From the People’s Daily app.
This is Story in the Story.
Sex education used to be taboo in China, but decades of economic growth and modernization have changed the country’s conservative social views and now experts are urging for an overhaul on the subject, according to Huanqiu.com.
In fact, sexual and reproductive education was listed as a required subject in the compulsory education system, according to a guideline for child development issued by the State Council in 2011. However, it was not enforced strictly thanks to pressures from traditional values.
A progressive sex education curriculum was introduced to schools across the sprawling country in 2010, according to chinanew.com. The curriculum included a series of 12 books published by Beijing Normal University, covering the basics of sex, hygiene, social integration, emotional development, and even self-esteem.
The curriculum even introduced the concepts of gender equality and different forms of marriage.
This kind of sex education has also kicked off in the classrooms of Baiba township, Kangxian county in Northwest China's Gansu Province, a mountainous area about 1,700 kilometers from China's capital Beijing.
The middle school is taking part in a trial program that aims to bring sex education to more children in rural areas. Prior to the courses, a group of teachers of different subjects from different schools in the county, including Bao, an English teacher, received three days of training by Niwo (You and Me), a Beijing-based sex education platform launched collectively by several NGOs including the Rural Women Development Foundation Guangdong and Marie Stopes China.
In addition to teachers, more and more college students who volunteer to teach in rural areas during their summer or winter vacations are incorporating sex education sessions into their courses.
Today’s Story in Story will look at how activists and volunteers bring sex education to left-behind children in China's rural areas.
A volunteer with the Girls Protection Fund teaches students in a rural school in Henan Province how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Photo: IC
Fang Gang, a professor of sexology at Beijing Forestry University, said incorporating sex education into rural education and short-term volunteer teaching programs is a good way to address the lack of sexual education in rural areas. "Self protection against sexual harassment is very important for children in rural areas, especially among left-behind children, and yet currently rural areas lack these teaching resources," he told the Global Times.
"In our township, sex is an embarrassing topic. Most of the students in the school are children of farmers or migrant workers, who do not talk about this subject to their children," Bao Tiantian, a teacher from the No.2 Kangxian Middle School, told the Global Times.
Bao herself was skeptical at first. Just before the training course, Bao had an argument with her headmaster. Bao felt the course should be taught in high school, where the students are "more psychologically mature." But the headmaster insisted she teach it to middle school students.
"I was worried that children this young would learn things they shouldn't know at this age, and be taught to do bad things. When I was their age, I knew nothing about sex," Bao, aged 35, said.
The effect of the course, however, was beyond her expectations. "They weren't as innocent and timid as I thought, and some of them were more open to the idea of sex than I am. And because of this, they need more guidance from us," she said.
Xu Wen, a project coordinator at Niwo, said while rural children can appear to be more timid in class in the beginning, they are just as quick and responsive as city children. "As we carry out the classes, we find that children from rural areas and the city have little difference in their curiosity about sex. Compared to children from the city, those from the rural areas are more familiar with scenes of animals mating, and relate that to what's taught in class," she told the Global Times.
For teachers in rural areas and college students who grew up with little sex education, participating in the program was also a learning opportunity for themselves.
Wang Meidan, a sophomore majoring in applied psychology at the South China Normal University in Guangdong Province who volunteered to teach sex education in a Guangdong village, said she did not receive any sexual education before college. "We were handed books on physiology in middle school, but I was too shy to read them," she recalled.
Bao, who is the mother of a 3-year-old child, said she is thankful for the course, because she now knows how to educate her own children about sex.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Ryan Yaoran Yu, Lance Crayon and Raymond Mendoza. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times and China News Service.)