Sex Education Will Now Be Mandatory For Fifth & Sixth Years In Ireland – And That’s So Important
A real step in the right direction.
Sex education is set to be taught to all fifth and sixth year students in Irish schools – and that’s huge news.
The new draft curriculum will include teachings on consent, domestic abuse, LGBTQ+ relationships and families, as well as gender inequality and mental well-being.
Schools will be expected to provide one hour a week of a new Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) course for Leaving Cert students, a move which the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has said will encourage “self confidence” in students before they leave school.
“The educational experience in the senior cycle should be inclusive of every student, respond to their learning needs, celebrate value, and respect diversity,” they say.
“Students vary in their family and cultural backgrounds, languages, age, ethnic status, beliefs, gender, and sexual identity as well as their needs, interests, aptitudes, prior knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions.
“Every student’s identity should be celebrated, respected, and responded to throughout their time in senior cycle.”
The new curriculum won’t just ensure that students that are more equipped for life and relationships upon leaving school, but also marks an important step in the right direction for the Irish education system, which has not always been the most inclusive or informative when it comes to sexual health.
According to a recent study conducted in NUIG by the SMART Consent team, only 15% of women and 20% of men polled said they were content with their sex education at school. And who can blame them?
For years, Irish sex ed has been criticised for failing to provide students with adequate information regarding their own sexual health, relationships, and beyond. We were told not to get pregnant, but not how to actually stop that from happening. We were told how to start a family, but not given options if we didn’t want that. We were told how to technically have sex, but only if you were a man and a woman, and sex meant penetration and very little else.
We’ve all seen the Irish Catholic Sex Education video from the ’80s. You know, the one where girls are told forget all of their burning questions about the birds and the bees and to know that even though they might be confused, God has made sure that a penis entering a vagina is a “lovely feeling.” But you’ll have to wait until you’re married before doing any of that. “He’s the inventor and He knows what’s best.”
Access to good sex education may seem like a given in 2023, but it is not. According to The Irish Times, most schools in Ireland currently do not offer sex ed as part of the Leaving Cert cycle (the new teachings are expected to come into effect next year), and elsewhere, students are being stripped of their right to learn about sexual health… and even health in general.
Just this month, Florida banned teachings around periods to under 12 year old, in an archaic and deeply controversial move that has since become know as the ‘Don’t Say Period’ law. New legislation in the US State also further restricts the freedom of members of the LGBTQ+ community and those seeking access to vital healthcare services like abortion.
We’re still a long way away from every young person in Ireland feeling content and comfortable in their knowledge of sexual health (and in their own bodies in general), but if the tide is finally turning on what schools are permitted (and will be expected) to teach, then that can only be a good thing.
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