The EOC Makes Recommendations on Review of Sex Education in Schools
The Policy, Research and Training Committee (PRTC) of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) recently submitted its recommendations on the review of sex education in schools to the Education Bureau (EDB).
The EOC is a statutory body responsible for the implementation of the four anti-discrimination ordinances, including the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO). Discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status and pregnancy, and sexual harassment are made unlawful under the SDO. The law covers different areas and education is one of them.
Professor Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC said, “The Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools were published some 20 years ago in 1997 and has not been revised since then. A suitable curriculum could equip students with correct concepts of sex, raise their awareness on sexual harassment, and ultimately help combat sexual harassment. Recently, we have learnt that the EDB has made plans to review sex education in schools. As an organisation which implements the SDO, the EOC has a responsibility to make recommendations to the Government.”
“As mentioned in the Policy Address 2018, proper sex education is particularly important for students in their teens and the Task Force on Review of School Curriculum is now deliberating on the school curriculum with a view to creating space for schools to deliver values education in a holistic manner and to help students develop positive values and attitudes at a young age. We hope that the submission by the EOC will be considered during the curriculum review and made a contribution in cultivating an atmosphere conducive to helping students develop positive values and attitudes to life.”
Before submitting the recommendations to the Government, Professor Susanne CHOI Yuk-ping, Convener of the Working Group on Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign, a working group under PRTC, and some working group members met with EDB officers responsible for the sex education review, to discuss and exchange views on the issues at stake.
Professor CHOI said, “The importance of sexuality education has been recognised by a number of international treaties. These treaties, which are applicable to Hong Kong, concern the rights of children and women in terms of their sexual and reproductive health, and the protection of children and women against sexual harassment and abuse. It is the obligation of the contracting parties to implement sex education locally in order to enhance students’ knowledge of sexual and reproductive health. We have made a series of recommendations on sex education in schools which includes retitling the subject, setting purposes and objectives for sexuality education, stipulating content to be taught, and the measures to facilitate implementation of sexuality education in schools, etc.”
Sex education in schools is often criticised for focusing too much on the biological aspect of reproduction and too little discussion on relationships and values. The term “sex education” reflects too narrow a spectrum of topics it covers and may lead to misunderstanding of the purpose of sex education. The PRTC believes that sex education should be a balance between biological aspects and relationship aspects. Therefore the PRTC suggests to retitle “sex education” as “sexuality education” or “sexuality and relationship education”. With the rectification of subject title, gender and relationship elements of the subject will be emphasised and the real focus of the subject will be correctly reflected.
The EOC takes the view that sexuality education in schools should encompass and stress the importance of respecting others’ bodies, and cultivate positive attitudes towards relationships, gender roles and gender equality. It should also provide opportunities for young people to express their views and to ask questions on these subjects so that correct information would be disseminated. Sexuality education should aim at helping young people develop responsible decision-making and respectful behaviour, which would in turn help eliminate sexual harassment in the long run.
The core value of sexuality education should be gender equality. It should tackle misconceptions like unbalanced power-relationships, gender stereotypes and gender bias which may lead to sexual harassment and abuse. In addition, young people need to know that according to the Crimes Ordinance, having sex with someone under 16, committing an act of non-consensual observation or visual recording of another person for a sexual purpose is unlawful. Youths should also be taught how to seek help and report sexual harassment and abuse.
Professor CHOI reiterated, “Sexuality education should start as early as possible, preferably from primary schools. We believe that there should be dedicated lesson hours for sexuality education. Training on sexuality education should also be provided to teachers and school management. The EOC hopes that, through the curriculum review, sexuality education in schools in Hong Kong could keep up with the times. The content should strike a balance between biological knowledge and relationship-focused education, paving the way for young people to become responsible adults.”
Equal Opportunities Commission
11 October 2018