A comprehensive study of Sex Education in Ireland and nine other countries reveals that currently it’s out of touch with the reality of sexually active students
A study spanning fifteen years looking at Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Ireland, and nine other countries reports that it is out of touch with students who may be sexually active as well as stereotyping sexual roles based on gender.
In RSE the study found that women are frequently portrayed as passive whereas men are portrayed as predatory.
Additionally, students were felt vulnerable in RSE classes with young men anxious to conceal sexual ignorance and young women afraid of being harassed if they participate.
The study examined forty-eight qualitative studies that had been carried out between 1990 and 2015 across ten countries: Ireland, the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, Japan and Iran.
The study highlights that schools seem “reluctant to acknowledge that sex is a potent and potentially embarrassing topic, and attempt to teach it in the same way as other subjects.”
Young people felt the RSE took a ‘scientific’ approach to sex which didn’t cover the pleasure and desire involved in sex, with schools often unwilling to acknowledge that some students were sexually active.
Dr. Pandora Pound who led the research said: “It is clear from our findings that SRE provision in schools frequently fails to meet the needs of young people.”
“Schools seem to have difficulty accepting some young people are sexually active, which leads to SRE that is out of touch with many young people’s lives.”
Additionally, young people involved in the studies reported that RSE can be gendered, negative and heterosexist which assumes that students are heterosexual. This practice leaves LGBT students feeling like their sexuality is not normal.
Research from the University of Limerick has revealed that parents in Ireland want their children to be taught about sexual orientation with a view to decreasing homophobic bullying.
Schools also tended to highlight abstinence with sex education being delivered by embarrassed and ill-trained teachers.
“There are several steps that need to be taken to address this,” Dr. Pound explained.
“SRE should be ‘sex-positive’ and delivered by specialists who can maintain clear boundaries with students.”