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SEXtember: Sex Education in schools differ across countries and cultures

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Tue Sep 23 2014


FROM a lack of sex education in the school curriculum to students being bored by the topic – these were among the interesting findings Trinity College Foundation Studies students Gracia Sharlene and Yi Ling Goh discovered as they explored how sex education differ across countries and cultures.


Sex education is a foreign concept to Ali, an international student from Myanmar.

“Sex education? We never had that!” he said.

“I normally get information on safe sex on the internet or through casual conversations. It was never anything formal,” he adds.

Ali is not alone. A survey we conducted amongst 26 students revealed that international students’ exposure to sex education differ across countries and cultures. Ali, like other international students from China and Russia would probably not have had sex education in their schools before their arrival in Australia. Indonesian and Singaporean students would have learnt about sex in primary schools. Sex education is introduced to the curriculum in lower secondary in Malaysia and Thailand, and  in upper secondary in Japan. It is only taught at tertiary level in Iran.

Nazanin, from Iran, was 19-years-old when she attended her first sex education class – much later compared to many of the other students surveyed.

“It was just one course in the first year of university,” she said.

What do schools teach in sex education?

Students said that sex education in their home countries comprised both presentation and seminars which covered topics such as reproductive systems, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), condoms and other contraceptives.

However many of those surveyed say that they already had some knowledge from speaking with their friends and through the media.

One student from Japan said that students learnt how to apply a condom onto a zucchini – the school stopped using the banana as a prop because students were reportedly disgusted by the fruit after the class.

Is it working?

Students from countries where sex education is a regular part of the school curriculum say they are so accustomed to the topic that they are soon “bored” by it.

Natasha, from Indonesia, said she found the yearly sex education classes  repetitive and boring.

“The school normally covers the dangers of unsafe sex including STDs and pregnancy. They even showed us videos on how abortion works,” she said.

For students who have never received sex education and would wish to find out more, provides useful information regarding safe sex, proper use of protection and sexual health.