Do Birds and Bees educate?
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.Satya http://www.vshiksha.com/user/1/
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: