Sex education is not compulsory in all European countries. In fact, the subject continues to generate controversy in some EU Member States; in Poland, for example, there has been a political backlash against the teaching of sex education in schools, with Amnesty International recently accusing the Polish government of “putting young people at risk” with “recklessly retrogressive laws” that could see teachers jailed for up to three years if they teach sex education to under-18s.

Instead, Polish educators are encouraged to teach preparation for “family life”. Clearly, there is disagreement about the lessons young people should be learning when it comes to sex. In fact, many organisations now prefer the term “sexuality education” to sex education. They argue that sexuality is much broader than just the biological facts, covering a range of topics including relationships, communication about sexuality and sexual health, valuing one’s body, and having understanding and respect for different sexual orientations and gender identities.

Attempts have been made to promote a common approach to teaching sex (or “sexuality”) education. For example, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe – in cooperation with several other organisations – has developed a framework of Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe, providing “age-appropriate and evidence-informed suggestions for sexuality education”. These are not, however, mandatory guidelines, and it is entirely the responsibility of individual countries to set curricula and enforce standards.

What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Sophia, who thinks sex education should be mandatory in every classroom in Europe.

To get a reaction, we put Sophia’s comment to Amelia Jenkinson, director and co-founder of Sexplain, a UK-based organisation offering sex education workshops in schools. What would she say?

I fully agree with Sophia, sex education should be compulsory in schools. Here in the UK, teaching sex education will only be mandatory from September 2020, which was not the case previously. We can see the effects [of not teaching sex education] in classrooms: there are fundamental gaps in knowledge among 11- to-18-year-olds about their bodies, sexuality, gender, consent and healthy relationships – knowledge which helps determine physical and emotional well-being. Our organisation offers inclusive and understandable workshops at schools so that the young people feel better in their bodies and emotionally. In addition, they should also critically question their attitudes so that we all campaign for greater equality.

For another perspective, we also spoke to Nino Berdzuli, Programme Manager for Sexual and Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe. What would she say to Sophia?

Very good question, Sophia. First of all, I think Sophia was referring to sexuality education in schools. Sex education is mostly related to a biological function, but we are talking more broadly about sexuality education, which also involves relationships and personal feelings, individual and societal values. I would say that formalised sexuality education is very important and has become even more important because of the rapid spread of social media, the Internet, mobile phone technology which brings enormous positive and educational potential, but it is of concern given the risks of access to online pornography that has come with it. All these developments have triggered the need for good quality sexuality education. Formalised sexuality education will enable young people to deal with their sexuality in a safe and satisfactory manner.

Formalised, mandatory sexuality education in school is important, first of all, to reach most children and young people, and to provide them with the evidence-based information. With the proper training and staffing in schools, these can be very safe spaces and learning environments for the discussions on sexuality, and teachers and schools can become skilled and trusted sources of information. We support formalised and mandatory sexuality education. But, of course, I have to say that children and young people need both formal and informal sexuality education, and these two should not be opposed, they complement one another.

Next up, reader James argues that, as well as schools, parents should also play an important role when it comes to sex education. Would Amelia Jenkinson agree with him?

I agree with James that schools and parents should work together on the subject. There are some schools that approach parents to involve them in educating their children. Including so that conversations [started in school] can be continued at home. These two sides can complement each other very well.

However, not all parents feel comfortable taking on the topic of sex education. It is also unlikely that parents are qualified to be able to respond well to all issues raised, so we risk putting too much responsibility onto parents. Plus, there are also many young people who refuse to have this sort of conversation with their parents. You may prefer to speak to a neutral person outside the home. When it comes to having such conversations at home, that’s fantastic, but you also have to realise that it won’t always be possible.

Should sex education be compulsory in all schools? What role should parents play? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Bigstock © Oleksandra Naumenko


67 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Aris

    if you think that the only source of sex education is the porn sites it is better to educate the young students in a school in the right and professional way.

  2. avatar
    Constantinescu

    Nobody belives a teacher…

    • avatar
      Filipe

      you must have had terrible teachers in your youth. Are you traumatised in any way?

    • avatar
      Constantinescu

      no… I am a teacher!

