Parents divided on sex education

The Borneo Post by Chok Sim Yee, Adrian Nandu, Christy Chok, Azmie Lim, Lawrence Shim and Alen Kee. Posted on November 18, 2010, Thursday THE move by the Education Ministry to introduce sex education at primary and secondary schools next year has received mixed reactions from a wide cross section of the respondents in Sabah. The majority of parents and teachers were divided on the issue. Some have agreed to the idea of allowing children as young as six years old to have sex education in primary schools as part of a drive to curb baby-dumping, promiscuity and spread of diseases such as AIDS and HIV, while proponents were perfectly happy with the proposal. Sabah Chinese Teachers Association chairman Datuk Eng Thiam Leong said school children would benefit from the common knowledge taught in sex education. Although the syllabus of the subject has not been disclosed, Eng said educating students on health related issues would be good for them. Eng, who is also the principal of SJK (C) Chung Hwa Kota Kinabalu, pointed out that the subject would help prevent children from being a victim of sexual crimes, as well as give them the necessary knowledge to counter undesirable materials in the online world. Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong announced sex education to be taught in all primary schools starting Year One in 2011. Called social and reproductive health education, the component will be taught for 30 minutes every week during Physical and Health Education lessons. Asked if the teachers would be ready to teach the subject, Eng said it would not be a problem for primary school teachers as it would be taught as common knowledge. “It’s a compulsory subject for secondary schools, and more like a common knowledge for primary schools.” However, he added that training might be needed for secondary schools teachers as they would go more in-depth on sex education. A secondary school teacher, who wished to be identified only as Chai, is in favour of the move, saying that children should be taught to differentiate sexual harrassment from affectionate hugging. “They should know touching private parts is no-no, and it is wrong to touch them at inappropriate places.

“They (children) might thing adults who hug them are being affectionate.” Chai also stressed the importance of the syllabus and suggested the syllabus to be uploaded on a website so that parents know what would be taught. In addition, she pointed out that teachers of the subject must be trained to prevent male teachers from taking advantage when delivering the lesson. If the subject is taught by a male teacher, she suggested a female teacher to be in the class as well to eradicate all possibilities of undesirable events from happening. Albert Chia, chairman of SM Michael Parent-teacher Association, Sandakan, expressed support for the idea he described as good, but cautioned that teachers must be properly trained so as not to mislead the young minds. “Sex education is different from sex activities as in websites and blue movies. “Basic information such as the difference between the two sexes, how babies are produced, the responsibilities of young parents and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases,” added Chia. Another parent, identified as Michelle, said that parents themselves can also teach sex education to their children at home. “Parents must teach and remind their daughters how to say ‘no’ to premature sex and how to behave appropriately as an individual to foster family values,” she said. Another parent, who wished anonymity, said sex education must be closely monitored in schools. “There is no such thing as allowing total sex education because too much of it may lead to uncontrolled free sex which can also lead young children to the negative side of sex education,” he said. Teachers and parents should always emphasize on the dangers of sex at a young age and before marriage so that these young minds could always be warned of “unhealthy sex” that the majority of adults would greet with scorn. In Lahad Datu, a mother of three, Normadiah, 35, said the move was inappropriate for primary school students because they were immature. “This sex education should be taught in secondary schools because the students are more mature and able to accept this kind of learning. Besides that, primary school students are still young to accept sex education. “They have a different level of thinking and their curiosities are strong. I think, it is better not to expose them to sex education at the primary school level,” she said.

“In my opinion, the government’s plan to expose primary school students to sex education is a wise move to reduce baby-dumping problem,” said Abdullah Bin Abdul Majid, the leader of SMK Agaseh Parent-Teacher Association. He said it was good to introduce and teach sex education to 11 and 12-year-old students so that they would be able to understand it more clearly. “The secondary school students are a bit stubborn and have a very deep feeling of trying out something new. “We need to teach sex education much earlier to these young children so that they know the negative effects and feel afraid to try it. “Secondary school students also love to act without thinking about the consequences. When students are introduced to sex education early, they’ll be more careful and are not easily influenced,” he said. He added that sex education was not merely about sex, but it was also related to family values, and how to protect themselves from high-risk behaviors. In Labuan, civil servant Haji Salamat Daliman said there was a need to select the most appropriate teachers to teach sex education. “Teachers who are going to teach the pupils about the subject could be from different backgrounds and religion where they need to be responsible in teaching the subject at school. “The school administration is supposed to choose the right and qualified teachers to teach the subject and need not have to be religious teachers only to avoid unnecessary problems in the future. “The teachers must have the proper guideline to teach the ‘new’ subject to the young students and the teachers must apply the right approach according to the students’ level of understanding,” he said. He said in Islam, the faith teaches its believers to stay away from ‘zina’ (premarital sex) and the elements in the teaching should touch on how to prevent the students from involving themselves in ‘zina’. “For example, female Muslim students should cover their ‘aurat’ which could attract the attention of male students. “If the sex techniques are to be taught in primary schools, I fear that they will encourage more students to commit immoral activities. “The subject too must put in some moral values such as respecting both genders – male and female,” he said.

