Can you imagine sending your 14-year-old daughter to school in which the teacher in one of her classes teaches a lesson by asking the following questions:
“How will you respond if your boyfriend refuses to put a condom on?”
“What do your friends think about condoms”?
“Write down their possible answers, and then check with your friends if you got their answers right.”
How is the imagination exercise going so far?
These conversations are a part of the regular sex ed curriculum in the Netherlands. Dutch people have regularly been reported to have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the world and in Europe. Apart from that, Dutch teenagers do not surpass peers from other countries in regards to the age they get into the first sexual intercourse.
Why is Holland so positively different than many other countries?
Here are the eight top reasons why this is happening:
- The sex ed program is supported by the Dutch government. Facing a realistic AIDS threat in the late eighties, the Dutch Foundation for STD Control, in consultation with churches, health practitioners and organizations for family planning, developed a participatory package binding the teachers to become more explicit.
- Helps the students decide about their personal sexual health. Instead of a mandatory set of rules, the model offers the students developing a set of skills by which they will be able to make their own decisions.
- It is based on the fact that it is better to get sex ed than deny the reality. Dutch people understood the inevitability of such education and included a certain program even in the mid-seventies. Although there isn’t a compulsory subject matter in class, almost all schools include sexual education in biology classes, and primary schools give due attention to sexuality and contraception.
- The model is all-inclusive. It encompasses not only biological aspects of reproduction, but also values and attitudes, as well communication and negotiation skills. Some schools use the basic package while others support it with video materials and printed magazines.
- The program is followed by a mass public campaign. If the sex ed lessons were limited only to classrooms, results would be partial. This is why the program included a campaign with popular public persons.
- Privacy protection. Confidentiality, guaranteed anonymity and a non-judgemental approach are the basic pillars of the Dutch health system.
- Pragmatic parental approach with an accent to children’s personal responsibility. Dutch parents know that their children are going to have sex. They are ready to speak to them about this and prepare them to take responsibility for their behavior. The teachers attend training – it doesn’t mean that it is easy for them to talk to the students about these topics.
- Awareness about the fact that talking about sex will not give their children “wrong ideas”. The model critics are silenced when they read the stats about the sexual health and pregnancy rates for Dutch teenagers as compared to those around the world, and see the success of similar Dutch-based sex ed models.
While any education model can be improved as we grow and learn as humans in an evolving society, it is certain that we have plenty to learn from the Dutch sex ed example.