  3. avatar
    Giulia

    Yes it should. If schools don’t give the right infos no one will. I don’t understand who says “if you teach them you push them into it”… they’ll do what they want eventually, they’ll just know what they’re getting into.

  4. avatar
    Γεώργιος

    Yes in a suitable way

  5. avatar
    Marco

    Yes of course. Kids need to be educated with the right facts and information. This is particularly important nowadays, when most have unsupervised access to the internet.
    Notwithstanding, schools curricula need to be stronger in subjects like civics, tech, and personal development related skills.

    • avatar
      Dionis

      Children in the West are being sexualised in many ways from what they see in public life, mostly sexualised in wrong ways, while society sits back ant watches powerless. Maybe a sexualisation of kids in schools ” for good purposes ” can be positive in its complex, now that we are in such an advanced stage all things considered, as terrible as it might sound. ..BUT: let’s not call the whole thing “a great achievement of the western society”. Let’s not be so dumb and pathetic, ok

    • avatar
      Marco

      I think it’s quite importante to make a distinction. I may be incorrect but I assume that when we talk about sex education we are talking about educating about human sexuality. Human sexuality is not “sex”. That’s a very narrow scope and does not encapsule the complexity of the human experience. We are talking about teaching kids about human growth: biological, psychological, and social. It’s about feelings, how we relate with ourselves, the Other and the world. It’s about teaching how we all relate to each other, how families may take many different configurations, about the human reproductive system, dating, sex, safe sex, STI’, pregnancy, contraceptive tools, menstruation, the pill, and even pleasure. Obviously, all the different themes are not explored in all ages and with the same type of depth and complexity. I’m quite confident that our Teachers and Pedagogues know how to adjust the message to cater to each audience.

    • avatar
      Dionis

      I chose my words carefully but thank you for clarifying what the meaning of each word and concept is, so that there is no misunderstanding. Still, I used the word sexualize, and not sex – not the same thing! Question: how can you say that sexual education does not sexualize children? It may not be its main goal, all right. But how about being one of its important effects? Can you deny that?

    • avatar
      Marco

      I believe it’s a non-issue, in the sense that we are all sexual beings and our sexual development starts early on; one could argue as early as we can discern sensations and attribute qualitative weight to it. Again, the scope needs the be broadened. To deny it is to somehow position it outside of normal human development. I personally don’t think sex-Ed sexualize kids. Porn does that I believe and more. Sex-Ed should give them the right information but also create the space to discuss collectively about the importance of deciding when each one is ready to embark on that journey, without being pressured to do so, by peers or boyfriends/girlfriends, giving it the importance and seriousness that it deserves. Again, the curriculum for each age group has to be different and adequate to its respective audience. Earlier ages will most likely focus on relational aspects, biological information. As they progress in age, sex contraceptives, relationship themes and such should have more focus. After all Education’s aim is to prepare kids to become adults.

  6. avatar
    Enric

    No, I don,t think teachers are sensible enough to teach such a delicat matter.

  7. avatar
    Evaldas

    This is your banana’s. And This is how to do this.

  8. avatar
    Christos

    YES!!! After providing training to specialized Sex Educators (who don’t have conflict with the idea of sex education – like priests for instance, some of which are teachers)

  9. avatar
    Ахмед

    Definitely. By specialists, teachers aren’t qualified.

  10. avatar
    Wasim

    No, absolutely not
    Regardless other source of obtaining such stuff, we should not encourage children or amateur into those stuff in young age, cause it’s just like drug, and worst, once you are there, you always there, if the children is learning this stuff from porn website it’s our duty to prevent them and let them concentrate on real life issue, assuring them that one day, in the right time, you will larn all you needs to, in the right way
    Not pushing them into those stuff and label it “the better way”, and if you blaming kids for going to porno to watch such stuff, adults are also into, even those who study it in school, in fact the most one need porno is those who study it thiortcal, in order to see applicable and understand the topic, so even the nerd who don’t care for such stuff will transfer him into jerk thanks to this “school subject”

    • avatar
      Edmond

      Sex ed is good and can prevent pregnancy/disease. Stop protecting kids and start explaining the bad/good in stuff.