Meanwhile another government servant, Ahmad Sharizal Mohd Saffian said that to teach sex education in primary schools was a big matter where the module of teaching it should be studied deeply with consensus from different parties. “The information or knowledge in the module should not only be gathered by biologists or other experts without seeking the views of religious scholars because what is taught to students must not be interpreted wrongly by them. “Sex itself is broad and that the educators may tell the students from the religion point of view, such as about the cradle of babies starting in their mothers’ wombs to instill the ‘fear of God’ value in their minds. “While explaining the sex process itself is not the right thing to do, such as how to use condoms rightly to prevent pregnancy and sexual transmitted disease, it will only make them smarter to abuse sex,” he said. Ahmad also said that to instill awareness among the students to respect their mothers was also important by stressing on the hardship of their mothers in carrying them in the womb during pregnancy. “The most important thing is whether the objective of the subject is achieved or not, that is to instill fear of God in their minds to stay away from the premarital sex. “In Islam there is a sex education, for the religion perceives it as a natural thing in human beings. “Students also must be told that there is a right way for sex, that is through marriage,” he said. Ahmad added that there is maturity among the young minds, but to introduce sex education at primary school level should be given serious thought as “worried” students might perceive it wrongly. “I feel that teaching sex education at primary school level is suitable and needed. The pupils will know what sex is. “Educating them early will make it easy for them to accept the subject so that they know how to face sex in future. “They will not easily fall prey to vices like becoming a prostitute and being cheated by would-be sex offenders such as rapists, or becoming pregnant before marriage. “We need to educate our children from an early stage,” said parent James Leong. Another parent, Gan Chee Chan, disagreed with James, saying that sex education was too early to be taught in primary schools as even at the secondary school level the subject was also just proposed for next year.

“It is better for primary school students to be taught in subjects related to moral, civic and family relationship and values. We need to see the success of sex education subject at secondary school level first,” he added. The Education Ministry should think about it before introducing sex education in primary schools, said Slamat Mohd. “If schoolchildren get to know about sex education, I am afraid they will practise it. If the ministry wants to implement the subject, it should be ready to answer the consequences,” he cautioned. In Tawau, former teacher Lee Chye Ewe said it was interesting to note that the government had announced the implementation of sex education for both secondary and primary schools on two separate dates. Lee said it was first announced that sex education would be implemented in secondary schools. A few days later it was announced that it would be introduced in primary schools as well. “Such announcements make us wonder if the Education Ministry is seriously ready to implement the much debated sex education in schools. One wonders if the textbooks or guidelines are ready and have the teachers been identified, trained both on the knowledge and on mental preparedness? “If the implementation is made in a rush it would produce far more negative effect than the positive result needed. If the teachers are only being sent away for courses starting next year, it would again create shortage of teachers at the beginning of the year when the new school term starts. This has happened far too many times and it should not be repeated. “The public has been told that the intended sex education is not confined to sex education alone but also focuses on family values. If that is the case why call it sex education? Why not Family Values which will have a wider scope and definitely covers sex education?” he pointed out. Taking into consideration our multi-racial and multi-religious society, many are still shy and reluctant to talk about sex openly. “Even parents (and many teachers are parents as well) find it difficult to talk to their children about sex. In order for a successful implementation, parents, teachers and the public must also be educated to look at this issue in a more positive way. We cannot educate the younger generation without the elder generation showing positive examples.” According to him, if we were able to educate society we would be able to change the perception of sexual problems among youths. Putting aside the intention to punish and condemn every time we hear of cases of rape or baby dumping, we would be able to encourage youths with sexual problems to come forward to seek for help more willingly and more confidently.

This would be a far better approach to curb the problems of social ills and sexual problems among the youths, instead of imparting only the knowledge without giving opportunity for the victims to seek help, guidance and advice. Meanwhile, the mother of a 10-year-old girl, Marry Wong also totally agreed and praised the government’s decision. She said sex education should be have been taught in schools few years ago to avoid baby-dumping cases.

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