Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Education

Here's one for the books. According to a news article, a losing senatorial candidate sued the Department of Education for incorporating sex education in the curriculum of elementary and high school students. According to her, she did so on behalf of 30 parents, who "examined the modules being used by DepEd and found that it promotes family planning, reproductive health and demographic development in subjects such as Mathematics, Science and English. It is specifically designed to transform the attitudes, behavior and social norms of young people based on a foreign model."

Who decided that "family planning, reproductive health and demographic development" are subjects that kids should be spared from? Why is it that Filipino kids are seen as immature to tackle subjects that are enlightening in nature? Sex education provides a good avenue for children to learn about responsibility. Knowing about the "birds and the bees" allows children to realize that the issue of sex is an important matter that they need to consider very well. It not only involves their health and future development, it affects their loved ones and society as a whole. Sex education helps create cultural awareness and social responsibility.

It really bothers me to see parents who would rather see their kids limit their early education to learning ABCs, 123s, and the life of Dr. Jose Rizal. How can we tell students that Dr. Rizal is our hero when the enlightenment that he wants for Filipinos is suppressed by primitive thinking and oblivious behavior? Rizal was about freedom of education as a means to change. People have to go beyond knowing that he was born in Calamba, Laguna. Or making chismis about his romantic flings.

ABCs and 123s are important stuff, no doubt about that, but we have to go beyond them to provide opportunity to hone the mind of a child to develop philosophies in life. Limiting a person's early education to textbook materials creates a nation of drones who are educated to just learn what currently exists and do them well. As it is now, children, from the get go, are taught to conform and belong in society. As early as possible, children should be taught to appreciate innovation, to look beyond the horizon, to challenge the status quo with the intent of making things better, damn the norms. The Philippines is a good source of workers, as the world knows. But what we need to do is to ingrain in the youth the belief that they can be CEOs of multinational companies, or the inventors that can do Apple and Google one better. That they can be captains of industry and not merely employees.

This is all about developing a philosophy in life. This means not just asking a child what the national animal is. Children should also be asked why it is the Carabao and why it should still be. It's not enough to tell kids the jeepney is a common mode of transportation in the Philippines. They can be asked why they think a relic of World War II has still not been phased out in order to develop more modern means of transportation. But I digress...

The news article stated that the complainants believe that "adopting the sex education plan will fast-track moral decay among young people who are exposed to sex at an early age." The losing senatoriable was quoted as saying, "While curiosity is normal for young people, it is still the primary responsibility of the parents and families to inform their children about sex."

True, I agree that educating children about sex should primarily be the parents' duty. But it does not mean that they have sole responsibility. Matters that affect the state of the nation, including the health of its citizens and the growth of its population, can and must be addressed by the State. It would actually benefit a child to have varying opinions coming from his parents and his teachers. It will teach a child analytical thinking and decision-making and prevent him from developing a habit of just swallowing anything that comes from authority.

One's sex life is something that should be kept private. But sex education is a matter of public knowledge. It should be opened up to all people in order to foster discourse and allow higher learning to spread nationwide. Our nation seems to be having a national state of sexual repression, wherein we can't even treat sex as a scientific or cultural topic. This has happened because our society has treated sex as a dirty mud puddle and we feel bad that the reality is that we all wade in it.

If we start to develop in children the idea that sex is a normal, natural part of life and that it has repercussions on our health and our nation's development, we can change the Filipino mindset. We fear sex education will result in sexual promiscuity. I beg to differ. Miseducation or lack of proper education about sex results in sexual promiscuity. The proper teaching of sexual issues to young people leads to sexual responsibility. Education creates character. Lack of one creates ignorance and irresponsibility.

Filipino parents shouldn't be crowing about how they have moral authority over educating their kids about sex to warrant sole responsibility because statistics don't really support them. The "education" that most Filipino parents have given their children did not result in a low rate of teenage pregnancies. I'm not really sure what "foreign model" of education the parents who are complaining are so worried about. For a "conservative" nation like ours, the teenage pregnancy rate in the Philippines seems to reveal that the Filipino youth is actually more sexually promiscuous that those of the more "liberated" nations. Or at least more irresponsible and less educated.

According to the statistics of the United Nations Population Fund, out of every 1,000 Filipino women in the age range of 15-19, there is an average of 38 among them who give birth. Let's compare it first with the West, shall we? While the United States has a higher number, 53 out of 1,000, Europe has really good numbers to show. In the United Kingdom, 20. In France, 9. In Germany, 11. In Italy, 6.

Let's see how our neighbors in Southeast Asia are doing. In Malaysia, the rate is 18 out of 1,000. Vietnam, 21. Singapore, 6. We did slightly better than Indonesia and Thailand who have 55 and 49, respectively.

Let's see other Asian countries. Japan has 4 teenage pregnancies out of 1,000. South Korea, 3. We did better than India, though, who had a rate of 45 per 1000.

It appears we really shouldn't be fearing "foreign models." They should be fearing for us.

The article provided the side of DepEd, through Secretary Mona Valisno. According to the report:

She said the sex education plan seeks to battle the high percentage of unwarranted pregnancies in the country, which is one of the 10 highest in the world, and prevent dropouts as a result of teenage pregnancies.

She said the topics integrated into the modules will be scientific and informative and are not designed to titillate prurient interest.

In Science, sex education topics will cover the reproductive system, parts of the body, reproductive cycle, and puberty.

Under Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP), proper behavior among and between peers of different genders will be discussed.

In Health classes under MAPEH (Music, Arts, PE and Health), personal hygiene and reproductive health will be part of the lessons.

In Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, at Sibika (HEKASI) classes, discussion will include the position of religion on premarital sex and the norms when people of opposite sex interact.

Finally, in Math classes, data on issues like premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections will be used in studying mathematical analysis and statistics.

I really don't see anything wrong with the plan of DepEd. The lessons that are going to be taught to the students are as scientific and academic as they can be. These things shouldn't even be labeled as sex education. They are clearly matters that have to be taught to everyone. These matters also concern science, mathematics, and social studies. While parents would like to be the main educators of their children, there are subjects that require the expertise of professional educators.

The complainants are stating that sex education is a form of "contraceptive imperialism." If this "imperialism" will result in the decline of the population of the "empire of ignorance," then so be it.

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