08 SES 04 B, Integrating Health and Sexuality Education in the Curriculum
This paper explores how teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards young people’s sexuality and school-based sex education might limit or promote its provision and, consequently, students’ access to sexual health and citizenship rights. More concretely, it focuses the teaching processes; the limits and barriers to transform sex education policy into practice (training, resources, fears); and the way teachers’ assumptions may result in gendered messages. Therefore, it attempts to develop a critical and gender approach on teachers’ discourses, framed by sociological and educational concerns.
Research shows that although schools have been often identified as “spaces of sexual knowledge” and as important settings for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health (Mclaughlin et al., 2012et al., 2012; Kehily, 2002), there have been few studies into teachers’ perspectives about those processes. Most social sciences investigation on sex and relationship education (SRE) has been extensively focused on schools’ programmes (contents, strategies, curriculum), on their effect on young people’s knowledge and practices (Allen, 2011; Lees, 2000; Oduro, 2007) or about other educational contexts such as youth services (Elley, 2007) and family relationships (Vilar, 2000). But the impact teachers’ beliefs and stereotypes might have in the learning of sexual and intimate rights and in the nature of school-based sex education programmes have been rarely covered. As Iyer and Aggleton (2013:41) pointed “school-based sex education should not simply be seen as a ‘reliable, neutral and regulated source of information’, but as inevitably influenced by teachers’ values which may limit young people’s access to accurate and comprehensive SRH education”. Moreover, there is a common perception that teachers are “holder-of-knowledge and in control in the classroom” (Kehily, 2002:169) acting “as neutral delivery mechanisms in schools” that must be challenged. Therefore, teachers’ values and approaches to students are at the core of knowledge transference and must be taken into account in understanding if they affect teachers’ decisions to divulge or withhold sexual and reproductive health information. This knowledge is crucial to develop a process of teaching sex education framed by sexual and intimate rights.
To support this framework, the concepts of sexual health and sex education are brought to discussion in order to problematize the agendas of sexuality. Based on public health debates (WHO - World Health Organization) and feminist claims, there was a clear shift from a focus in reproductive health to a new emphasis on sexual and intimate policies. As Aggleton & Parker (2010) highlighted new issues and subjects come to the fore of discussion, such as: “the rights of young people to information and education about sexuality, the rights of those who fall outside the structures of normative patterns in relation to gender and sexuality and those who suffer abuse and violence”. This right-informed approach increased a commitment “to participation, empowerment and choice in HIV prevention” (Miedema, Maxwell & Aggleton, 2011) and reaffirmed the right to sexual and reproductive health which become essential to rethink health education in the school context. This paper seeks to further contribute to a more in-depth understanding of this area.
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