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Schools have developed various programs about human sexuality. These programs are a response to counter the increased rates of teenage pregnancy amongst school going girls, as well as increased number of teenagers being infected with sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and HIV/AIDS. According to Steven Ridini, America has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy occurring amongst school going and adolescent girls aged between fourteen and eighteen years (146). Statistical data indicate that nearly one million teenagers aged below twenty years become pregnant each year in America.
Jessica Fields found out that more than twenty-five percent of such teenage pregnancies is unintended (28). Further findings from research studies on American population revealed that nearly half of all adolescent boys and girls catch sexually transmitted infections (Sexually transmitted infections). This implies that almost ten million young Americans aged below twenty-two years suffer from sexually transmitted infections, annually. Such statistics suggests that these are daunting findings given that American teenagers form only one eighth of the total sexually active population in America.
Importance of Sex Education in Schools
As adolescents, young boys and girls are at greater risks of contracting diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections. According to Fields, nearly three quarters of HIV infections occur during the adolescence; often between the age of 14 years and 19 years, when teenagers are at the peak of their sexuality (63). Thus, it is essential to start programs that educate school going children and teenagers about human sexuality. Most parents and guardians, teachers, policy formulators, as well as professional health workers, agree that introducing sex education in schools will help in reducing the rate of teenage pregnancy, as well as the rate of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Through sex education, teenagers may be taught the best ways to handle various changes that might occur in their bodies during adolescence and puberty.
Furthermore, sexual education will elaborate the importance of certain societal values and beliefs, such as abstinence form of sexual activities until marriage. This is aimed at preservation of socio-cultural and religious beliefs, values, and practices that were formulated to offer universal protection to all members of the society. Sex education will also help in reducing immoral conducts and behaviors amongst teenagers and children.
Through sex education, teenagers will be able to make sound decisions with respect to their sexuality and engagement in sexual activities. For example, teenagers may opt to abstain from sexual activities altogether or use birth control methods, such as contraceptives like condoms in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, sex education will equip teenagers with desirable qualities such as being faithful to one’s sexual partner and building strong, intimate, and long-lasting relationships. These qualities may prove useful in the future lives of these teenagers, especially after they get married. Levesque asserts that sex education in schools will help in promoting morality within the society (55).
Through sexual education, teenagers will be able to learn how to handle and cope with various psychological and physical effects associated with sexual activities. For example, female teenagers will gain knowledge of how to deal with pregnancy and associated with it body hormonal changes. Similarly, sex education will help in rebuking evil and unsocial practices such as abortion or removal of unwanted pregnancies. Through sex education, girls will discover how to handle various life issues relating to early pregnancy.
Moreover, sex education will equip teenagers with the most appropriate strategies on how to deal with various risks associated with their active sexual nature. They will be educated on how to handle sexual urges in other methods than getting involved in sexual intercourses, in order to quench their sexual drives. Sex education will also enable teenagers understand their sexual identities such as heterosexuality, lesbianism and being gay. Teenagers will learn various ways to express and discuss their sexual identities with people around them, such as parents, close friends, relatives and sexual partners, openly. According to Sauerteig, most lesbian and gay teenagers often hide their sexual orientations in fear of social discrimination and rejection and rebuke by family members (129).
Sex education will equip teenagers with adequate information on how to reveal their sexual orientations confidently and how to handle negative responses by the family and society, as a whole. For example, most gay people have received harsh maltreatment and persistent discriminations, both at school and in the workplace. Sex education would thus elucidate such mistreatments and their possible handling, in future. Additionally, through sex education in schools, the society will learn that certain sexual orientations such as lesbianism and homosexuality are beyond the control of the persons. Members of the communities thus learn how to live and cope with such people in the society, harmoniously.
Through sex education in schools, teenagers shall be educated how to deal with stress that would results from infections, such as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. For example, teenagers shall be advised to seek medical attention rather than committing suicide. They shall also learn to seek support from social groups that provide guidance and counseling to people with HIV/AIDS.
Furthermore, it will help the teenagers in understanding the health risks and consequences related to sexually transmitted infections, such as a possibility of losing fertility in men, if infected by syphilis. Sex education in schools will thus help in promoting and facilitating sexual health amongst teenagers and school going children. Sex education will also help in creating awareness amongst teenagers and youth on risks associated with irresponsible sexual behaviors, such as having unprotected sex or having multiple sexual partners. Sex education in schools will help children and teenagers understand and accept gender differences amongst them (Magoon 72). It will also help teenagers in accepting gender roles and responsibilities assigned to them, based on differences in their sexes.
