I REFER to the article “Let’s talk about sex... education” (The Star, Star2, March 21).
It looks like the topic of sex education in school is in the limelight again, but should it be taught as a full-fledged subject or integrated into existing subjects like Biology, Moral/Religious Studies, and Physical and Health Education?
What depth and width should the contents be at different levels in primary and secondary education?
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?
Let me share my two-sen worth of experience and opinion.
First, there is no doubt that the Education Ministry has or can engage qualified and expert personnel to draw up the relevant curriculum and syllabus and write the necessary texts and modules.
Next, the schools will be asked to send teachers to attend short in-service exposure courses. After that, they will shoulder the responsibility of imparting the knowledge to their students.
This is the normal and proven procedure whenever a “new” subject is introduced.
Sex education, however, 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 in handling and giving counsel on any emotional, physical as well as spiritual aspect that may arise, and this is quite a tall order even for experienced teachers.
The reality is that most teachers sent to attend these courses would be those whose personal teaching time-tables are not yet full. They are the “general” teachers, at least for the duration of the particular school year, who normally teach a number of the “not so important” subjects.
The “specialist” teachers, on the other hand, would already have their teaching time table filled to the brim. They are in charge of examination subjects and cannot be spared to teach subjects like sex education, which most likely would not be an examination subject.
So, given the noble aims of sex education and the inescapable responsibility to teach it, aren’t our schools in a catch-22 situation?
If sex education is to be implemented, the ministry has to come to the rescue of schools at the earliest stage. The ministry can engage expert teachers to first conduct a series of model multimedia teaching sessions that will impart formal knowledge of the subject. Next, expertly designed interactive follow-up tutorial sessions can be prepared. These tutorials will partly or sufficiently take care of the other aspects of the subject matters as mentioned above. All these teaching sessions can be recorded in compact discs (CDs) or computer storage devices that can be distributed to schools for use by teachers.
The classroom teacher will act as facilitator and school counsellors can be called in to help in any tutorial session if it becomes difficult.
In this way, much pressure would be taken away from the “general” teachers tasked with a sensitive and controversial subject. It would also prevent the subject matters from being unduly handled by zealous teachers.
Given time, teachers in schools will gain the necessary exposure and feedback and hence the confidence to handle the subject.
LIONG KAM CHONG