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Should primary school children be taught about sex?

29th August 2008

The Economist asks whether children are never too young to learn about sex.


While it is a common criticism of Britain’s education system that children are forced to begin the learning process too early, there is one subject many feel is left too late.

Sex education only appears on the curriculum for pupils aged 11-14 and even then the crucial aspects of sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancy are optional elements.

With the support of sexual-health and children’s charities, a cross-party group of MPs has called for sex education to be compulsory and start at an earlier age.

Writing an open letter to the government through the Daily Telegraph, their view is that it could help cut the high rate of teenage pregnancies in Britain.

However, there are opponents: teachers would feel uncomfortable; the Family Education Trust says it would undermine parents.

There are fears that earlier sex education would actually encourage under-age sex and lead to more teenage pregnancies at a time that they are falling in Britain, albeit slowly.

But sex education, according to one expert, could be taught for other reasons such as improving communication skills or demystifying the body.

Professor Roger Ingham from Southampton University says: “no one is suggesting four-year-olds should be taught how to have sex.”

With British parents often embarrassed to raise the subject of sex, many children reach puberty unprepared for it.

Yet while Dutch teenagers recall having sex for the first time because “they thought they were in love”, a British teenager’s reason is more likely to be “because they were drunk.”


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Article Information

Title: Should primary school children be taught about sex?
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 8052
Date Added: 29th Aug 2008


The Economist

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