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Background Information on Sexuality Education
Effective sexuality education is based on sound behaviour theory that has been developed over several years. Fisher (1997) has discussed those theories and shown how they can help to frame and develop sexuality education programs.
Education about Sexuality: Different Approaches
There are several approaches that educators and others have used to educate young people about sexuality (Birdwhistle and Vince-Whitman, 1997):
-family life-which places emphasis
on preparing children for family life and reproduction
The selection of which approach to use in schools is usually a difficult one because there are inherent values and significant choices to be made in determining a basic approach to instructing young people about sexuality. Sometimes, authorities avoid making a clear decision from among these choices, thereby leaving the classroom teacher in somewhat of a vacuum, having to respond to the direct questions of their students without a clear mandate from policy-makers.
This Internet gateway has attempted to locate lessons that can fit within all of these approaches. However, the research identified in the development of the comprehensive list of possible learning outcomes would support the use of a sexuality education approach.
However, teachers should check their respective provincial/territorial curriculum and other guidelines from the local school board.
The Need for Sexuality Education
The arguments for sexuality education have been well presented by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada.
Parents and guardians are a primary and important source of sexual health education for young people. Adolescents often look to their families as one of several preferred sources of sexual health information (King et al., 1988; McKay & Holowaty, 1997).
In addition to families, schools are a particularly important source of sexual health education. As the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education suggest, as the single formal educational institution to have meaningful contact with nearly every young person, schools are a vital resource for providing children, adolescents, and young adults with the knowledge and skills they will need to make and act upon decisions that promote sexual health (Health Canada, 1994, p. 11).
As an important part of its contribution to adolescent development, sexual health education can play a key role in the primary prevention of significant sexual health problems. For example, at present, over 45,000 young women aged 15-19 years become pregnant in Canada each year (Wadhera & Millar, 1997), and rates of common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as Chlamydia, are highest among teenagers and young adults (Health Canada, 1998). The high Chlamydia rate among 15-19 year olds is a significant health concern and when it is not recognized and treated, this STD can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and infertility (Patrick, 1997). According to Canada's Labratory Centre for Disease Control, although the limited data available suggests that prevalence of HIV infection among youth is currently low, adolescents "are a group that could experience an increase in HIV infection" (Health Canada, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, 1999, P. 1). As documented below, broadly-based sexual health education can play an important role in the prevention of STDs and unintended pregnancies among young people.
Further, as SIECCAN has also pointed out, parents consistently support sexuality education in schools and in other institutions.
Survey research consistently shows that Canadian parents and students want schools to provide sexual health education programs. For example, Lawlor and Purcell (1988) found that 95% of their sample of Montreal area parents of high school students approved of sexuality education in the schools. Verby and Herold's (1992) survey of parents in an urban area of Ontario indicated that 98% were in favour of AIDS education. A more recent series of surveys of Canadian parents found that over 85% of parents agreed with the statement, "Sexual health education should be provided in the schools", and a majority of parents approved of schools' providing students with information on reproduction, birth control, STD/AIDS prevention, healthy relationships, abstinence, sexual orientation, puberty, sexual abuse/rape, and individual, family, and community moral beliefs about sexuality (Langille, Beazley, & Doncaster, 1996; McKay, 1996; McKay, Pietrusiak & Holowaty, 1998).
Principles of Effective Sexuality Education
The Canadian Guidelines for Sexuality Education (Health Canada, 1994) include a thorough presentation of some guiding principles for sexuality education.
Principle 1: Access to Sexual Health Education for All
Principle 2: Comprehensiveness of Sexual Health Education: Integration, Coordination and Breadth
Principle 3: Effectiveness and Sensitivity of Educational Approaches and Methods
Principle 4: Training and Administrative Support
Principle 5: Program Planning, Evaluation, Updating and Social Development
Characteristics of Effective Programs
(1995) and other sources used in this review (Birdwhistle
and Vince-Whitman, 1997: Walsh & Bibace, 1990: Basch, 1989; Allensworth and Symons,
1989: Kerr, 1989; King et al, 1990; ) have listed the following characteristics of
effective sexuality education programs. Good programs:
Fisher (2001) suggests that sexuality education should place a priority on behaviourally relevant, easy to translate into action sexual health information. Such education should acknowledge that most of the problem in sexual health risk taking involves emotional obstacles to practicing prevention and on the corresponding need to focus on attitudinal and normative change as well as the development of behavioural skills.
Elements of Effective Sexuality Education
The following structural elements need to be included in an effective sexual health education program
As well, the teaching/learning methods selected should reflect the outcome being sought in the classroom. For example:
Effective Teaching in Health and Sexuality Education
Research has identified several characteristics of effective teaching in health and sexuality education. They are:
For Health and Personal/Social Development Education
For sexuality education and other sensitive topics
Support for Effective Sexuality Education
Support for sexuality education should come from within and
outside the school system and should include:
Effective Lesson Planning and Learning Activities
Lesson plans and learning activities in sexuality and other subjects should follow a well-planned and implemented format (El-Tigi, 2000;) including:
The target age/grade(s) and any other relevant information should also be included in the lesson plan description.
The actual lesson procedure/process (ERIC Clearinghouse; 1987) should include these steps
1. Gain the learners attention.
2. Review relevant past learning.
3. Communicate the goal of the lesson.
4. Model the skills to be learned.
5. Prompt for correct responses.
6. Check for skill mastery.
7. Close the lesson.
See Sources/References for the references used in preparing this background information.
Last updated: 02/15/2005