How is sex education in Australia

What should good sex education classes look like?

Sex education is a topic that often causes embarrassing silence among students and teachers - society is discussing it all the more enthusiastically at the moment. While the governments of many federal states are pushing for sexual education to be more firmly anchored in the curriculum on an interdisciplinary basis, and also insisting on addressing the issues of homosexuality, transsexuality and intersexuality, some parents are frowning with concern. Do children and young people really have to learn what is gay and lesbian in school? That there may be more than two answers to the question of gender?

Alarm bells also ring for many when the media speaks of supposedly modern teaching materials, instructing teachers to let their students redesign a pouf in such a way that everyone feels comfortable in it. Or talk to them openly about their first time. Both exercises are examples that have recently been mentioned frequently in the public debate and have sometimes been heavily criticized. On top of that, sex education tends to start earlier and earlier, sometimes even in daycare. For some critics, this is enough to fear an "early sexualization" of the students - or even re-education to homosexuality.

This article is included in Spectrum - The Week, 22/2015

Sex education is a hot topic

One thing is clear: sex education in school has always been a hot topic - it was before the debate boiled up again last year on the occasion of the reform plans. In reality, conversations about prostitution and intimate confessions in school lessons are the exception rather than the rule. "There are curricula with different subject areas and age groups. What is actually dealt with in the individual classes and to what extent is very different. That also depends on the competence of the teacher and the topics that are particularly relevant for the students." , explains Anja Henningsen, professor for sex education at the University of Kiel and board member of the Society for Sex Education.

For example, the youth sexuality study by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) from 2010 shows: Almost all students between 14 and 17 years of age take the "sexual organs of men and women" at some point in class and talk about "menstruation, ovulation and fertile days the woman". The subjects of sexually transmitted diseases, physical development of adolescents, contraception and pregnancy and childbirth apparently also belong to the compulsory program. With the rest, however, the experiences of the young people differ widely. Homosexuality or sexual violence are sometimes discussed, taboo topics such as pornography or prostitution are seldom included in what the authors of the study call them - "Schools' canon of body anatomy, reproduction and contraception".

From a pedagogical point of view, Anja Henningsen also sees this canon of topics critically: "Sex education is often only important to us when we are worried." It goes without saying that there are important aims of the educational classes to prevent teenage pregnancies and HIV infections and to make students aware of sexual violence. But one should not only look at the dangers: "A good sex education should enable children and young people later to deal with sexuality in a self-determined way," says the Kiel teacher. She therefore believes that sex education classes must also provide help with questions that have so far been neglected: How can I best talk to my partner about contraception? Is a relationship good for me? What can I do if I am lovesick? In doing so, one must also encourage the students in what they are doing right, and not just condemn what goes wrong. "If you come up with your forefinger, young people very quickly become defensive," says Henningsen. “I can't start the conversation by saying, 'You all know you're not allowed to watch porn. But who has watched one?' And then have a good conversation about the unrealistic images in such films mostly transported. "

"Sex education should not only be important to us when we are worried" (Anja Henningsen)

Sexual self-determination means that people are free to decide how they want to shape their sex life and their partnerships. For Anja Henningsen, it goes without saying that sexual diversity is also a subject of instruction. For this reason, education must not only begin in daycare - ideally, in the eyes of the scientist, it should.