Sex education needs to be integrated into China’s classrooms

By Li Kaiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/13 15:43:40

Sex education is a significant aspect of individual growth as well as the advancement of civil society. Therefore, an advanced society should provide the space and resources to enable such learning to take place in the classrooms and public spheres.

Born in the 1980s in China, I have never been introduced to any sex-related education in elementary school. 

In junior high, we only learned the basic anatomical differences between males and females in biology class where my classmates, especially girls, felt embarrassed amid bashful laughter. The scant knowledge about sex from teachers and textbooks propelled our fascination about the subject, as well as some furtive and limited discussions about it.

Needless to say, our sex education was restricted. We had no idea how we came to this world, let alone how our mothers gave birth to us. When we asked our parents where we came from, they often reply in a joking manner that we were found in rubbish bins or fishing boats. These misleading stories became perilous as we entered into adolescence.

What is most dangerous is that we have no idea how to protect ourselves sexually since schools have failed to educate us on such critical issues as sexual harassment, abortion and HIV. Chinese schools, nowadays, still seem unprepared for sex education to be part of their curriculum.

If the abovementioned issues couldn't be publicly discussed, there would be no way to delegate efforts to prevent the "growing pains" - perplexity of sex.

For instance, same-sex relationship and marriage have yet been recognized in China, hence, safe sex between gay couples is not publicly discussed. An official report released in December 2016 said that the rates of HIV infection in China have increased more than 400 percent among gay men in the past five years.

With the alarming numbers of abortion rates and HIV infection made public, education sectors have started thinking of urgent measures to take in sex education for the next generation.

At the beginning of this spring semester, primary schools in several cities in China have introduced sex education in the classroom, including textbooks illustrating what sex is and saying that homosexuality is normal. Before 2001, homosexuality was labeled as a mental disorder in China.

Despite these educational efforts, many parents from my generation or even older slammed the publisher, saying the textbooks are inappropriate. But, I would give it a thumb-up as it, at least, tries to teach those pupils how to deal with potential growing pains, soliciting open and wide discussion in a bid to advance our society.

Li Kaiyu, a freelancer based in Nanjing.

Posted in: LETTERS

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