Ten years ago, Quebec removed sex education from their provincial school curriculum. This year, the province announced that they will be reintroducing sex-ed into schools in September 2018, this time starting in kindergarten and continuing all the way through to the end of high school. It’s an interesting move, but studies show that it’s a beneficial one for kids (and their parents) and the new Quebec curriculum is in line with ones either already in place or being implemented next year in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.
Before you freak out over having “the talk” with your four-year-old, they won’t learn everything all at once (which could definitely help with the freak-out factor). In the early years, kids will learn the basics of how babies are made, the proper names for body parts and learn about different types of families (including ones with same-sex partners). These basics are meant to empower kids with knowledge of their own bodies, protect them from misinformation and teach them about appropriate versus inappropriate behaviour and touching.
Once kids hit the age of six or seven, they will learn about gender stereotyping and how to recognize situations that could lead to sexual assault. By age eight or nine, the conversation will expand to include more specific knowledge about different forms of assault — such as being exposed to pornography or inappropriate touching. Around 11 kids will learn about the online dangers of internet predators.
In the pre-puberty years, adolescents will learn about the changes they have to look forward to — including the little talked-about stuff like vaginal lubrication and spontaneous erections — and the social challenges they may face like homophobia and sexism.
Once puberty hits, teens will learn about consent, what constitutes sexual assault and be encouraged to use condoms. In the later teens, students will learn to recognize an abusive relationship, what to do if you’ve had unprotected sex and talk about emotional intimacy.
It may be scary for parents or seem inappropriate, but studies have shown that good sex education from a young age has a whole host of benefits for children. With puberty hitting some kids earlier than others, it’s difficult to know when exactly is the best time to start educating about sex. There are few things worse for an adolescent’s sexual health than them not knowing what is happening to their own body and not feeling comfortable asking someone about it. More sex-ed is linked with lower instances of STIs and unwanted pregnancies, more empowerment against sexual violence and even body positivity. Also, when parents talk to their kids openly about sex and their bodies, children are more likely to come to them with other personal problems.
Some parents are concerned about schools forcing a conversation about something their kids aren’t yet ready for. Many parents wish to wait until their kids show interest in “how babies are made” or their own changing anatomy before they sit down for “the talk.”
Some educators are also concerned that teachers are not given enough training or material to execute the curriculum effectively. The president of a syndicate of the Quebecois teachers union called the new plan “improvised” and said that in order to make it effective, they needed more time to roll it out.
This is likely a debate that will continue even once the curriculum is implemented in September and start dialogues in other provinces that don’t have such in-depth sex education yet.