UNFPA Generation to Generation Dialogue

Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a persisting issue in Sri Lanka. The education system has invested considerable effort to solve this issue but still students leave schools without adequate knowledge to face the adolescent and adult life ahead of them.

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Translations by Creative Content Consultants

Teachers are often blamed of avoiding teaching sexuality education lessons due to shyness. Parents in Sri Lankan culture are reluctant to discuss these personal matters with their children. However, a flourishing pornographic sphere is widening in Sri Lanka and young people tend to be perceiving it as a way of sex education too. This is highly dangerous and the educators must re-invent their educational methodologies in this backdrop.

We came across a recent study themed ‘Analysis, of Knowledge and Attitudes of School Children’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education‘ conducted by Prof. K Karunatilaka, Senior Professor of Sociology (Chair), University of Kelaniya. The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Education with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Nearly 300 schools were included in the study, with over 4,400 respondents of students, principles, teachers, and parents.

Presenting the findings of the study, Prof. Karunatilaka said, “Many teachers refused to respond to questions relating to sexual and reproductive health information being part of the school curriculum. The low response-rate from teachers also provided valid input into the study on the stigmatization of this important topic. Findings also revealed that 50% of teachers had not participated in any sexual and reproductive health training programmes, yet nearly 90% said they need to develop the skills and ability to teach sexuality education without shame.

The study revealed the following key facts regarding the students:

82% considered sexual and reproductive health as important for a successful life and more girls than boys considered it essential.

78% identified sexual and reproductive health as a teaching priority in the school curriculum.

Only one third considered current teaching as adequate for satisfactory knowledge about the physical changes in adolescence, pregnancy and the reproductive systems.

Nearly one third of boys and two fifths of girls were unaware of spontaneous (uncontrolled) ejaculation.

85% of girls believed that a girl cannot get pregnant before her first menstruation.

Following are few interesting facts regarding teachers.

44% of teachers identified that CSE is taught in schools, but 87% did not respond to the question on whether sexual and reproductive health information is part of the curriculum, essential for adolescents, and to give reasons for their response, as they do not have a clear understanding on the subject.

Based on the study by Prof. Karunatilaka and other available data, UNFPA has developed a policy brief providing policy-level recommendations with the aim of strengthening delivery of age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education in Sri Lanka, in line with international guidelines. The policy brief was launched at an event held recently in Colombo, followed by an inter-generational dialogue, which comprised of an international expert, a teacher, parent, student, principal and a medical officer. The dialogue was moderated by UNFPA Assistant Representative, Madu Dissanayake.

UNFPA’s Generation-to-Generation dialogue was on ‘Delivering Comprehensive Sexuality Education – Who’s Role Is It?’ and it was held in partnership with the Ministry of Education. The event included a debate by young people on the role of teachers and parents in delivering Comprehensive Sexuality Education.

As the international expert in the panel, Ms Sivanthani Thanenthiran, Executive Director, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Malaysia, stated “The right of access to comprehensive sexuality education is grounded in fundamental human rights. It is a means to empower young people to protect their health, well-being and dignity. We must make an active effort to ensure every young person receives this life-saving education from all avenues, may it be at school, at home, or from society at large.”

UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka, Ms. Ritsu Nacken, said, “The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action explicitly calls on governments to provide education on sexuality in order to promote the well-being of adolescents. Yet, in Sri Lanka nearly 50% of young people are unaware about basic sexual and reproductive issues, where only 35% of girls are aware that using a condom may prevent pregnancy. Teachers and parents must not shy away from providing accurate life-changing information to young people. Global research shows that CSE does not trigger an early onset of sexual activities; it actually does the opposite.”

This dialogue can be viewed from this link>>

The policy brief can be downloaded from here>>

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