Friday 28 August 2009

Issues with teaching sex education in schools in Pakistan

A private school in Pakistan is facing the wrath of parents, religious political parties and the education authorities for using books from GCSE biology curriculum in year 6 and 7 teaching reproduction among animals including humans. Other offences committed by the school include compulsory teaching of music to all students and a school uniform that does not have dupatta (shawl to cover their heads) as an integral part of it. Those protesting are after the head of UK trained CEO of the school who brought these changes.

On compulsory guitar lessons to for all students I believe that it is a case of head teacher gone mad - not every individual has an aptitude for playing the instrument - my bruised fingers from the days of guitar lessons are an evidence.

On the issue of teaching chapters on reproductive health from a book written for British schools, I must say that in my view we have lost a sense of balance in Pakistan. There is nothing wrong in teaching essentials in “biology”, reproductive health or sex education for that matter, for as long as it is targeted at the right age and done appropriately by “educators” who are qualified to be educators and are aware of local traditions and sensitivities. This is not the case in majority of Pakistani schools where teachers are untrained graduates who have never trained to be teachers, never wanted to be one and became one having failed to find any other job.

In Pakistan “educators” whose role it is to put the curriculum together are not doing their job - thus schools having to import books that have been written for an entirely different cultural context and are not appropriate for Pakistani audience. Reportedly the school was censoring the objectionable pages from the offending books by stapling them together - when did stapling pages stopped a young mind from finding out what’s behind the censored sections!

Even in the UK there is an ongoing debate as to what’s the appropriate age for youngsters to be introduced to “Sex education”. But at least there is a debate followed by action on curriculum development.

I have written earlier that a vast majority of female population in Pakistan is unaware of reproductive health issues and that there is a need for a sensitive awareness programme so that no woman has to endure that pain Ashrafi had to go through. Incidences like this school that happen due to mismanagement of teacher parent relationship and a lack of sensitivity on the part of school management do not help the cause of broader awareness among population of necessary health issues and twist these to become issues of morality.

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