Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 2 News List

MOE plans new sex-ed course

GENDER RELATIONS While the MOE said the courses would help address questions such as breakups and pregnancies, KMT lawmakers said they would encourage sex

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

High school students will be required to enroll in new sex education courses starting next year, if a new "civil society" curriculum plan is approved by the Ministry of Education, a ministry official said yesterday.

"Young people need to foster correct attitudes regarding interaction with the opposite sex," said Chen Yi-hsing (陳益興), the ministry's secondary education director.

Calling the proposed curriculum "courses on gender relations," Chen said such issues as romance, break-ups and pregnancy -- increasingly common themes in adolescents' lives -- would be covered by the classes.

"When should students think about having a boyfriend or girlfriend? How should they prevent or deal with unwanted pregnancies? How should they view their own sexual development?" Chen said.

"These are the kinds of questions that would be addressed," Chen said.

Although the last civil society curriculum plan, implemented since last year, contains sex education classes, gender relations courses are receiving more attention in the upcoming plan because of "legal considerations" and the need to foster "healthier relations" between the sexes, Chen said.

By teaching high school students to "respect" the opposite sex, he said, human rights legislation, such as the Gender Equality Law (性別平等法), would be better served.

Last month, the ministry cited that law in submitting a bill to the legislature that, if passed, would grant pregnant teens maternity leave from school. Taiwan has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Asia.

"Gender relations classes would help students avoid pregnancy, or at least know how to deal with it," Chen said.

"We're not encouraging them to engage in sexual activity or get pregnant," he added. "We're arming students with the knowledge they need to successfully interact with the opposite sex."

The plan is "a work in progress" until the ministry's Curriculum Development Committee finalizes it before the next academic year, Chen said.

Pan-blue lawmakers, however, slammed the ministry yesterday for seeking to designate "love classes" as "requisite curriculum."

"Schools should not force students to take such classes; they could push students to taste the forbidden fruit," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) told reporters yesterday.

Teachers lack the expertise and experience to effectively teach such material, she added, while KMT Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) panned the ministry for trying to add another requisite class to an already overloaded high school curriculum plan.

Responding to criticism yesterday, Chen said gender relations courses are "merely a small part of the proposed plan."

The controversial classes are under the "civil society" plan because they deal with personal development and becoming a good citizen, he added.

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