    • avatar
      Artjoms

      yeah, definitely. Some of them will learn how to use a condom only after they get “POS” mark in the HIV test results. Do you really learn how to drive only after being in a car accident or what?

    • avatar
      Wasim

      No thank you, we already witnessing the effect of those classes in western society and how the government beg for marriage and have kids instead of BG relationships that are just a result of those classes

    • avatar
      Wasim

      such stupid example
      You are not even allow to drive if you don’t have licence, and you are not allow to have license if you are underage

    • avatar
      Raquel

      @Edmond
      I second this. Plus, we need serious talk about consent, anatomy and pleasure.

    • avatar
      Raquel

      f you don’t want sex then don’t have sex – simple no. But you have to let others decide but, how can they decide if they don’t know? Kids need to have a safe space free of weird porn where actors have 2m long dicks and behave poorly towards actresses that already came. They need to know how to protect themselves, what consent is, how to identify abuse, etc etc. Then they will be free to do what they want with those tools. I don’t think have kids or marriage are related to know more about oneself preferences and respect.
      Are you arguing people should be kept ignorant so they can marry and have with the first person that appears? Would that relationship be stable would the parts involved be happy or satisfied? Would kids be loved? Or would it be a hell or relationship where people fight, are sexualy frustrated without even knowing? People without same needs and points of views and goals in life? Would the kids see these fights that come up from a relationship that shouldn’t be?
      Then you say western societies well this is the West and, yes we have some cultural values. Nobody is forcing you to follow them so reciprocate and don’t force your points of view on anyone – especially kids.

    • avatar
      Raquel

      that is where you are wrong kiddo you can get a licence to drive a car at 17 and a bike at 14.
      I agree with you driving is different from sex. Because a car can cause huge issue to many people that had nothing to do with the driver or car – involves the public while sex is private – usually starts with self exploration and if it goes wrong is only the person exploring (in private) that gets the after math of a bad orgasm. Even in group sex people involved agree on being involved so…. Ok one of them didn’t get of and is grumpy or got a bruise due the position well
      ..
      This person still agree on it. Didn’t just got rammed into the situation out of nothing like a carcrash. So what would be the problem to have a kid self exploring.
      If you don’t like sex then don’t have sex. Also, calling people dumb for an argument without explaining is just lazy and/or arrogant.

    • avatar
      Artjoms

      oh, really? That’s actually the same situation with sex edu – at first you are tought to do it, and only then you do it

    • avatar
      Artjoms

      actually, thanks for proving my opinion. You just did it with your definitely not silly comment

    • avatar
      Filipe

      children will not be children forever. They will learn anyway. It better not be the hard way.

    • avatar
      Artjoms

      really, no need to debate while some guy hallucinates about my friends who agreed to him. I say that sex edu is necessary because you can not safely do something if you do not have skills or xp to do it. It’s like… you can not shoot a gun when you don’t know how to

  11. avatar
    Rita

    Yes!! Accused information providing them a base for their choices and actions. Teachers have to be trained to give this subject.

  12. avatar
    Oscar

    If is explicit.. yes.. please, bananas are cool to eat. Use your fingers to explain, while in fact.. sex is not what makes people understand what sex is.. and what problems are in cause.. Pain? Pleasure? Auto-Control ? … more than the act that even chicken know what to do

  13. avatar
    Filipe

    It should be provided by schools, but parents should have the final word. It’s better to have some education at school than none at home, but the home is the right place for that.

    • avatar
      Raquel

      I disagree with this

    • avatar
      Filipe

      , that’s fine. Let’s agree that sexual education is necessary, whether at home or at school. My point is, schools are no substitutes for parents, in this matter or in any other. But if parents are not up to it, the school should step in.

  14. avatar
    Francisca

    Most schools in the Nederlands do have standard sex education….(not sure whether this is part of compulsory education program)

  15. avatar
    Jonathan

    Absolutely and it should include all aspects of relationships and sex, including gay and trans. Parents tend to project their own preferences and sexual interests and morals onto their children. Much better that children learn about these matters in a neutral environment like school, where they can think and learn without preconceived ideas of what is right and wrong being imposed upon them.

    • avatar
      Raquel

      why not
      ?

