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August 4, 2011

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Debate is over what to teach in US schools

MOST high school students in the United States are required to take a sex education class as part of their "Health" course.

Despite the fact that sex education differs by state and region, students are generally introduced to different methods of birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, how to resist pressures of having sex and the consequences of sex.

Some schools in the US start sex education as early as 5th grade. Now a college student at Northwestern University, 19-year-old Korean-American Paul Juhn was first exposed to the concept of sex in a middle school he attended in Illinois.

"In 5th grade, we had to watch a video about how sex worked," Juhn recalls. "It was only in 7th and 8th grades that we learned more about the technical details of sex. We watched a birth on video in 9th grade. At that point, it scared a lot of girls."

While there is still much debate about whether sex education should be incorporated into curriculums in Chinese schools, the debate in the US revolves around the type of sex education taught.

While some states require schools to teach abstinence-only sex education, many argue this approach does not help teenagers who choose to be sexually active. Therefore, an increasing number of US schools are advocating comprehensive sex education, in which more focus is placed on how to avoid STDs and the use of contraceptives.

At the Shanghai American School (SAS), students are required to complete a unit of sex education as part of the curriculum. Graduate Farisia Thang, 17, says students were encouraged to refrain from having sex, but that information on safe sex was provided.

"During our health class, the teacher wanted us to do something more interactive - so she gave us each an eggplant and a condom. We practiced putting a condom onto the eggplant," Thang says.

"The whole experience was very awkward, especially since the boys and girls were not separated. Everyone was laughing - even the teacher laughed. But, along with what we learned about contraceptives and the consequences of sex, I guess the experience was informative."


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