One of South America’s most conservative countries has made the surprising decision to teach sex education in all public schools beginning next year.
Chile has long aligned its views and policies on sex with that of the Catholic Church, including outlawing all forms of abortion, so the choice to teach sex education is a drastic departure.
On Monday, the country’s Education Minister Joaquín Lavín, along with the National Women’s Service (SERNAM) Minster Carolina Schmidt presented seven variations of sex education programs for the public schools.
Right now, only secondary schools have any kind of sex education. It is taught as part of biology and a natural science classes, and does not include any information about the emotional aspects of sex or birth control.
Beginning in 2012, Lavín says first through fourth grade students will go through a basic kind of sexual education, more along the lines of acceptable behavior.
“Children must be educated in the first place about affection, how to respect your body and other peoples’ bodies, not letting anyone approach you or touch you if you do not want it or in a way you do not want.”
Subsequent classes will follow the earlier “acceptable behavior” course, and as they get older, the students will learn more and more about pregnancy, contraception, HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse, and homosexuality, but all seven programs presented Monday encourage delaying any sexual activity.
It is estimated that it will cost between $47 a $413 to educate each teacher, and will include as many as 70 hours of training. Each school must find ways to finance their new sexual education programs, but a grant from a $620,000 fund created by the Ministry of Education can be applied for.
According to SERNAM’s Schmidt, “More than 41,000 young people now see their future determined by a pregnancy at an early age,” with more than 12,300 pregnant girls or mothers registered by the school system last year.
While he understands the need for the courses, the president of Chile’s private school organization Conacep, Rodrigo Bosch said he finds it hard to get behind one plan when it seems to change often.
Although this plan is very welcome, we receive news of different sex education plans every two years, so it is difficult to see the credibility in this one. We hope that the government gives schools the adequate resources for their programs.” Bosch added that “$620,000 does not sound sufficient for the high expectations this initiative has generated, taking into account that there are about 10,000 schools involved.”
Currently, 90 percent of Chile’s schools are public and many already have trouble affording their curriculum.
In related news, U.S. President Barack Obama and his family are on their way to Chile today. This will be the second stop on their Latin America trip, following Brazil, and preceding El Salvador.
Read more at Santiago Times →