Do Birds and Bees educate?

You may wonder what this septuagenarian is up to? I agree that at our age sex should be on our mind only when filling in the immigration form at the airport and our time should be spent on Vedanta contemplating more serious issues. But not so easy as it is all pervading, as news on the main sheet of a newspaper or as a brief note tucked away in the inner pages. For instance Rediff India Abroad, reminds you daily how to keep hale and hearty and also boost your brain with much researched and recommended morning activities not consisting of either yoga or art of living. In fact, these are the top emailed features since long. One need not even speak of the TV and the Bollywood and Tollywood movies.

Not to worry, I am only concerned about the controversy that is raging in India. Sex Education in schools. A little late to be getting into the fray as I see a lot has been written about it in the papers, not only in India, but in the west.

It was perplexing to see in the papers some months ago that the CM of Karnataka was opposed to SE as it was not in our culture! He did not elaborate then, but as he is now out of office, he has the time to explain now. Perhaps not, it is proven that most politicians have convenient memories and are prone to forget, statements and even promises made!

I remember asking Tara at that time whether her school, which is an international one, had this subject in the curriculum. She said yes, but was not aware of the details. My intention was to send a copy to the CM hoping that it could help him to re-evaluate his earlier decision and perhaps change his mind. Well it remained as an intention, as Tara kept forgetting to get me the details. Then, two things brought the subject back to my blogging mind.

One, was when a friend expressed shock after reading about a mother presenting a sixteen year old son with a packet of condoms on his birthday. Quite shocking and one wonders where indeed was the father. However, I cannot imagine this type of conversation with fathers as well.
This I thought was the ultimate form of SE.

Two, when the controversy shifted to Maharashtra recently. 'The Maharashtra state education minister had recently announced that sex education would be made compulsory for schoolchildren. However, this announcement is being greeted with heated opposition by other legislators in the House. There is a debate going on currently about the advisability of providing basic sex education to school children in the Indian state of Maharashtra.'

Obviously one can expect a lot of reaction. Here is one such: (It is somewhere in the web!) India has among the highest incidence of rape in the world. Moreover, not a single day goes by without newspapers reporting at least one case of sexual harassment or molestation.
I do not see a connection between this and sex education, but he does. I remember he does speak about 'taboos' and a lack of healthy interaction between boys and girls. Which I suppose is to be addressed, but his idea that this is achieved through sex education in schools is naive.

Then we see a claim that sex education brings down the incidence of HIV/AIDS. I suppose true, I recall crude ads advising safe sex on the National TV during a cricket match. One hopes all those careless truckers, their target audience, watch the five day tests. Here is also a link to a bizarre attempt at educating general public.

I know that it is a different world now. The years after the sixties, so called period of liberal attitudes, has changed the ways of the western world and is now moving to some portions of the east. Hence going back the memory lane may not be of much help. That was an era where it was more like 'If birds and bees with their tiny brains needed no sex education, humans with a more complex brain would definitely learn', and learn we do.

I suppose I should add this about parental concern. While no conversation ever took place, I remember discovering in my teens, two books which surfaced in my father's book shelf. One was about VD now STD, which was gruesome and another about 'Brahmacharya', it was all about self control from sinful thoughts and of course the ill effects of 'self abuse', the outcome being death by 'consumption'. Weird from today's point of view. I suppose it was my father's way of educating me with the books and knowledge available at that time.

Now for the surprise! It might appear that I am a supporter of SE in Indian schools. Actually, I am one with the netas for once. I do not think it is desirable to have SE as a part of school curriculum. I read that the text books published for the subject were very crude and were rejected. In addition, it is certain that there would not be many trained teachers available for this sensitive subject. I think we do not have the requisite culture yet, I am talking about our present culture and not of the times of Vatsayana or the erotic temple friezes.

I believe that many parents are worried and confused. They are not sure how to handle the situation in a fast changing world as their children reach adolescence. We all know that children are more aware now. There is also peer pressure on them, especially for Indian children away from home, exposed to different and in our view, permissive cultures.

Obviously, sensible books which parents can give to children when they feel the time is right would be of immense help. Very necessary especially for those parents who are shy or old fashioned to talk about it. (Definitely not the type of books my father chose.) Conversations with our children could perhaps focus on the more important aspect of values. It is also about our own lifestyle and habits.
I saw this on the Belief net:
Don't worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.
-Robert Fulghum

I am quoting in full below what I consider as sensible:

Recently, there has been a great amount of discussion on the introduction of sex education in India. Naturally, this debate has been very heated. If anyone was thinking that sex education can be introduced in India without any resistance from society, he was living in a fools paradise. Three states of India have already banned this education and CBSE had to defer its plans to introduce it from 2007-2008 session.

Now, the real question that arises is what is the real problem behind all this fuss? I think, the real problem is the word "SEX" itself. Indian society is still not prepared to discuss these topics in the open with its children.

The main problem is the manner in which this education is being tried to introduce in this country. The educational planners ( or mis-planners) are trying to implement the western system of sex education as it is. What they are not able to see (or are trying not to see) is the cultural difference between west and India.

Sex education is being introduced as a separate subject. This is causing all the problems. Indian society is not able to accept it as a subject which can be taught to their kids. Actually, some of the topics related to reproduction in human beings already exist in the science books of children. No one raises objection over that. Because children learn these topics as a scientific terminology, which does not effect the moral character of society.

Wouldn't it be more appropriate if we introduce the sex education topics in other subjects instead of introducing it as a separate subject all together? I think it will be much better to integrate sex education with other subjects instead of introducing it as a different subject. In this way, the goal of providing knowledge about sex to children can be achieved without any resistance from Indian society.


June 15, 2008
Samachar/NDTV reports about a revised module on sex education. One hopes that this will meet the needs of educating children more sensibly.

Some links of interest:


Sriram said…
Probably something which should be decided by the teens in India, rather than the politicians! If the only SE that they are going to get are from watching Bollywood movies or banned material, that is not very good. I know that in this country, apart from schools, the pediatricians and hospitals also get involved, talking to the kids and handing out educative pamphlets.

Hospitals here routinely test teen girls for pregnancy if they go there complaining of nausea and vomiting.

Indians come off as very conservative in their outlook, but all these things are basically swept under the rug. They get very offended by watching some of the ads and the shows on American TV, but would have no problems watching the regional language and Hindi movies with terrible violence, bad treatment of women and implied sex scenes.

While there are quite a few conservative households, most of the people seem to have accepted the fact that it will happen and are just concerned with AIDS, etc. When Indu went to Manu's residential high school for a parent orientation which included an overnight stay, the other mom that she had to share the dorm room with was concerned about where her daughter would be able to spend time privately with her boyfriend!

Very interesting article about Brahmacharya by Swami Chidanada of Divine Life Society, once again from the WIE magazine - (two pages).


Madhu said…
Hi nidhi,

As far as i can remember , the CBSE curriculum dealt with sex education under a broad topic called health education. We were taught nurtrition, reprductive health, contraception , theory of exercise and games etc

I remember the teacher asking our biology tutor to take the reproductive health classes. She drew the male and female reproductive systems on the black board and explained it in detail, Menstruation, contraception were also extensively discussed. .. but the mechanics of sex was left out!! we were asked to read up those chapters at home!!

Probably local schools with the state syllubus did not cover these issues.....A little subtlety would have avoided this controversy.

Satya said…
Thank you nidhi for your support on my views on sex education. I think like minded people should form a pressure group for proper implementation of this sensitive subject in the indian curriculum.

Blind following of west should be opposed at any cost.

My post on this subject is:


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