Did you know that Ontario’s public schools have the oldest sex ed curriculum in Canada? The last time revisions were made in 1998. We’re talking about a program that pre-dates social media and completely ignores gender and sexual diversity. That’s not just a minor oversight. We’re doing youth in our province a serious disservice by giving them outdated information about sexuality.
Today, many children begin puberty as young as 9 and 10 years old. According to a report by the Public Health Agency of Canada, about a quarter of grade 9 and 10 students surveyed had already engaged in partnered sexual activity. I’ve done workshops, presentations and Q&A sessions with hundreds of high school age youth. Time and again I’ve met teens who don’t understand how HIV is transmitted or the basics of conception – not because they aren’t intelligent, but because they haven’t been taught the fundamentals of human sexuality.
In 2010, the provincial government announced plans to implement an updated, more comprehensive sex education curriculum. Unfortunately, objections from a small but vocal public minority influenced the Ministry of Education’s decision to cancel the new plan.
I was so disappointed when the new program was axed. But organizations like the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association are amazing advocates for comprehensive sex education in public schools. They’re still working to resurrect the 2010 updates, so I’m hopeful that we’ll see some changes to the curriculum soon.
What can parents and caregivers do in the meantime? If you’re like me, you hope that your as your child grows up, they will make positive sexual choices that will make them happy without compromising their well-being. I believe wholeheartedly, that kids are better able to make good decisions when they come from a place of knowledge. While the schools are lagging behind, we can make sure that the information our children get from us is current and relevant. Educate yourself – read books, attend a workshop or book a parenting session – and share what you’ve learned with your child. Be open to their questions about sex. Ask a few of your own.
If you live in Ontario, you can also contact your MPP and the Minister of Education. Let them know that current sex education influences our children’s well-being and that they deserve a current information about sexuality and sexual health.