The article “Young minds and bodies: Is ignorance bliss?” (13 August 2013) by Tan Jian Xiang and Catherine Smith suggests that sex education in Singapore schools should move from being values-based to facts-based in order to reduce the escalating rates of STIs and teenage pregnancies.
However, it is wrong to assume that more information and knowledge equates to wisdom and prudence. An individual student, armed with more information via a comprehensive sex education programme, would not automatically be able to make better life choices and enjoy healthier relationships.
The prevalence of STIs, teenage pregnancies, date rape, and abortion are all symptoms of our society’s failure to instill proper values in our children, and the proposed solution of throwing facts and figures at them will not do anything to change their perspectives or shape their behaviour.
A more holistic methodology is required. Schools should not only focus on the physiology of sex and procreation, but also educate students on the emotional and ethical aspects of sex. For example, instead of preaching safe sex to teenagers, we should teach them how important it is to respect members of the opposite sex and treat them with courtesy, kindness and dignity.
Instead of running through a list of the different types of contraceptives available, we should also explain to students that the sexual act is an expression of love and commitment that may result in the creation of a child, and it is not just a ‘fun activity’ that should be engaged in for leisure.
Instead of merely describing the clinical process of abortion, we should engage students on a deeper level and elucidate how the life of every person is precious, worthwhile, and intrinsically valuable.
A holistic curriculum would be beneficial because it will not only deal with the root problem of increasingly casual attitudes towards sex, but also provide students with a firm foundation to become responsible adults imbued with the wisdom, prudence and maturity to make the right life choices and build healthy, happy relationships.
Ultimately, without a more comprehensive understanding study of sex education in Singapore or an in-depth consultation with parents (who play an equally significant, complementary role in sex education), it will be hasty to adopt the suggestion of the authors and jettison the values-based approach in favour of a more facts-based one.
(An edited version of this article was published in TODAY which can be accessed here.)