Education advocates are calling on the incoming Minister of Education to ensure that all BC students, regardless of location, sexual orientation, or gender identity, receive comprehensive sex education under the revised curriculum that is slated for implementation in September.
Sex education is included in the curriculum for Health and Career Education K to 7, Health and Career Education 8 and 9 and Planning 10, which were last updated between 2005 and 2007. BC Teachers’ Federation vice president Glen Hansman says the sexual health component of these courses are being moved to what will be called Health and Physical Education.
“It is not known what the plan for implementation will be — what sorts of on-the-job training opportunities will be available for teachers, for instance, or what sort of updated learning resources will be available,” he says. “We’ve raised concerns that they are getting rid of Planning 10 where it’s housed and said to politicians that there needs to be plans to deal with this stuff. We’ll be raising it again with the new minister because we don’t have clear answers.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education says that sex education will remain in the curriculum.
“Health and Career Education K to 7, Health and Career Education 8 and 9 and Planning 10 are still in place,” the spokesperson says. “A review of all curriculum is underway as part of the Ministry’s curriculum transformation. A team of BC teachers is currently reviewing the health curriculum component. Initial consultations have suggested that Health and PE curricula could be combined.”
Drafts of redesigned curricula are expected to be available for review this fall, the spokesperson says.
Hansman worries that the government does not have a plan to support the implementation of any new sexual education curriculum, especially if it’s housed under physical education.He also notes that funding cuts have meant that there are few on-the-job training opportunities for teachers to get up to speed on the teaching of sexual health education.
Nor is there any systemic effort being made to ensure that sexual health education is queer-inclusive, with supports in place for both teachers and learners, he points out.
“Where are PE teachers supposed to go to teach this material responsibly and make sure that the teaching for sex ed is mindful of kids who may not self-identify as gay or lesbian but who may engage in same-sex sexual behaviour, or kids that are transitioning from one gender to another?” Hansman asks.
“Either people are relying on things they find on Google or experience in their own life, and that’s not good enough,” he says.
“I think you would be reasonable to say the large majority of young queer men do not get that education through the school system, and I think you could say the same goes for young queer women.”
Kristen Gilbert, senior health educator at Options for Sexual Health, Canada's largest non-profit provider of sexual health services, says BC teachers need more support and training in order to deliver sexual education that is inclusive of queer and trans students.
“I would say that it is entirely up to the teacher teaching how inclusive or not inclusive their lessons are,” she says. “There actually isn’t anything in the kindergarten through Planning 10 learning outcomes about ensuring that queer kids are represented in the curriculum.“
“The BC Ministry of Education needs to be specific about addressing the needs of queer students,” Gilbert says, “and teachers should learn in their pre-service training how to include all students in their lessons.”
READ MORE: http://www.xtra.ca/public/Vancouver/Are_phys_ed_teachers_the_best_people_to_teach_sex_ed_in_BC-13742.aspx