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Philippines Implement Sexuality Education in Schools

New sexuality education modules are being tested in 159 schools in the Philippinesfor the 2010–2011 school year, which began June 15, 2010. The test modules will be integrated throughout core subject areas and the goal is that they may be later applied to all schools in the Philippines.[1]
 
Prompting the new sexuality education modules is the HIV/AIDS infection rate among young people. Young people ages 10 to 24 comprise about one-third of the Filipino population and are also increasingly becoming vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, making up one-third of the reported HIV cases in the country, an increase of 143% from the previous year.[2]
 
The Philippine pilot program is funded by the United Nations Population Fund. Beginning in grade five and extending through grade 12, lessons will be incorporated into science, health, English, and physical education courses. The teaching modules serve to educate students about many aspects of sexual relations and strive to teach age-appropriate material. Topics of personal care and hygiene, the menstrual cycle, and puberty will be taught beginning in the earlier years of the program, whereas “proper behavior among and between peers of different genders” and the religious perspective on premarital sex will be focused on in later years.[3] However, instruction about contraceptives will not be provided, nor will condoms be distributed in schools.[4]
 
The initiative has received push back from the country’s Roman Catholic church. Monsignor Pedor Qitorio, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that the teaching modules were, even without information on contraceptives, “too focused on the reproductive faculties [and] encourage what we are avoiding—early practice of sexuality outside of marriage.”[5] Concerns from Catholic officials over contraceptive education and condom disbursement extend past sexuality education provided in schools and into a broader realm of politics. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference is currently appealing to incoming president Benigno Aquino to dismiss Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral due to her strong support of a pending reproductive health bill in Congress that would mandate reproductive health education from grade five onward and require state hospitals to include contraceptives among essential medicines and supplies for patients.[6]
 
Despite the recent implementation of sexuality education teaching modules in schools, the current government is preparing to leave office and will not oversee the program delivery or its outcomes. The new president and administration will be sworn in on June 30, 2010. Combined with the mounting resistance and pressure from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, this year’s test of the modules faces many challenges. As Philippine Education Secretary Mona Valisno stated, “the next administration will be the one to decide whether to implement this fully, revise the modules, apply it in selected schools or totally scrap it.”[7]
 
 


[1] Oliver Teves, Philippines Tests Sex Education in Public Schools (1 June 2010), accessed 5 June 2010, <http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2010/06/01/philippines_tests_sex_education_in_public_schools>.
[2] United Nations Population Fund, The Philippines at a Glance (28 September 2009), accessed 9 June 2010, <http://www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/CO_Overviews/Philippines_b4_9.30.doc>.
[3] Republic of the Philippines Department of Education, Sex Education Is Not about Sex (8 June 2010), accessed 18 June 2010, <http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/jun8-sex.pdf>.
[4] Rainier Allan Ronda, “DepEd: Sex Education Not All About Sex,” Philippine Star, 6 June 2010, accessed 6 June 2010, <http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=581809&publicationSubCategoryId=68>.
[5] Teves, Philippines Tests Sex Education in Public Schools.
[6] Sophia Dedace, “Noynoy Urged Not to Retain Cabral as DOH Chief,” GMANews.TV, 2 June 2010, accessed 15 June 2010, <http://www.gmanews.tv/story/192450/noynoy-urged-not-to-retain-cabral-as-doh-chief>.
[7] Philippines Department of Education, “Sex Education Is Not about Sex.”

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