Sex education in PH schools still lacking – UNFPA

MANILA, Philippines – Comprehensive sexual education (CSE), a "critical piece" of the reproductive health (RH) law, still "leaves something to be desired," according to the country representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to the Philippines.

"I think the emphasis from the highest level of government to really implement comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is a critical piece because that means that it drives how everyone who works within the bureaucracy is able to act, and that was missing in the past," Klaus Beck told Rappler after a press conference on Thursday, July 7.

While the RH bill was finally enacted under the Aquino administration, its implementation was delayed by legal questions raised by its critics before the Supreme Court.

It took the High Court two years to declare the law constitutional. The health department started fully implementing it months after. (READ: Meeting RH-related SDG targets: 'Work must start from Day 1')

Status 

But the latest report on the implementation of the RH law revealed the Department of Education (DepEd) has not yet developed the minimum standards of comprehensive sexuality education that schools and other learning facilities should comply with.

"DepEd has already included CSE in its K to 12 curriculum although it has not yet adopted the CSE standards developed by a panel of experts in consultation with teachers, parents, RH providers, and the adolescents themselves. Teachers have yet to be trained on how best to deliver age-specific CSE within the K to 12 curriculum," the report read.

Citing the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the report said a scientifically-accurate, culturally and age-appropriate, gender sensitive and life skills-based CSE reduces risky behavior among young people who are sexually active.

The report cited the 5-year module on sexuality education developed by the Cavite provincial health office and the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines, which was based on K to 12 health competency requirements.

Private midwives demonstrated the use of the module during the Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health subject in 5 public high schools.

"Panel survey results that the intervention significantly increased adolescents' willingness to talk about sex-related matters with responsible adults," the report said, adding that a number of local government units (LGUs) have already started using the module.

'Nothing irreligous' about sex ed

Beck on Thursday debunked again the misconception that young people have more sex when they learn about sexual education in schools.

"Studies clearly show that's not the case….It does not promote sex, but helps delay sex. They can do it much more responsibly – that's the key difference there."

National Economic and Development Authority chief Ernesto Pernia said the Duterte administration will go "full speed ahead" in implementing sexuality education in the country as it is "one sure way" to reduce teenage pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies. (READ: To avoid RH law delays, economic planning chief proposes Duterte EO)

"The problem with sexuality, it's a turn off for a religious country like the Philippines, but there's really nothing irreligious...ungodly about it," Pernia explained.

"In fact, it's very godly, because I think God does not want couples to have more children than they can afford because...improving their lives, achieving dignified and self-fulfilling lives, is going to be impossible for many of these children who are not properly planned by the parents."

Beck said LGUs should also provide a "supportive environment" that will make teaching easier for schools.

He said the government should now look at sexuality education in the curriculum and determine whether it is delivering the intended effects.

The government, he said, should also check whether there is enough funding for teacher training, since "teaching sexuality is not easy for anyone, including parents."

"Is it really happening? I don't think we have a very good sense of that, but our assumption would be that given we're seeing increase in teenage pregnancy, there is something that is not working well, because if it was working well, we would probably see the result. That's why we need to look more carefully at this particular piece," Beck told Rappler. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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