These guides and documents have been translated into at least six languages. I also heard that more resources are going to be developed for parents.

As parents ourselves what can we do? My suggestions are quite simple – two don’ts and two do’s

Two don’ts

1. It’s true that we as parents can exercise our right to opt our children out from those classes. However, I’d strongly advise not to do so. If you understand the curriculum, you don’t want your children to miss out any important information or knowledge that help them with their health, safety and well‐being. As a parent myself, I’d rather to have trained personnel to teach my children about the sexual health that I’m not too familiar with, and then I’d discuss with them my cultural and religious values.

2. I heard that there are already parents who are planning to transfer their children from public schools to, for example, Catholic schools. I hope they will think twice. First, the same curriculum still needs to be taught in Catholic schools. Second, the sexual health portion would take up fewer than 3‐5 lessons throughout the school year. If the school transfer is simply for this reason, please consider whether it’s worth the hassle, your stress, and especially the anxiety of your own child to have to leave their friends and to readjust to a new school.

Instead, the two do’s

1. I strongly encourage parents to review the actual curriculum, which I believe will give you peace of mind to know that many of the rumours, fears and speculations being circulated are unfounded.

2. I’d advise parents to request through school councils or community agencies or even churches, if they will, to organize workshops for parents to familiarize ourselves on this subject and to learn how to talk with our children about sex education – an area that many of us are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.

In conclusion, let’s turn this negative energy (fear, anger, protests, criticisms, etc.) into a positive spirit in order to educate ourselves and our children in this area, and to take this as a golden opportunity to have meaningful dialogues with our children. Finally, I’d like to say “don’t delay any more!” Let’s work together to help our children learn how to protect themselves and to respect others for the success, safety and well‐being of our younger generations that we all care for.

Maria Yau(邱绮雯) 多伦多教育局研究统筹

*在发言前,邱绮雯表示,自己是一位移民、家长和有宗教信仰的人士,从事教学研究近30年。

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