Passing the buck of sex education
India is a predominantly conservative country. Matters that are taboo are either entirely circumvented or discussed in hushed tones. Imparting sex education in a society such as ours can be challenging, with parents and teachers passing the buck to each other.While the debate is never-ending, a recent study revealed that a majority of the students prefer to get their sex education from their parents rather than teachers.
India is a predominantly conservative country. Matters that are taboo are either entirely circumvented or discussed in hushed tones. Imparting sex education in a society such as ours can be challenging, with parents and teachers passing the buck to each other.While the debate is never-ending, a recent study revealed that a majority of the students prefer to get their sex education from their parents rather than teachers. Apart from trust, there are many other factors that contribute to children’s preferences.
Whether it is education on sexual activity or sexuality, children are seldom given guidance. Many teenagers or young adults therefore prefer to remain in closets, keep a check on their levels of curiosity or venture out on their own instead of approaching elders for guidance. They cannot turn to family or a community for support. On the other hand, even though our society is tight-lipped about sex as an activity, children are exposed to pronounced sexual imagery right from their childhood.
And at a time when their curiosity reaches a peak, by dint of their age, the strong opinions held by elders and the society further confuse them.Adolescence is a challenging period as sexual expressions and preferences begin to take shape. They begin to hold a priority in their relationships and experiences.
“Sexuality is an important part in human life. Children are naïve and vulnerable. With constant exposure to advertisements and intimate scenes in the media, ther are in the danger of being led in the wrong way.Ages 12 to 15 bring about a lot of changes in children’s physical and mental habits. Both parents and teachers should educate children about sexuality, says Dr Sreenivas, a child psychiatrist withKIMS.
“From the age of ten, a child’s hypothetical thinking develops and acquires the ability to judge right and wrong. This is the time one gets attracted to surroundings too. Sexuality is not vulgar if you teach it in a scientific manner”, he stresses.Sreenivas also says that there are many sources out there influencing children. But the knowledge they thus gain is not complete, leading to several misconceptions. He rues that this is not healthy for the child’s growth. He insists that parents should be involved more than teachers in a child’s sex education.
However, some parents disagree with the survey and opine that sex education is to be imparted at schools rather than at homes as they believe school is where children should learn their lessons. Some even admit that it is awkward to hold a discussion on sex with their children. “It is easy for the teachers to impart sex education as they are not emotionally attached to the children and can therefore treat it as just another subject.
If parents take up that responsibility, there is every chance that a child may take undue advantage of the rapport and refuse to be disciplined by parents”, says Ramya, mother of two teenagers. IshaqAhemad, the father of a tenth standard student too shares the same view. “Children will take us for granted if we discuss such topics with them. There is a very thin line between understanding and taking things for granted. Most teenagers fail to identify the difference. Respect and fear for parents is a must for a child. Such conversations will make them lose both for their elders. That is not healthy”, he says.
Bhavani Krishna, a school teachers, however believes that the responsibility to guide children belngs to both parents and teachers. “What to teach and what not to teach our children is completely in our hands. But what forget that there are a lot of other sources around that influence children. We see a lot of intimate scenes in movies and condom ads in TV. If we do not interfere and tell the right from wrong, children may be steered into the wrong direction.
Therefore, it is both the parents’ and teachers’ responsibility to teach kids about sex and sexuality”. Students too tend to lean towards parents for support. They believe it is easier to learn about such delicate matters at home than at school. And they have some compelling arguments to make their point. “It is a little uncomfortable to be taught about sex in school as everybody is around and even teachers hesitate to clarify doubts related to the subject.
It is an important chapter in the syllabus and until one understand it really well, one cannot score well”, says Siri, a tenth standard student. “I feel very uncomfortable when the teacher raised the topic as most of us in the class are worried to look at each other’s faces. Even our teachers are uncomfortable and complete the topic in a hurry. I am quite close to my mom and she helps me in academics as well. I asked her to explain it to me. She instantly agreed and cleared my doubts by assuring me that it is natural and that there is nothing wrong with it”, says, Akhila Nair, also a tenth standard student.
Man schools conduct separate classes for boys and girls on sex education as they feel it will help students relax and understand the subject better. “We are always there to teach the kids and clarify their doubts. But when it comes to the delicate matter of sex education, it gets very personal. The children to feel shy to come ahead later after class and clarify their doubts or ask for suggestions. Parents should also come forward to educate their children on such matters, says Tulasi, a biology teacher at Rao’s Talent School.
“As parents, they also have a responsibility in this matter. It is easy for them to teach their children. Most girls prefer learning such things from their mothers as they get embarrassed in front of the class. Parents should build a rapport with their children. It also strengthens their bond” says AnithaDurai, a biology teacher at City High School.