Sex education is a crucial part of the learning experience of everyone, but because of the contentious nature of talking about sex, even in a purely scientific and informative manner, many students do not receive an effective, updated education on puberty and sexual activity. The curriculum for sex education has changed over the years, but some researchers are uncertain that things have changed for the better or if the measure of effectiveness has changed at all. Regardless of the level of retention of sex education into adulthood, the information the adolescents receive before and during major body and hormone changes can be very impactful, especially when the curriculum is expansive and allows for discussion.
What is Covered in Sex Ed?
The content of the sexual education curriculum generally produces positive results. By covering topics such as sexually transmitted diseases, anatomy, consent, safe sex, and pregnancy prevention, adolescents and teenagers can be introduced to a wide variety of knowledge that will be forever crucial in their social life (Mandigo). Additionally, the emphasis on consent helps students understand the importance of effective communication for not just their sex life but also their everyday life. Another important takeaway for students of sex education classes is the exposure to resources that can be used for help and advice regarding sexual activity. Sex education has proven to have a positive impact on preventing sexual problems into adulthood, but some argue that more data is needed to directly link the benefits of sex education to the behaviors following the education into the late teenage and early adult years.
Current Sex Education
One of the current difficulties with measuring the effectiveness of sex education is that it is often included in the curriculum of physical education or health classes (Lindberg). This means that all the valuable information on sex education is only briefly covered if mentioned at all. Without being able to teach sex education material to the full extent or with purposeful delivery, students cannot benefit from what might be called formal sex education. The reason sex education is not detailed in a schedule of classes or explicitly mentioned throughout schools is the contentious nature of the content covered in sex education. There is debate surrounding the morality of sex education courses because some families hold religious or family values such as abstinence which is not strictly taught in sex education. When taught properly, students are taught about various forms of safe sex beyond abstinence.
The Future of Sex Education
Most people believe that adolescents need education about more than just abstinence. For example, birth control is an important topic to cover in sex education but may be skipped due to moral values or simply because the brevity of the curriculum does not allow for it. A decrease in comprehensive sex education resulted in a lower proportion of teenagers having received instruction only about abstinence instead of other forms of safe sex. Furthermore, data shows females are more likely to be taught abstinence as the only form of preventative measures of sex and the consequences of sex. While this disparity reflects the unfair expectation of society for women to remain pure, there might be new data to suggest a change in such trends. Regardless, more research is needed to conclusively direct sex education with benefits in adulthood.
Sex education is no doubt beneficial and effective when done correctly, but the current methods of execution do not provide the best experience for adolescents to keep or consider the knowledge of sex education. Fortunately, more recently, sex education has become a more popular topic on social media platforms as people want to spread awareness of the importance of thorough sex education as there is a general understanding of the poor quality of sex education provided by schools. However, schools should still be held accountable for the lack of effective sex education as it is imperative knowledge for life.
Lindberg, Laura Duberstein, John S. Santelli, and Susheela Singh. “Changes in formal sex education: 1995–2002.” Perspectives on sexual and reproductive health 38.4 (2006): 182-189.
Mandigo, David. “Pros and Cons of Sex Education in School Children.”