Sex education? Still too hot to handle in the classroom

Author: Tifa Asrianti

In this country, people just don’t want to talk about sex openly. We laugh at dirty jokes, but when it comes to including sex education in the school curriculum, people who are under the illusion that they live in a puritanical society, are up in arms against it.

The parent-children relationship in the country, which puts premium on deference and respect toward the elderly, has also hampered the way for talking about sex more openly. Having no one to answer their curiosity, kids today, as ever, learn about sexuality from pornographic material.

Over the past month, parents learned in horror that from the smartphones they gave as birthday presents, kids were viewing the sex tapes of rock singer Nazriel “Ariel” Ilham with two female celebrities.

But other than underage viewing of pornographic material, parents should be more concerned about a greater danger caused by the absence of sex education.

The Indonesian Health and Demographic Survey have found that 12 percent of teen marriages, between the age of 15 and 19, occur due to unplanned pregnancies.

A study from the University of Indonesia found the annual incidence of abortion reaches 2 million in the country. More than one-third of the figures are teen abortion. Experts have blamed teen pregnancy on lack of knowledge about reproduction.

But if you think that formal education on sex is the key, think again. And if you think that the Internet is bad for your kids to learn about sex, you should reconsider.

Dr. Wei Siang Yu, founder of interactive sex education website, said that even in countries where sex education was taught at schools, there were factors that proved inhibiting.

“For instance, teachers and students are predictably reluctant to discuss the matter. Also, there are some medical terms that are not familiar to teachers. Parents find it hard to talk about it with their children, and even if there are doctors in the community, people are sometimes too shy to ask doctors,” Wei said. He said to solve the conundrum the best way in fact was to use the Internet.

He developed three months ago and has since built cooperation with governments in Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines. Recently he collaborated with the National AIDS Commission to start an Indonesian version of the site.

“We are going to encourage people to share their experience during puberty in our web seminar or webinar. We will invite prominent figures such as athletes and celebrities to join our campaign,” Wei said.

The website already has six physicians, two of who are from Indonesia. The website has also hired 20 volunteers to respond to questions through Twitter, Facebook and the website.

A child psychologist said another issue facing sex education is that it required a significant dose of subtlety when presenting it to innocent kids. Mayke S. Tedjasaputra of the University of Indonesia said that sex education should be adapted to suit the child’s age.

“For a five-year-old, the syllabus should focus more on the introduction of human body parts. “For example, children are taught not to take off their clothes in public.
They must know that other people should not touch their private parts, except going to the doctor. They learn that their genital parts are also a part of their bodies, just like hands and legs, so they must take good care of them,” she said.

But the best means to provide good sex education for kids was a strong bond between parents and children, a condition that would enable the kids to ask just about anything related to the topic.

Although there are initiatives from educational institutions, Mayke said parents should also be close to their children so that children felt free to ask any kind of questions.

“If parents have a close relationship with their children, they can set the rule that their cell phones are not for downloading pornographic material. But personally, I think it is a bad idea to give phones to children, not until the fifth grade. Another caveat is that the phone should not be a smartphone,” she said.

Lawmaker Nova Riyanti Yusuf of the Democratic Party said she preferred the old school approach to sex education in class. Member of House of Representatives’ Commission IX on health believed that each school should be given the freedom to include sex education in their curriculum.

She says that the public could easily mistake sex education as a manual on sexual intercourse.

Just like Mayke, Nova said that teachers should be very subtle in teaching younger children. “For instance, for children between the ages of three and five, we can tell them about the copulation of animals such as the birds and the bees. We should also pay attention to tradition and culture. The curriculum of sex education should be different for urban and rural areas,” she said.

Nova also proposed that sex education should be taught considering the mental and psychological state of students. “This will give them enough understanding on what is going on with their bodies as they grew older,” she said.

But with or without sex education included in school’s curriculum, some private schools have seized the initiative about teaching sexuality to children.

Teachers of Santa Cecilia Kindergarten in Bekasi, West Java, for instance, appended knowledge on body parts and how to treat them well in the subject of morality, and they have done so in a fun way.

“The subject is interactive, with children drawing pictures and coloring,” the kindergarten’s headmaster, said.

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