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Sex Education Courses Failing To Meet Needs Of Students In New Zealand

Armen Hareyan's picture

Sex Education Courses

The sex education programs in primary and secondary schools in NewZealand are failing to meet the needs of its students, according to areport conducted by the New Zealand Education Review Office, the New Zealand Heraldreports. Sex education in the country became a requirement in 2001, butsome students have been exempted because of religious and culturalbeliefs, the Herald reports.

According to the Herald, New Zealand has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,and it has increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections andabortions among youth. In 2006, the fertility rate in the country was28.4 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 -- second only to theU.S. rate of 45 pregnancies per 1,000 girls.

For the report, theERO assessed the quality of sex education programs in grades seven to13 in 100 primary and secondary schools. It found that many schoolswere adopting a "one-size-fits-all" approach to sex education. Thereport found that 20% of the schools assessed had "substantialweaknesses" in their teaching methods of sex education. According tothe report, only five of the schools had programs that were "highlyeffective," and 30 schools were ranked "effective."

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Manyschools used outside providers, such as public health nurses, to teachthe programs, the report found. Two areas of weaknesses in most schoolswere a lack of assessment of student learning and a failure to meet theneeds of diverse groups of students, according to the report. At themost ineffective schools, students identified gaps in terms of theirneeds and the information being provided, including abortion,contraception, pregnancy, STIs, nonheterosexual people and sex.

Thereport found a strong focus on puberty in sex education courses atprimary schools, while secondary schools focused more on contraception,relationships and STIs. The ERO said it is concerned that many schoolsadministered the same programs from one year to the next, "with littleconsideration to students' individual needs."


Jackie Edmond, ERO's chief executive, said, "Family planning is notcritical in schools," adding, "Our view is that schools would value andwelcome clearer guidelines from the ministries about the sexualityeducation curriculum."

Education Minister Steve Maharey saidthe report showed there had been "good overall improvements" since thelast review in the 1990s, and "many schools are doing well." He addedthat some schools were struggling and that a "good practice report"would be valuable. According to Women's Affairs Minister LianneDalziel, improvements in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of youngpeople would lead them to make more informed decisions about sexual andreproductive health and "will reduce risky behavior" (Oliver, New Zealand Herald, 8/24).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.