Academic starts training teachers amid lack of organized sex education in the country

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/23 20:23:40

A health expert in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, teaches a sex education class of 30 students on July 24, 2004. Photo: VCG

Before taking sex education lessons, Qin Fangli was at a loss  about dealing with her 9-year-old daughter's many questions.

"She would ask me why she can't pee standing like the boys,  or why they have a penis and she doesn't. I would feel confused, not knowing what to say," she said.

Then she stumbled upon sex education classes by Fang Gang, professor of sexology at Beijing Forestry University. After a few lessons, she realized the importance of sex education for children and family, so she decided to learn more.

In March, she became one of about 30 people first certified by the National Professional Personnel Reserve Working Committee as a sex education lecturer. The committee works under the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and evaluates levels of professionalism across fields.

The project is Fang's brainchild who stresses that the certificate isn't like a license for a job -  such as a teaching qualification - yet it is significant and is needed for the development of sex education in the country.

Fang has been teaching sexology and training teachers, parents and volunteers at schools for years. He holds summer camps for children, where movies and discussions - sometimes quite graphic and avant-garde - help fight inhibitions. In a class this reporter attended in the past, Fang used a banana to demonstrate how to put on a condom.

In China, there's no organized sex education and sex has traditionally been a taboo. In 2017, a sex education textbook introduced at an elementary school in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, caused a controversy among parents, forcing the school to withdraw it.

"Parents need sex education more than their children," Qin said. "If they don't learn enough, they can't pass on the right information to kids, which might be a hidden bomb for the future."

She found that many parents her age didn't know how to deal with love and sex-related issues pertaining to their children. One of her friends recently discovered his middle school-age son was dating a girl. His parents were shocked to find condoms and love letters in the boy's room. Not knowing how to talk to him about the issue, they simply told him to control himself, deciding to send him to another school, so that he got separated from the girl.

"Such a solution is rough and will push your child away from you," Qin said. "People who have had sex education might deal with it by talking to the child, making sure he knows about protection measures, and  doesn't neglect studies."

Fang conducted the training for the lecturers himself, requiring them to have professional knowledge. For example, a beginner level lecturer is required to be a parent, a professional in education, sociology or psychology, who has taken more than 30 hours of training and scored more than 80 out of 100 in a test Fang gives. He hopes the lecturers can spread the knowledge by conducting training and classes at schools or summer camps.

Sometimes Qin would teach sex education in schools. She gave a few lectures to her daughter's class much to the liking of children. Even teachers say students need such knowledge, but they don't have enough resources to hold classes on their own.

The biggest gain, Qin said, has been finding the answer to her daughter's questions. While taking a bath together, they talked about body parts, menstrual cycle and even giving birth. Gradually, she had better relations with her daughter, who would often ask sex-related questions. 

"She would sometimes ask me, when will I hit puberty? When will my breasts develop? I could see her looking forward to these stages," she said.

Newspaper headline: No Longer Taboo


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