  16. avatar
    Andriano

    First educate the parents, then the teachers, and afterwards the children. Mainly due to lack of education of the parents and teachers, as well as the inherent information bias, any mandatory education on sexuality will not suffice. I agree that it is of paramount importance to be introduced. We cannot keep letting our children be “educated” by porn sites and hearsay of their peers in such an important matter. It is an issue that will greatly affect their lives in general and their
    future relationships

  17. avatar
    Christos

    We need sex education for parents and adults not for children.

    • avatar
      Παυλος

      if you are 21 years old or older and you don’t know how to use a condom or why you should use it… it’s to late…
      Children should know about how to stay healthy, avoid misfortunes and mental problems all connected with not getting the right information when they should καλύτερα να προλαμβάνεις παρά να κυνηγάς αργότερα τα ασυμμάζευτα

    • avatar
      Christos

      that’s why you start with parents before the child is even born.

    • avatar
      Παυλος

      I find it more difficult, adults don’t learn easily, I’m more of the opinion that I raise children to become proper adults and therefore parents

  18. avatar
    Anna

    Yes provided the teacher is educated enough on how to bring up the subject up in class…this is a delicate matter but I believe around the ages between 10 and 12 is a good time to start teaching children about it just before adolescence.

  19. avatar
    Leea

    Yes, absolutely. And I agree on the point of “sexuality” education. It is not enough to teach the basic mechanics and biology, but it’s necessary to talk about the mental, physchological and emotional aspects.
    And here in Finland, when I was at school, we got basic biology of procreation at age 11, more elaborate sex ed at 13 and 14 and some also at 16 or 17. The sex ed part in early teens was given by an ngo. This could be a solution to what has been said in earlier comments. If we think the teachers aren’t able to deliver this kind of education, there are a lot of ngos that can do this too.

  20. avatar
    Παυλος

    Ofcourse it should!!! Such a lesson could save future generations from the pain of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies

  21. avatar
    Pete

    Absolutely. This isn’t a matter to be questioned

  22. avatar
    Okechukwu

    yes I concur with u… but it must starts from the .

  23. avatar
    Toni

    Yes, specialists should teach the children about it, but keep the gender propaganda away from the kids. When they grow up enough, they can choose by themselves.

  24. avatar
    Dionis

    Children in the West are being sexualised in many ways from what they see in public life, mostly sexualised in wrong ways, while society sits back ant watches powerless. Maybe a sexualisation of kids in schools ” for good purposes ” can be positive in its complex, now that we are in such an advanced stage all things considered, as terrible as it might sound. ..BUT: let’s not call the whole thing “a great achievement of the western society”. Let’s not be so pathetic, ok?

  25. avatar
    Pedro

    Yes, please!
    But not only in biological terms, also in psychological and sociological terms.

    • avatar
      Dionis

      Children in the West are being sexualised in many ways from what they see in public life, mostly sexualised in wrong ways, while society sits back ant watches powerless. Maybe a sexualisation of kids in schools ” for good purposes ” can be positive in its complex, now that we are in such an advanced stage all things considered, as terrible as it might sound. ..BUT: let’s not speak as if the whole thing “a great achievement of the western society”. Let’s not be so pathetic, ok?

    • avatar
      Pedro

      So at what age did you start your sexual discoveries? When did you find out you had a penis?
      Sex education is much more than sex. Now that’s pathetic!

    • avatar
      Παυλος

      Dio Nis pathetic is what happens in many places all over the world and at Europe in the ” good old days ” with people ending up with sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies/ forced marriages because no one had the balls to talk to them about few things when they was young

  26. avatar
    Zoran

    it is part of the culture children have to be informed about

    • avatar
      Dionis

      what culture? Children in the West are being sexualised in many ways from what they see in public life, mostly sexualised in wrong ways, while society sits back ant watches powerless. Maybe a sexualisation of kids in schools ” for good purposes ” can be positive in its complex, now that we are in such an advanced stage all things considered, as terrible as it might sound. ..BUT: let’s not speak as if the whole thing “a great achievement of the western society”.

    • avatar
      Zoran

      you are right but not children only we have much more problems in global live and we not trying to go for better than we have education not bad for children with fulk advised about

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.