Should Hong Kong primary school pupils receive sex education?
I've received a letter from my daughter's school to say that they will be teaching sex education. She is in Year Five and I think it's too young to be learning about this subject. She can opt out of the lessons but I don't want her to feel self-conscious.
In times gone by, sex and education about the mechanics and emotional implications of engaging with the human reproduction system was taboo both at home and at school. Many of us staggered our way through the labyrinth of ignorance with whispered conversations on the playground and the occasional red-faced tip from our parents.
If young people are well informed this can help them to cope with growing up and prepare them to make wise decisions and good choices. And exploring the wonders and joys of mature relationships.
I would highly recommend you allow your daughter to be involved in the sex education sessions. Sex and relationship education is an important strand of the personal, social and health curriculum.
Research tells us modern children are developing earlier and, as raging hormones start to kick in, they need to be prepared for the dramatic changes ahead. Your daughter will need to understand the ups and downs that come with puberty are a normal part of life that happen to everyone.
The more adult areas of sex education are usually tackled at secondary school. Remember also, that your daughter will take in the information at her own level and concepts that go over her head can be reiterated and clarified at a later stage. However, if you are anxious about the content of these sessions, I'm sure the school will be happy to inform you about what is being covered.
Most primary schools approach the subject with very careful thought and planning. Specially designed resources can be excellent learning tools and used as a stimulus for discussion. Parents are sometimes invited to preview the books and visual presentations that will be used for sex education. This can help to reassure parents that the material is appropriate for their moral or cultural perspective and, very importantly, gives them an indication of what their children may want to discuss with them afterwards.
Teachers and other adults involved, such as the school nurse, who are experienced in teaching this area of the curriculum, are usually happy to answer any questions thrown at them by pupils. The use of an anonymous question box can also be a valuable aid to asking questions some students may find a little embarrassing. Students are often given opportunities for small group discussion, which gives the less-confident children a forum to ask questions or simply listen and absorb the information.
Primary schools often split girls and boys during sessions. This helps reduce the embarrassment factor. But there is still likely to be discussion of factors relating to the opposite sex as this is a vital part of giving students the full picture.
Most parents tend to be relieved to leave sex education to schools. From your daughter's perspective, it may be easier for her to learn alongside her peers. Children often find it easier to ask questions of teachers rather than parents and it also gives them the opportunity to make sense of it afterwards with their friends and ask questions if they are confused.
You may have an open relationship with your daughter but it could be advantageous for the school to take the lead in this matter. As you have pointed out, if she is only one of a few to be withdrawn from these sessions she is likely to feel left out or different and wonder why she is being excluded.
But if you would rather tackle this area of her education yourself make sure you don't leave it too late. Conversations with friends in the playground often get all mixed up, and myths and misinformation can be rife.
It is important to let your daughter know you are available to answer any questions she has.
Julie McGuire teaches at a local primary school