Calls growing to include sex education in Chinese primary and secondary education curriculum to protect children
Published: Mar 11, 2021 12:10 AM
A volunteer with the Girls Protection Fund teaches students in a rural school in Henan Province how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Photo: IC

A volunteer with the Girls Protection Fund teaches students in a rural school in Henan Province how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Photo: IC

Several proposals have been made during this year’s two sessions to the country’s education authority to include sex education in primary and secondary education curriculum. This has been a response to the staggering rise of sexual harassment cases related to minors. 

Ma Xiuzhen, director of the Health Commission of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and deputy to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), proposed that it is necessary to add sex education into the current curriculum system in middle schools.

“Due to the restraint of Chinese traditional thoughts, parents tend to be ashamed of talking about sex in front of their children,” said Ma. “However, with the popularity of social media among minors, the content, including sexual violence and sexual abuse is presented in front of our children without supervision.”

“There is some content about reproductive functions taught in class in some provinces in China, but most textbooks and teaching methods are not systematic enough for students ,” pointed Ma, and added that “it’s not suitable for them and it’s not what they need.”

Xu Fengqin, NPC deputy and vice president of Xiyuan Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, also suggested that sex education should be legislated as part of the family education law.

Xu believed that sex education inside the family helps to provide children with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves whenever they are vulnerable. And more importantly, it will improve communication allowing children to ask their parents for help if in danger of being sexually abused.

The hashtag, “suggestions for clarifying sex education as part of curriculum system for middle school students”, has been trending on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo with 340 million views as of Wednesday.

Many posts support the idea, saying an open and systematic sex education is definitely necessary in China.

“Teachers should also stop feeling embarrassed when talking about things like these or just skipping the part related to sex education,” said one netizen.

Another comment criticized the attitude within Chinese society of being very sensitive towards the subject saying that “some parents just don’t want to talk about it, and the school doesn’t either, and it’s bad for our children.”

According to media reports, Chinese police have solved over 12,000 cases, including rape and sexual harassment against minors, just in 2020. 

“The idea of a whole society which always avoids talking about sex in front of children is the biggest burden in providing adequate sex education,” Sexologist Fang Gang told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Sex education in school is necessary only if it’s not full of formalism, which might be despised by children. Instead, what we need is precise knowledge for the safety of our children, instead of blindly suppressing or blocking them from the issue, Zhang Lining, a  health expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

In 2011, the State Council released the China National Program for Child Development 2011-2020, which included placing sex education into the compulsory education curriculum. However, the Global Times learned that the sex education curriculum in China’s compulsory education is still almost absent.

“We don’t have that kind of class yet,” a schoolteacher surnamed Cui in Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan Province, told the Global Times. “However, I agree to have a try, since the generation is different and our children are not who we were,” she added.