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Sex education at school

The provision of sexuality education in school has always been one of RFSU’s main demands.

And according to the current national curriculum in Sweden, head teachers and their teaching staff are responsible for ensuring that schools provide education of this kind. This is positive, and it is unique in global terms. It is easy to find examples of successful programmes dealing with sexuality and personal relationships, and Swedish schools have a high ranking in this area in international comparative studies. One reason is that adult members of the school staff respond in an open manner to questions about sexuality and relationships posed by children and young people, and this openness is a decisive factor in the pupil’s fund of knowledge and in a meaningful learning process.

But the education provided could be better. The National Agency for Education’s quality audit on education in the sexuality and relationships field published in 1999 indicated that the quality of programmes varied, both between schools and within the same school. The education provided often focuses too much on reproduction and sexually transmitted infections. What pupils need is a broad form of sexuality education that includes discussions about bodies, relationships, values and society’s views on sex. Swedish surveys show that the quality of sexuality education is uneven. School children frequently say that they would like more knowledge about relationships, including consideration of questions about “how to live”, and also greater discussion.

Moreover, sexuality and personal relationships still do not form a compulsory subject at teacher training colleges in Sweden. This is something that must change, since teachers are actually required to provide education in this area. One of RFSU’s demands is to make sexuality and personal relationships to be a compulsory part of the curriculum of teacher training colleges, and give teachers continuous education in this arena.