On July 17th, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Beijing Cluster Office and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) China Office jointly launched the Chinese language edition of the revised International Technical Guideline on Sexuality Education (ITGSE) in Beijing. The English edition of the Guidance was launched globally earlier this year on January 10th by UNESCO together with co-publishing UN partners UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO.
The Guidance identifies characteristics of effective Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programs, recommends essential topics and learning objectives for learners aged 5 to 18 + years, and recommends approaches for planning, delivering and monitoring CSE programs. The Guidance is voluntary and non-mandatory, based on current evidence and international best practices, and recognizes the diversity of national contexts in which sexuality education is taking place.
At the launch ceremony, Ms. Amakobe Caroline Sande, Director of UNAIDS China Office, said in her opening speech, “the UN family is committed to working with national partners to further increase awareness and build national capacity in CSE. The revised Guidance comes at a great time to lend us strength.”
So, what is CSE? CSE is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. A significant body of evidence shows that CSE enables children and young people to develop: accurate and age-appropriate knowledge, attitudes and skills, and positive values. However, few children and young people receive preparation for their lives that empowers them to take control and make informed decisions about their sexuality and relationships freely and responsibly.
In China, young people’s sexual and reproductive health knowledge remains low. According to a National Youth Survey conducted by the Population Research Institute of Peking University, only 4% of youth demonstrated sound sexual and reproductive health knowledge, 14% had adequate knowledge about HIV/AIDS, and more than half did not know how to avoid unintended pregnancy.
The sexuality education for children and adolescents in China requires scaling-up and strengthening at all levels. According to a joint study supported by UNESCO and UNFPA on implementation of sexuality education in middle schools, barriers include the lack of a standard curriculum and quality teaching and learning materials, as well as insufficient numbers of qualified teachers, counsellors and trainers in CSE.
“The Guidance presents a deeper understanding of the relevance of CSE to young people’s healthy development and overall well-being. We hope the detailed recommendations provided in the Guidance can guide all the countries including China where there is already policy support for sexual and reproductive health education in operationalizing CSE”, said Dr. Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office.
Ms. Navchaa Suren, Representative a.i. of UNFPA China Office, mentioned in her speech that it is important to develop a CSE technical guidance which takes the Chinese situation into consideration.
The Guidance can guide and assist education, health and other relevant authorities in the development and implementation of school-based and out-of-school CSE programmes and materials. It is a framework based on international best practices, which is intended to support curriculum developers to create and adapt curricula appropriate to their context, and to guide programme developers in the design, implementation and monitoring of good quality sexuality education.
“Sexuality education cannot be taught by one book, one lecture, or one video. At least 6 to 8 Sexuality Education Classes per semester are necessary in schools. It is believed that the Guidance would promote and guide the implementation of CSE in China.” Said Ms. Song Wenzhen, Deputy Director of the Office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women of the State Council.
Following the launch of the Chinese language edition of the revised Guidance, a CSE workshop was held with active participation of nearly 150 stakeholders across China, including government representatives, researchers, formal and non-formal educators, youth and parent representative, representatives from national social service organizations as well as UN agencies and other international organizations. In the workshop, the participants discussed strategies to implement CSE, exchanged experiences and discussed evidence around critical issues.
Shen Haiping, Deputy Director of Department of Maternal and Child Health of the National Health Commission, highlighted: “In China, we are exploring how to best provide sexuality education and health service for adolescents. I hope this workshop could help the participants: to share cases, exchange experience, and learn from each other; and to jointly explore the strategy for improving sexuality education and adolescent health, improve the accessibility of adolescents’ health services, and promote the continuous development of adolescent health in China.”