Guidelines to address sex taboo in schools launched

Increased exposure to sex and pornography is a reality which needs addressing, says Education Minister.

James J. Piscopo
4 February 2014, 12:00am
Bartolo (second from left) explained that the guidelines will serve as a framework for an effective and comprehensive sexuality education.
Bartolo (second from left) explained that the guidelines will serve as a framework for an effective and comprehensive sexuality education.

The minister for education, Evarist Bartolo, this morning launched guidelines on sexuality education, saying that it was "unacceptable" that this subject was a taboo in certain schools.

A study carried out in 2010 by Sexual Health expert Dr Roderick Bugeja estimated that 12% of Form 3 and Form 4 students were sexually active, with a third of these students being under the influence of alcohol and other substances. Experts believe the percentage is much higher nowadays.

"Status quo was not an alternative. We cannot say that this problem does not exist," Bartolo said, adding "the 500 single parents between the age of 16 and 24 show otherwise".

"Nowadays students are easily exposed to sex and pornography. Schools need to note this reality and address it," the minister said.

The guidelines aim to help teachers to gain a clearer direction when interpreting the curriculum and it offers a framework for an effective and comprehensive sexuality education within different schools and colleges.

The guidelines should also help teachers to use sound judgment on when and how to use different materials in class.

"This means that a teacher that brings a condom to school for a lesson would not find himself in trouble with the school administration," the minister remarked.

The guidelines read that the displaying of different contraceptives used will give the students a better idea of what they look like, their appropriate use and their effectiveness.

Bartolo said this sexual education will be given in the context of solid relationships. Abstinence and postponement will be promoted, as well as the importance of healthy relationships.

Asked whether the challenge to address sexuality education will now be more problematic with the introduction of co-ed schools, the Minister said that in certain topics such as those covering physical development, boys and girls will be separated in order to create a more private environment.

"One may not feel comfortable to ask certain questions in the presence of the other sex," he said.

However, the Education Minister insisted that co-education is nothing extraordinary or controversial.

"We are just bringing our education structure back to normal. It is a system that encourages mutual respect to the other sex. In Canada, the church just decided to adopt the co-ed structure in church schools as well," he said.

The guidelines demand teachers to answer all questions in an honest and non-judgmental way, and refrain from making up answers to questions they are not sure of. They are also told to protect students who disclose personal information by stopping further disclosure and follow up the case after the lesson. Similarly, teachers are prohibited from giving personal details or experiences. 
James J. Piscopo joined MaltaToday in 2013 after starting his career as a...