Sex education: The ministry must define the boundaries and limits so that the expert teachers model their teaching accordingly.

REFER to “Sex education is a must” (NST, April 12).

Federal police sexual, women and child investigation division assistant principal director Assistant Commissioner Ong Chin Lan said she believed that “moral-based teachings needed to be enhanced along with the present academic-based curriculum”.

She also said there was a need to take another look at the approach to sex education in schools. Should sex education be taught as a full-fledged subject or integrated into existing subjects such as Biology, Moral/Religious Studies, and Physical and Health Education? What should the contents be in the primary and secondary school years?

There are also concerns about the “right” pedagogy and teachers’ readiness to handle the task. Nevertheless, it is unreservedly agreed that the time has come for sex education to be an integral part of our school curriculum.

So, how do we go about it?

First, there is no doubt that the Education Ministry has or can engage experts to draw up the curriculum and syllabus, and write the texts and modules.

Next, the schools will be asked to send teachers to attend courses. They will impart the knowledge to students. This is the normal and proven procedure whenever a new subject is introduced. But, sex education is different, as it is a sensitive and even controversial subject.

Teachers entrusted with the task should be well-versed with the cognitive contents of the subject. They should also have the maturity, experience and professionalism to handle and provide counselling on emotional, physical, as well as spiritual issues that may arise. This is quite a tall order, even for experienced teachers.

The reality is that most schools will send teachers whose teaching timetables are not yet full for such courses. These teachers teach a number of the “not so important” subjects; they are the “general” teachers, at least for the duration of the particular school year. The “specialist” teachers, on the other hand, would have their teaching time-tables filled to the brim.

These teachers are usually in charge of examination subjects, and schools cannot afford to spare them to teach subjects like sex education, which most likely will not be an examination subject.

Given the noble aims of sex education and that it is the schools’ inescapable responsibility to teach it, aren’t our schools in a Catch-22 situation?

If sex education is to be implemented, then at the early stage, the ministry has to come to the rescue of schools. The ministry can engage expert teachers to conduct a series of model multimedia teaching sessions that will impart formal knowledge on the subject. Next are expertly designed interactive follow-up tutorial sessions.

All these teaching sessions can be video recorded in compact discs or other computer storage devices. They can be distributed to schools.

The classroom teacher will act as a facilitator and school counsellors can be called in to help in any tutorial session if it becomes difficult. This way, pressure is taken away from the “general” teachers called to handle a sensitive and controversial subject. It will also prevent the subject matter from being unduly handled by overzealous teachers.

The ministry must define the boundaries and limits so that the expert teachers model their teaching accordingly.

This is of particular importance, especially at the initial stage of introducing sex education in schools.

Given time, teachers in schools will gain the necessary exposure and feedback and, hence, the confidence in handling the subject.

- LIONG K.C.

Seremban, Negri Sembilan

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