(Last of two parts)
YOUNG people need access to information, tools, and opportunities to think, question and discuss issues on sexual and reproductive health. They also need a platform and space to talk about the challenges that they face in relation to puberty, relationships, gender, sexual identity, and orientation.
In many ways, comprehensive sexual education (CSE) is vital to young people’s development and overall well-being. Efforts to launch CSE began in 1998 when the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supported the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (Decs) in developing modules of activities and readings for high school students.
In 2005, DepEd issued a Department Order adopting “Life Skills-based Education” in selected project sites but was met with opposition from a group of parents who filed a lawsuit against the issuance of the AO claiming that by issuing the memorandum, DepEd violated the “primary right of parents to the development of the character of their children.”
At present, DepEd is completing the integration of CSE in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) curricula, in line with the provision of RA 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 which mandates DepEd to implement age-appropriate and culturally sensitive CSE. On January 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte issued EO 12 calling on DepEd to fulfill its mandate on CSE programming.
How CSE will be done to generate public support and gain acceptance on its implementation will depend much on capacitating teachers on how to integrate topics, deliver lessons as well as strengthen their counseling skills, as they often become the alternative where students would often confide and seek advice.
The CSE research shows that most of the teachers attributed risky sexual behaviors to high exposure to mass media, social media, and the Internet. It is also common to describe students as being curious, wanting to experiment and being misinformed.
In the absence of resources and curriculum guide, multi-media tools for both teachers and learners, as well as to the wider community could be explored and invested in. An effective CSE strategy goes beyond telling young people to abstain from sex considering the risky environment and context that they are in, such as living in one-room homes or having separated or OFW parents, among other challenges.
It is in recognizing the right of young people to have full information on their own reproductive health and in providing the needed government support, perhaps a youth-friendly health facility as an addition, that the CSE initiative and education could truly create a positive impact on their lives, and enable them to make better decisions to protect themselves. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org