Tue, Mar 26, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Swedish sex educator speaks out

SHAKING THE TREE Taiwanese academia got a flavor of European liberalism as a renowned lecturer on sex education revealed continental attitudes to the subject

By Chang Yu-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Swedish expert in sex education yesterday told a seminar in Taipei that norms and values should be established for youngsters by means of a process of dialogue with them -- because often those norms that a culture imposes create ideals that result in the demonization of sexuality.

Dr. Erik Centerwall, an official with Sweden's Ministry of Education and a member of the Swedish Sexuality Education Association, lectured on the Swedish experience of sex education. The lecture was attended by Taiwanese scholars, health workers, and graduate students as part of a three-day seminar which Centerwall is giving at National Taipei College of Nursing (國立台北護理學院, NTCN).

Yesterday was the first day of the seminar, entitled "Sexuality education in the changing world."

The seminar, the first one at which a foreign expert on sex education has been invited to speak in Taiwan, is aimed at providing a forum for local practitioners of sex education through which they can learn from the experiences of other countries.

Chen Chun-man, (陳春滿) a graduate student at NTCN, who coordinated arrangements for the seminar, said, "We wanted to invite a Swede because Sweden is known for its progressive attitude toward such matters."

Centerwall is the acclaimed author of an award-winning book, Love: You can really feel it, you know, which has been the training manual for Swedish sex educators.

"The foundation of sexuality education is the freedom to choose, the freedom to enjoy, and the freedom to be [yourself]," he said. He also stressed, however that the three kinds of freedom should always go hand in hand with respect and responsibility for others.

"Sexuality is testing and understanding your ways of being while the education of sexuality will teach you to do it in a safe way," he further elaborated.

Sex education has been compulsory for Swedish elementary school students and older since 1955. Sweden has the world's lowest rate of abortion and is known for its relaxed and liberal attitude toward sex and sexuality.

"Reflecting on sex education in Taiwan, I sincerely hope that Dr. Centerwall can show Taiwan a new path toward a better sex education program, so that it will not remain limited to the study of reproduction," said Hsu Man-ying (徐曼瑩), dean of the graduate program in health education.

Taiwan schools do not run formal sex education classes, but the government last year introduced a nine-year sex education program which is part of the combined health and physical education course studied by children in elementary and secondary school.

"Learning from other people's experience is always the best way to learn without much trial and error. But educational reform does not happen overnight and since everything has its own cause, we have to put everything into its social and cultural context before making any judgement," Ho Ching-tsai (何進財) former minister of education said.

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