THE Department of Education (DepEd) insisted Wednesday that sex education should be included in the basic education curriculum.

But the agency said consultation with all stakeholders, including the Catholic Church, which is opposed to the plan, will be done before its implementation.

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In a press conference Wednesday, her first since assuming the top DepEd post, Education Secretary Mona Valisno allayed the concern raised by retired Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz about the implication of the controversial topic.

Cruz accused Valisno and Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral of establishing a “destructive farewell” for the administration after the two officials openly expressed support for sex education among the youth.

“We will do consultations. Lahat makikinig kami yun ang gusto naming ma-achieve,” Valisno said.

The official, however, stood on her earlier statement that sex education is an important aspect children should be taught about.

Valisno added that the country’s investment in education will come for naught if the population continued to rise.

“We will make it happen. We will continue with its implementation because we really need this. We will talk with the church and make them understand that it is a very important topic that our school children should learn,” she said.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, we are already teaching it to schoolchildren in subjects like Science and Health and the Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan,” she added.

Valisno said her department is now working with the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) for the “soft” implementation of the campaign dubbed as “Power of You,” which is aimed to reach at least 12,000 high school students and inform them about sex-related diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The program will be pioneered in some 29 schools in the National Capital Region, Cebu, Zamboanga, Davao, Olongapo, and Masbate.

The DepEd chief also clarified that the sex education modules are specifically designed to raise awareness among the students on importance of abstinence and taking the right decision as well as consequences on sexual experience either by choice or due to pressure from peer group.

“It will be better if the schools teach sex education, kesa naman mapulot lang kung saan-saang lugar gaya ng Internet,” Valisno added.

Valisno said the rising cases of sex-related diseases among the youth have now reached an alarming rate because of lack of knowledge in the subject.

For her part, Unicef Representative Vanessa Tobin said the Philippines is currently witnessing an increase of new Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection among 15 to 24-year-old Filipinos that increased from 41 in 2007 to 218 in 2009.

“Apart from rising cases of infection, national surveys also reveal that misperception about HIV still prevails among Filipino youth, and more of them are engaging in pre-marital sexual activity,” added Tobin.

The 2003 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey (YAFSS) also showed that 28 percent of young adults thought that Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus (AIDS) is curable while 73 percent thought that they are immune to HIV. The overall prevalence of sexual activity increased from 18 to 23% between 1994 and 2002.

Education Assistant Secretary for Special Projects Jonathan Malaya echoed Valisno’s position on the issue and said DepEd will ensure that it will consult with those who are opposed to the plan.

“Were going to reach out to him (Cruz) and find a middle ground. We will discuss this with all sectors, we will do a consultative process,” Malaya said.

“Schools being the second parent and home of the children have a role to play in this,” he added.

But he stressed that DepEd is more focused on adolescent reproductive health, responsible parenthood, gender equality, and sustainable environment rather than dwelling on sex alone.

Malaya said DepEd is very concerned about the rising cases of teenage pregnancies.

This as another DepEd official disclosed that the department is now revising its module dealing with the topic before it will be given to Valisno for her approval.

Teresita Inciong, Assistant Secretary for Programs and Projects, said the module dealing with adolescent reproductive health has actually been piloted in 100 schools nationwide.

“We are now analyzing this module and we are going to give this to the Secretary before the end of the month. We have 100 schools already piloting this and the results after the analysis will determine if this will be implemented in all schools,” Inciong added.

She said it is integrated with Science and Health and Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan subjects.

But Inciong said the focus of the information under the subjects is more on hygiene, body function and assumption during the child physical change or the so-called puberty stage while the reproductive health system, value formation, and population education are discussed in Science and Health and Social Science and family education subjects respectively.

The Philippines, being a predominantly Catholic nation, has a hard time implementing sex education in schools. The Catholic Church has been very vocal in its opposition against sex education.

Last May 2009, Fr. William Santiago, director of the Archdiocesan Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Caceres, said an effective sex education to teach responsible parenthood should begin at home.

He made the appeal noting that television has greatly reduced the quality time of family members to interact with one another and exchange ideas.

On the other hand, Santiago said he doubts the effectiveness and preparedness of school children at such young age for sex education.

Currently, sex education lessons are incorporated in the subject of 3rd and 4th year high school students. The lessons include topics about human reproductive system, hygiene, ovulation, reproduction and birth spacing methods.

In 2005 DepEd came out with a module that extensively deal in teaching the reproductive health among elementary students and identified a pilot school where it will be initially be taught and implemented.

The DepEd however stopped the undertaking when the Catholic Church and other religious groups raise a howl and prevented its further implementation.

Supporters of the proposal said what is alarming is that teenagers are learning about sex from other venues outside their home or school.

They also argued that teaching the subject to adolescents will enable them to be oriented on the topic of sex as well as raise awareness on the ill-effects of premarital sex. (AH/Sunnex)