BEIJING, Aug. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- The denial of Beijing municipal authorities on Tuesday that primary school students would be required to study a textbook on sex education does not reduce the need for such education.
Earlier reports had said that from September a graphic curriculum on parts and organs of the human body would be included in the city's primary schools, and students would have to study the various stages of changes in the bodies of boys and girls as a first step toward protecting them from HIV/AIDS. They also said the trial textbook would be updated for primary school students in the rest of the country as and when required.
Later, the education department of Beijing municipal government clarified that the textbook had been compiled by one school and other schools in the city need not follow it.
Nevertheless, the news has rekindled the debate over sex education.
Many parents argue that pictures of human sexual organs and lovemaking are against Chinese traditional values and could have a "damaging" effect on children. But many educators, psychologists and medical workers insist that primary school students need to learn sex education.
Physiology textbooks teach students about physical changes in the male and female bodies, healthy gender concepts and family values. They speak little about sexual issues. Also, boys and girls are always put in different classes to avoid embarrassment.
Chinese children today are vulnerable to a host of sex-related problems. But the current teaching methods do not take into consideration this important factor.
Poor knowledge entails dreadful consequences. Investigations have revealed that young people in the country are at persistent risk of HIV infection. That's why textbooks on sex education for students of different ages could work more realistically.
Schools should be the place where children get the right information on "the birds and the bees". Most children think they already know about sex through the Internet or magazines. Surveys have found that 70 percent of Chinese parents don't educate their children about sex and the dangers that come with it.
China is not the only country that has to deal with clash of views on sex education, and perhaps it can learn from others.
The textbook Beijing's education authorities refused to introduce in primary schools may be too provocative for young children. But teaching young children about "the birds and the bees" is necessary.
Sex educationists in China need to walk the fine line between cultural values - where conservative attitude prevents open discussion on sexual issues - and modern lifestyle - where sex is widely advertised.
While promoting abstinence, comprehensive sex education should give children, who today are more likely to have premarital sex, necessary information about contraception and health concerns.
(Sources: China Daily)