EOC Releases Findings of a Study on Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Secondary Schools of Hong Kong
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) today (22 November 2022) released the findings of “A Study on Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Secondary Schools of Hong Kong” (the “Study”). The Study found that sexuality education in Hong Kong is largely inadequate and the teaching hours are insufficient. In particular, around half of the schools offered five hours or below of sexuality education classes in a school year, and over 90% of schools provided 20 hours or below in a school year.
The Study, which aims at collecting solid data to paint an overall picture of implementation of sexuality education in Hong Kong, was carried out between November 2020 and April 2021 by the EOC. All 473 local secondary schools were invited to complete a self-administrated questionnaire and 203 valid questionnaires were received, representing a response rate of 42.9%. As classes were suspended due to COVID-19 pandemic, respondents were asked to use the data of 2018/19 school year to answer questions related to teaching hours and curriculum design. Five focus group discussions were also conducted with 26 discussants including secondary school principals/teachers, and non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers or school social workers.
Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Executive Director (Operations) of the EOC, explained why the EOC initiated the Study. Dr Chu said, “The EOC is a statutory body tasked with eliminating sexual harassment and promoting gender equality under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. We believe that comprehensive and proper sexuality education could help young people develop positive values, knowledge and skills to make respectful and healthy choices about relationship and sex, which as a result contributes to a gender-equal society free of sexual harassment.”
The Study found that 13.8% of the responding schools indicated that they did not teach sexuality education in classroom whereas 12.3% of schools did not organise any sexuality education activities in the 2018/19 school year. Among the schools which taught sexuality education at formal lessons, nearly half of them (junior forms: 47%; senior forms: 49.7%) said they only allocated a total of five hours or below to sexuality education classes. Over 90% of schools (junior forms: 97.1%; senior forms: 94.9%) provided 20 hours or below of sexuality education. Also, 75.4% of the schools did not have a target of lesson hours allocated to sexuality education for different subjects per year, and almost half of the school representatives (49.7%) said sexuality education in Hong Kong was “insufficient” or “very insufficient”.
Dr Chu said, “We found that sexuality education in Hong Kong is largely inadequate. The teaching hours are clearly insufficient even by the standard set by the Government’s Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools published in 1997. The decade-old document, which is no longer an instructional curriculum document for schools, suggested that a total of 36 hours and 30 hours of sexuality education classes should be allocated to junior forms and senior forms respectively. Such views were also shared by almost half of the school representatives who thought that sexuality education is ‘insufficient’ or ‘very insufficient’.”
In addition, the Study found that teachers are not equipped with proper professional training related to sexuality education. Nearly half of the responding schools (47.6%) said that their staff who taught sexuality education had not taken any relevant professional development courses. Over 95% of the schools did not impose any training requirements for their staff who taught sexuality education.
“The Study indicated that teachers are not equipped with proper professional training on sexuality education. Under these circumstances, the EOC recommended that professional development training courses should be mandatory for teachers responsible for teaching sexuality education in secondary schools. In addition, both schools and the Government should provide adequate resources and incentives for teachers to attend those training,” said Dr Chu.
As for difficulties encountered by schools for implementing sexuality education, the Study found that a high percentage of responding schools (82.3%) said there was no time for sexuality education “as the secondary school curriculum is already jam-packed”.
As much as 61.6% of school representatives would like the Government to revise the existing guidelines on sexuality education, and 55.7% of them would like to have recommended lesson hours for the sexuality education in different school subjects. Dr Chu said, “We see a clear demand for up-to-date and official guidelines and recommended lesson hours for sexuality education. In this connection, we recommend the Government to consider reactivating and updating the 1997 Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools for all secondary schools to follow. The Guidelines should also stipulate a standardised structure and recommended learning hours for elements of sexuality education in different school subjects and extra-curricular activities.”
The Study showed that most schools’ curricula of sexuality education heavily focus on the biological and physiological aspects, and overlook the psychological and social aspects like healthy relationships, sexual consent, gender equality, etc. which are equally important. The school subjects that mostly included elements of sexuality education were Science/Integrated Science and Biology. In view of such findings, the EOC recommended schools to review and revise their own curriculum of sexuality education as appropriate, to ensure that not just biological and physiological aspects of the subject are included, but also psychological and social aspects. Topics that are currently not covered by most schools, such as healthy relationships, sexual consent, gender equality, image-based sexual violence, sex, law and ethics should also be included.
The focus group discussions identified that minority students, such as students with special educational needs and non-ethnic Chinese (NEC) students, may encounter issues related to sex and relationships that required tailored support. The EOC recommended that funding should be provided to develop sexuality education materials that are tailored for the needs of minority students. The Government should consider funding NGOs and schools to develop bilingual teaching materials and learning activities that is culturally appropriate for NEC students.
Other recommendations made by the EOC in the Study include:
- Setting up a designated post of sexuality education coordinator for each school to coordinate and take charge of matters related to sexuality education;
- Providing adequate government subsidies for schools to hire NGOs to provide on-site sexuality education courses; and
- Enhancing support for parents on sexuality education by schools.
Dr Chu concluded, “With reference to the findings of the large-scale EOC’s research report published in January 20191 which found that nearly one-fourth of university students (23%) had been sexually harassed, the EOC believes that to tackle the issues of sexual harassment from its root, comprehensive sexuality education is essential and would break down misconceptions about sex and relationship for teenagers. We hope a list of key recommendations proposed in this Study would help improve the sexuality education in Hong Kong and eliminate sexual harassment in the long run, and for Government, schools and NGOs to map out a better overall strategy to improve sexuality education in Hong Kong.”
Details of the findings and recommendations of the Study could be found on the report which is available on the EOC website.
Equal Opportunities Commission
22 November 2022
(Note 1: Source of information: Break the Silence: Territory-wide Study on Sexual Harassment of University Students in Hong Kong released by the EOC in January 2019)
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) released the findings of “A Study on Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Secondary Schools of Hong Kong” today (22 November 2022). Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Executive Director (Operations) of the EOC (centre); Ms Doris TSUI Ue-ting, Acting Head (Policy, Research and Training) of the EOC (left); and Mr James CHAN, Senior Policy, Research and Training Officer (right) of the EOC presented the findings of the Study at the press conference.