Sex ed revamp overdue

Ontario’s current sexual education and health curriculum — established in 1998 — is alarmingly outdated.

After a proposed revision was shelved in 2010, the Ministry of Education is looking to implement an updated curriculum by next September.

Around 4,000 parents, one from each elementary school in Ontario, will have the opportunity to take an online survey to offer their opinion on the province’s new curriculum.

Seventeen years is far too long to go without an updated curriculum in any area of study, especially an ever-changing field like health. The province’s current curriculum lacks focus on topics that desperately require attention, such as mental health, LGBT relations, STIs and cyber-bullying.

While parents should be included in the discussion, their input shouldn’t result in the omission of certain content from the curriculum. This would form a system that’s value-based, rather than one objectively formulated by the assessment of experts.

Health education is just as important as any other subject students learn; it should be mandatory for any school that receives public funding. All students need to learn about consent and safety, so they can recognize unhealthy interactions and understand what constitutes abuse.

Students can’t be removed from the curriculum’s development. They know of issues — sexting, for instance — that adults may not have heard of and never experienced during their youth.

As this curriculum is critical to the health of students, educators with proper qualifications need to be teaching this course.

Teachers need to disseminate comprehensive and accurate information, to counter misinformation students may encounter elsewhere. They need to be trained, as with any subject, so they’re equipped with an in-depth knowledge of the material, rather than simply reading off a prescribed handout.

Based on the recommendations of experts, teachers need to know exactly what they should and shouldn’t say, to ensure information is given objectively in a way that doesn’t encourage or shame any particular behaviour or act.

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