According to Bailey, sex education will also help individuals in understanding and accepting the differences, which exist in male and female bodies; for instance enlargement of breasts, in women, and breaking of voice, in men (203).
Finally, sex education in school will help children in accepting their personal identities. It enhances self-esteem, promotes the development of positive attitudes towards one’s self as well as acquisition of desirable interpersonal and social skills, for example, intimacy in relationships. Bruess and Jerrold suggest sexual education in schools should be in line with cultural and religious beliefs that exist amongst communities (130). For example, most religious beliefs and practices discourage engagements in sexual activities before marriage by valuing chastity and virginity. It is thus crucial to base sex education on such socio-cultural and religious beliefs, so that the teachings provided during sex education sessions in schools easily blend with the beliefs and values already held by members of the society (Robinson, Kerry & Criss 68). For instance, children should be educated that abstinence from sexual activities is the best way to protect one’s self from early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Possible Challenges in Introducing Sex Education in School
However, lack of appropriate teaching curriculums for sex educators may challenge the success of sex education such programs. Similarly, most parents and teachers are not yet aware of the topics to be studies in schools during sex education lessons. There have been strong disagreements between parents, teachers, educational officers, and health professional on the exact things to study as sex education subjects. Parents and guardians believe that their children may be educated about basic sexuality, such as developmental changes that occur in the human body during adolescence and puberty stages. Most parents believe that teaching children birth control and other methods of preventing pregnancy may make teenagers vulnerable and be curious about sexual activities. Consequently, teenagers may get involved in irresponsible sexual behaviors because they will no longer fear becoming pregnant.
On the hand, teachers and health professionals argue that information is power, and thus equipping school going children and teenagers with adequate information and knowledge about sex and its impacts is the best way to control unwanted teenage pregnancies and infections with sexually transmitted infections.
It is essential to equip teenagers with adequate information concerning their sexualities. Teenagers in schools should be continuously discouraged from getting involved in sexual activities at early ages. They should be taught on how to refrain themselves from sexual activities. Additionally, schoolchildren should be taught how to desist and refrain from sexually tempting situations totally, such as kissing and caressing, which would lead to undesired sexual intercourses.
For sex education in schools to become effective, it should receive adequate support from parents, teachers, educational officers, healthcare professionals and the government. For example, parents should be optimistic and show gratitude for the efforts made by teachers in providing sex education to their children. Educational officers, in collaboration with teachers and healthcare professionals, should develop relevant curriculums for teaching sex education in schools. The government also should provide adequate funds to facilitate the provision of sex education services in schools. The government should provide adequate educational resources such as books and other teaching equipments that would assist in sex education, in schools.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the American Medical Association, The Society For Adolescent Medicine and The American Psychological Association may also support sex education programs in schools, by providing professional and expertise advice to teenagers and school children whenever need arises. Such organizations may also lobby the government to formulate and implement supportive policies and strategies that would aid and making sex education in schools beneficial.
According to Measor, Coralie and Katrina, most parents discuss sex topics with their children at home rarely (129). It is, therefore, essential that sex education is introduced in schools, so that children and teenagers may get well equipped with adequate knowledge and information concerning human sexuality before reaching adulthood when they shall be faced with numerous challenges on sexuality, such as infidelity and poor sexual activities in marriages. As sex education materializes in schools, its scope may increase to encompass family life, as well.
Sex education should be introduced in schools because most school going children, usually composed of teenagers and youths at their early adulthood, are the most sexually active individuals in the society. Most teenagers experience the peak of their sexualities while still in schools and colleges, and thus these places form the best targets for sexual education.
Although parents usually have the primary responsibility to teach their children on sexuality, they rarely do it openly and efficiently. This might be due to a number of factors such as parents spending too much of their time in the workplaces and thus having less time for their children. Similarly, poor interpersonal relationships might exist between children and their parents and hence poor parent-to-child interactions. Parents may also lack the professionalisms required for guidance and counseling such as sound listening and communication skills. For these reasons, schools form the best places for discussion of sexual topics.
Finally, the conclusion is that all citizens, including schoolchildren, teenagers and youths have the right to receive adequate education and information concerning various aspects of their lives. Sexual education is a critical area of life that one should get full and reliable information about it. This education may entail both classroom teachings and medical advising. Additionally, sex education concerns the most vital aspect of an individual’s life, that is, reproductive health. This makes it a crucial area that should be given adequate considerations so that future generations remain reproductive.