Sex education, the bad ratio of the school curriculum

This is the male reproductive system, this is the female reproductive system, this is puberty. Okay, let’s get to the math?

Posted at 5:00am

Louise Leduc

Louise Leduc
The press

Arrived a few weeks ago The presswrote one student that after five years of high school, she had only “taken up to four sex education classes.”

After verifying with unions and other school actors, this teen is far from the only one in Quebec to have had almost no sex education in school.

At the end of primary school, according to the usual formula, it often comes down to just ‘puberty lessons’.

Dissatisfaction among teachers

One of the problems: Not all teachers are comfortable with sex education. In this regard, as far as courses in ethics and religious culture are concerned, some have “the impression that they are walking on eggshells,” according to a recent report from the Ministry of Education that takes stock of all these subjects considered delicate.

Result: Schools are being called upon by schools to tackle a number of themes that are indeed on the schedule every year, although there are no set courses in the timetable.

“Often, in physics class, teachers discuss the reproductive system. But there is a difference between reproduction and sex’, notes Joëlle Dalpé, clinical coordinator of Plein Milieu, specializing in sexology and drug addiction.

Plein milieu is one of the few neighborhood groups that schools call on to give classroom workshops.

when Mme Dalpé asks the question to the youngsters of the first secondary school, she is told that in primary school it was often not even a matter of menstruation or sanitary towels.

As specified in an official document sent to us by the Autonomous Federation of Education to clarify its position on sex education, “the content is mandatory, but their support from teachers is not”.

Mélanie Hubert, president of the Syndicat de l’enseignement de l’Ouest (in Montreal), does not hide her concern to see that sex education is so little taught, “while so many issues related to it are so important”. It is the responsibility of all teachers to make it “and thus ultimately nobody’s job”.

“We need a program with a real structure, with evaluations and adequate teacher training. †

Shyness and surprising questions

You need to be well equipped to tackle these issues, says Joëlle Dalpé, who admits himself after all these years to be very surprised by certain questions that pop up out of nowhere.

“In the first year of secondary, we show them a drawing of a vulva and the vast majority of them will close their eyes,” even though they know “what a dildo is” or an anal relationship.

Another source of surprise: When it comes to sex education, girls, Dalpé, do not speak or intervene only in exceptional cases.

During a recent workshop ‘a man asked six questions about pregnancy’, she mentions as an example. Girls? Not one.

And why is it important for guys to know how the sexual cycle works and about both female and male birth control? she asks in class. The boys ignore him. Don’t feel concerned.

What if the girl gets pregnant? she asks the youngsters. “She just needs to have an abortion” and if she chooses not to, “they don’t care”, thinking it’s not their problem.

Some topics, necklace Mme Dalpé, don’t pass all the way. This is especially true for sexual diversity.

15 years ago we talked about gays, lesbians, bisexuals. There we also talk about intersex, trans, sex change, LGBTQ+… The students react strongly, they are shocked that it exists and that we are talking about it. They tell me, “We don’t have that in my country.”

Joëlle Dalpé, coordinator of the neighborhood organization Plein Milieu

mme Dalpé also points out that in highly multicultural schools, when the workshop is announced, many students are deliberately absent.

sexual diversity

Dedicated to unraveling sexual orientations and gender identities, the Research and Social Intervention Group (GRIS) is one of the groups most present in schools. This year the organization gave 1,100 workshops. “As homophobia is a theme that needs to be addressed in the third cycle of primary school, the demand has increased exponentially,” said Marie Houzeau, director general of GRIS, who says that normally 30,000 young people are reached each year without a pandemic.

She points out that “young people are more or less comfortable talking about these issues, depending on the level of religiosity”, but that the degree of openness also depends on the culture “of the classroom, of the school, of the family”.

unequal offer

Joanie Heppell, president of Quebec’s Professional Association of Sexologists, says she occasionally expresses concern to the Department of Education that sex education is clearly being taught in such an uneven way from one school to another.

It is impossible for every school to have its own sex therapist. But what works well, she says, is when sexologists are hired by a school service center to support teachers.

But contrary to popular belief, M. onme Heppell, it’s not just awkward teachers. There are also teachers who feel a little too comfortable, whose discourse and content go beyond the development of the students they address.

It’s often “helping teachers find the right tone” that the sex therapist is particularly helpful, notes M. onme heppell.

In France, the story is the same, according to an Agence France-Presse report published Tuesday. If a law stipulates that sex education must be the subject of at least three sessions a year, this obligation is absolutely not applied, according to a study by the French collective #NousToutes.

Lack of sufficient information in school, which is regulated by law, AFP writes, teenagers turn to the internet and sometimes pornography to learn about sexuality. †

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