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Taiwan must develop proper sex education curriculum
Publication Date : 16-06-2014
Some people say that living a life with regrets is in a sense not really living. We should never regret our lifestyle, friends, actions or deeds. In order to move forward in life, we should take the experiences of our past and use them as stepping-stones to help us reach our new goals and dreams. In other words, we shouldn't let the past hold us back. We should never regret anything, because at one time it was exactly what we wanted.
Yet, according to a survey released on June 7, over 40 per cent of Taiwanese college students have regretted their decisions to have sex. Among the 2,054 college students who responded to the poll conducted by the Taiwan Association for Sexuality Education, 44.1 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women said they had engaged in heterosexual sex.
Despite the gap between male and female students, which may be attributed to the teenagers' apprehensions in talking about their sex lives, 45 per cent of male and 43 per cent of female respondents expressed regret after physical intimacy. Even more worrisome is that the survey pointed out that only 30 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women said they or their partners had used condoms. Over 50 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women in the survey said they have had at least one one-night stand.
It is certainly not a secret that many high school students are sexually active today. While some are very conscientious and practice “safe sex,” many do not and they may be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. They might think that they are invulnerable, but they are not, and condoms are readily available in convenience stores.
“Save a life — use a condom!” might sound like well-timed advice when combined with a comprehensive program of sex education to help teenagers become more sexually responsible, but it is not that simple. Taiwan is still experiencing a growing number of teenage pregnancies and more sexually transmitted disease. So, what's the problem?
The problem is that teenagers don't have a clue of what they are doing. While the educational system relies on parents to check homework, cram school teachers to teach every subject and schools to train students to pass tests, nobody seems to be in charge of teaching children about sex, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and homosexuality. Not the public school, not the cram school, not the parents. Nobody.
Without a doubt, there is a lack of a proper sex education curriculum that would help students understand the lessons of human sexuality, reproduction and the spread of disease. Teenagers also have to understand their social studies lessons concerning social relationships, the development of cultural norms and the role of responsible citizens.
After all, sexuality is more complicated than “monkey see, monkey do” and most children already know a lot about sex through the media. We are convinced that if teenagers were openly given sex education in school, they would be more willing to use condoms. Sex education and condom availability programs are two important ways to teach responsibility for the self as well as others, for exploring the meaning of human relationships and for addressing the lack of respect for women in our society.
Few educators would argue that schools should not be involved in teaching values. Especially among teenagers who have bad relationships with their parents and are unable to talk to them about anything. Such programs wouldn't violate the right of parents to educate their children about moral behavior and religious values.
No sex education program can remove a parent or religious leader's right to teach teenagers the values they consider to be important, including sexual abstinence. What parents and religious leaders no longer have is the right to use public schools to impose their personal religious beliefs on their teenagers and on other people's children.
But should making condoms available be the job of the school? Some people argue that schools should be places for learning math and reading and science, not for learning how to put on a condom. Yet, public high schools are the best place to provide sex education and make condoms available to teenagers because that's where the teenagers are, and that's where there are adults who are trained and willing to counsel them.
A law that would require parental consent before an abortion or an authorisation to get free condoms would not create a better relationship. It would only lead to more regret as well as further conflict and teen pregnancy.