The formation of healthy sexual identity is an essential component of a healthy personality formation and should be to a certain extent addressed on every stage of development. The importance of sex education for children younger than adolescent tends to be underestimated while the evidence of teen pregnancies and other issues suggests that the education should be thought through well before the problems occur. Consequently, the following paper is aimed at putting forward a new sex education program for children 8-9 years of age. The paper is going to provide some essential background information to offer a multisided in-depth perspective of the problem.
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Every young person will find themselves bound to start making sex-related choices one day, which represents one of the reasons the necessity of sex education is widely acknowledged. Another reason is that without the necessary knowledge, a young person might go through experiences that can prove traumatizing both in short term and in the long run. To provide young people with a baseline for a healthy sexual life, sex education is used. However, even the most recent research does not seem to acknowledge the full scope of the problem – or problems that surround the area of pre-adolescent and adolescent sexuality.
Research indicates that in some parts of the world, including the U.S., early sexual intercourse is tabooed, and the attitudes towards such intercourse are far from reciprocal trust (Donahue, Lichtenstein, Långström, & D’Onofrio, 2013). In this research, the focus is on the adolescents and their education, which is to say that the situation with pre-teens might be even more critical. With regard to this, another set of findings suggests that children aged six originating from the United States show little comprehension of conception and birth, lagging behind their peers from Sweden and Netherlands (Caron & Ahlgrim, 2012).
A different problem that stipulates the necessity to educate pre-adolescents is the frequency of teenage pregnancies. According to a CDC report, an approximate number of 250,000 births were given by mothers aged 15-19 in 2014 (Reproductive Health, 2015). Another set of issues concerns the parental refusal to adhere to the children’s needs in learning about sex and sexuality due to a variety of reasons, mainly religious and moral.
Although the responses to such concerns are exhaustively provided by the 2009 UNESCO Guide to sex education, the non-adherent parental behaviors persist (Goldman, 2012). Thus, the evidence suggests that sex education should start at an earlier age than it is generally implemented. However, despite the evidence, the problems do not gain much attention in either scholarly or popular writing, which is why the search for quality sources was complexified.
Returning to the UNESCO Guide, it is worth saying that the programs and implementations discussed are well-structured and evidence-based. The technical side of the sex education program standard subsumes that the children should be subdivided into several levels as per their age. At that, UNESCO insists that the education begins at the age of five, which is the first level. The major aspects of the program, such as the goals, objectives, key concepts, topics, and values are comprehensively outlined for each level (UNESCO, 2009).
UNESCO’s program is aimed at educating children about their bodies as well as developing holistic attitudes towards the concepts of sexuality and the physiological side of sexual intercourse and, importantly, the recognition of assault and taking corresponding actions. Such program appears the most optimal for implementation. In case of pre-adolescent children, however, it is worth considering an age-appropriate education mode and set clear goals according to what children 8-9 years of age should know about puberty, sex, and sexuality to develop in harmony with themselves.
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The Guide also states that peers can provide children with the necessary support as well as bring harm (UNESCO, 2009). Notwithstanding these concerns, it can be suggested that with some extra training, peers should be actively involved in children’s sex education to contribute to the atmosphere of trust.
Sex education for 8-9-year-olds
Considering the scope of the problem, it is clear that there is a necessity for a new program designed specifically for pre-adolescent children. Such program could combine the most valuable features as proposed in the UNESCO Guide and account for involving the children’s peers as educators as well.
The program, at its core, is aimed at STDs and pregnancy prevention among adolescents. The goals of the proposed sex education program for 8-9-year-olds include educating the students about the processes that their bodies are going to undergo during the puberty period, teach them hygiene and the basics of sex, sexuality, and safe sexual behavior. The learning objectives that are to be accomplished on the way to the goal achievement are:
- Stressing the social, cultural, and religious values that influence the ideas of sex, sexuality, gender, love, intimacy, relationship, and reproduction;
- Explaining the application of critical decision-making and enhancing problem-resolution skills in the recognition of assault and the necessity to ask for help;
- Informing how pregnancy occurs and how it can be prevented; introduce the learners to puberty, hormonal changes, STDs and other risks including unwanted pregnancy;
- Explaining the value of privacy and the necessity to respect each other’s’ right to privacy.
Other objectives include involving peers (or young people that are one or two years older than the learners), assess their capabilities as educators, and develop a separate set of activities to implement as a part of the program (Peer to Peer, 2004).
Considering the overall aim of the program, the children’s parents should also be involved. Parental involvement can be conducted via group meetings which would require an additional curriculum development for the parents. At that, parental consent for the children to take part in curricular and extracurricular sex education activities is needed. The aim of all the activities within the framework of the program is to address each student’s needs in preventing unwanted issues, e.g., pregnancy and STDs. The goals, therefore, should be communicated to the parents clearly.
By the end of the program, the students’ knowledge can be checked with tests and/or discussions. The program can be integrated as a part of a more overarching program for other age groups. By the end of the program, the students are expected to fulfil the learning objectives and feel comfortable with the subject, encouraged by their peers and parents.
To conclude, the proposition of the sex education program development for 8-9-year-old children is prerequisited by the growing concerns and the pressing evidence of teenage pregnancies and STDs occurrences, meaning that introducing children to the subject of sex and sexuality and promoting safety should occur on earlier stages of development. To single out the teaching methods and develop age-appropriate activities, additional research is needed.
Caron, S. L. & Ahlgrim, C. J. (2012). Children’s Understanding and Knowledge of Conception and Birth: Comparing Children from England, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 7(1), 16-36. Web.
Donahue, K. L., Lichtenstein, P., Långström, N., & D’Onofrio, B. M. (2013). Why does early sexual intercourse predict subsequent maladjustment? Exploring potential familial confounds. Health Psychology, 32(2), 180-189. Web.
Goldman, Juliette D. G. (2012). A Critical Analysis of UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on School-Based Education for Puberty and Sexuality. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 12(2), 199-218. Web.
Reproductive Health: Teen Pregnancy. (2015). Web.
UNESCO. (2009). International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education. Web.