The Malta Independent 24 March 2019, Sunday

Guidelines on sexual education launched

Malta Independent Tuesday, 4 February 2014, 12:22 Last update: about 6 years ago

PSD Teachers are being encouraged to use the necessary resources and aids and teach students to respect different sexual orientations and religions during sexual education lessons, according to new guidelines that were launched today.

The Guidelines on Sexuality and Relationships Education were launched by Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, who criticized the taboo approach taken by some schools and teachers on the subject that is a "natural part of life."

Mr Bartolo said that the guidelines, which have been drafted over a period of three years, are aimed at guiding teachers on how to deal with the subject of sex, whilst taking into consideration today’s realities. Children are nowadays more exposed to sexuality and, whilst always promoting abstinence and responsibility, teachers should also keep these realities in mind. Teachers are encouraged to speak about contraception and actually use visual aids. “Educators should not be afraid to bring a condom to class for fear of being reprimanded.”

Students are also to be made aware of the consequences and sex will be spoken of in the context of relationships. “Sexuality is to be addressed in a positive way. The subject of sexuality has to be taught as the important and beautiful part of life that it is. The alternative of doing nothing is not acceptable.”

Mr Bartolo stressed on the responsibility that PSD teachers carry, especially since many parents are actually too shy to speak to their children about the subject and rely on teachers to do so.

Mr Stephen Camilleir, who drafted the guidelines, said that they are aimed at giving teachers a clearer direction when interpreting the curriculum, helping them deliver more effective lessons and also in dealing with situations and questions that might arise in the classroom.

Teachers are reminded not to disclose personal details, even when asked by their students. They should answer questions in an honest and non-judgemental way and should refrain from giving advice and refer students to professionals.  

The Education Ministry is also collaborating with the Commissioner for Children to publish a workbook for year 4, 5 and 6 students as well as a clip for parents.

The guidelines were set up after consultation with teachers, college principals and Director Generals and were a reaction to the PSD Review and the National Sexual Health Policy.

PSD lessons are introduced in Year 4 but lessons focus on human development rather than sexuality. PSD subjects progress year after year, and students are officially taught about sex in secondary school.


High rate of under-age sex

The Education Minister said that statistics show that up to a third of young people between 14 and 16 years have sex at least on one occasion, usually under the influence of alcohol. This is why proper sexual education is important. Teachers also have to be prepared for questions that might arise during PSD lessons.

Studies show that in recent years there were dramatic increases in sexual activity by younger people. One study showed that the average age of first intercourse for people aged between 15 and 24 was 17. Another study carried out among 1310 people between 14 and 16 years showed that around 13% had already had sexual intercourse, and the majority had sex for the first time at 14 years of age. Around 15% had oral sex and around 8% of males and 3% of females responded that they had tried anal sex.

Mr Bartolo said that it is unacceptable for schools to treat sexual behaviour surveys as taboo and the mentality has to change.


Co-ed schooling and sexual education

When asked on the impact that sexual education lessons can have in co-ed schools, Mr Bartolo said that this environment would actually be ideal. “At least they will get to see the other sex,”said the Minister, with a smile.

Mr Bartolo insisted that students in mixed classes will learn to have more respect for the opposite sex. However, boys and girls will be segregate during some lessons to that they would be able to ask personal questions in relative privacy. “We are not inventing the wheel but simply doing what other countries started doing in the 90s.”

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