Sexual Health Education in the Schools: Questions & Answers (3Rd Edition)

Article excerpt

7Abstract: Access to effective, broadly-based sexual health education is an important contributing factor to the health and well-being of Canadian youth. This resource document provides research-based answers to 16 common questions that parents, communities, educators, health and school administrators, and governments may have about sexual health education in the schools. These questions and answers focus on issues that include the current status of adolescent sexual health, parents' and students' opinions regarding sexual health education, the impact of sexual health education on behaviour, the key ingredients of effective programs, the appropriateness of "abstinence-only" approaches, and the social and economic benefits of providing sexual health education. This document supports sexual health education in the schools that is grounded in democratic principles, informed by credible research, and consistent with the Public Health Agency of Canada's (2008) Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education.

Introduction

Access to effective, broadly-based sexual health education is an important contributing factor to the health and well-being of Canadian youth (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008). School-based programs are an essential avenue for providing sexual health education to young people. Educators, public health professionals, administrators, and others who are committed to providing high quality sexual health education in the schools are often asked to explain the rationale, philosophy, and content of proposed or existing sexual health education programs.

This document, prepared by SIECCAN, the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (www.sieccan.org) is designed to support the provision of high quality sexual health education in Canadian schools. It provides answers to some of the most common questions that parents, communities, educators, program planners, school and health administrators, and governments may have about sexual health education in the schools.

Canada is a pluralistic society in which people with differing philosophical, cultural, and religious values live together in a society structured upon basic democratic principles. Canadians have diverse values and opinions related to human sexuality.

Philosophically, this document reflects the democratic, principled approach to sexual health education embodied in the Public Health Agency of Canada's (2008) Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education. The Guidelines are based on the principle that sexual health education should be accessible to all people and that it should be provided in an age appropriate, culturally sensitive manner that is respectful of an individual's right to make informed choices about sexual and reproductive health.

The answers to common questions about sexual health education provided in this document are based upon and informed by the findings of up-to-date and credible scientific research. An evidence-based approach combined with a respect for democratic principles and values offers a strong foundation for the development and implementation of high quality sexual health education programs in Canadian schools.

Sexual health and Canadian youth: How are we doing?

Sexual health is multidimensional and involves the achievement of positive outcomes such as mutually rewarding interpersonal relationships and desired parenthood as well as the avoidance of negative outcomes such as unwanted pregnancy and STI/HIV infection (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008). Trends in teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, age of first intercourse, and condom use are often used to generally assess the status of the sexual health of Canadian youth.

With respect to teenage pregnancy, it can be assumed that a large proportion of teen pregnancies, particularly among younger teens, are unintended. Teen pregnancy rates are therefore a reasonably direct indicator of young women's opportunities and capacity to control this aspect of their sexual and reproductive health. …