A Review of Sexuality Education in China Essay

In the elementary and secondary schools in China, sexuality education, as a part of the health services, has traditionally been the responsibility of the school nurses. What they do is to provide one lesson of about 1 hour in the beginning of secondary school, showing the pictures of human body, and introducing basic knowledge such as the different features males and females have in the body. Boys and girls are separated in different classrooms in this class. After that, there’s no follow-up consultations, and children don’t want to talk about sex with adults either. However, in recent years, sexuality education has gain greater and greater attention among educators and researchers as one of the necessary services schools should provide and improve. This paper introduces the historical and cultural background for sexuality education in China, explores the current social situations for the development of sexuality education, and reviews the progress gained in recent years in this field.
Historical and Cultural Background
Sex has always been a topic that cannot be talked directly in Chinese culture. Although there is a large amount of literacy records in sex topics, the research on them is not encouraged. Books with descriptions of love stories were considered prohibited to unmarried girls in ancient China.
In 1963, the premier of China once spoke out the importance of sexuality education for adolescence. He suggested that we should teach school age children correct sexual knowledge before they begin to develop and experience changed in their body. However, because of the disturbance of the Great Culture Revolution, the sexuality education was not developed eventually, and it became a blind spot in Chinese culture and education.
The first action in sexuality education was in 1988 coming with the issuance of the Notice of Developing Sexuality Education in Secondary Schools by the National Board of Education. In 1992, the People’s Republic of China Minors Protection Act was passed which provided the legal criteria for the sexuality education in school. Later in the September of 1992, in the publication of the Requirements of Health Education in Elementary and Secondary Schools, it divides the sexuality education into the following three aspects: sexual physiology, sexual psychology, and sexual morality education.
Needs for Sexuality Education
One basic need for sexuality education in elementary and secondary school is that the average age from which children’s bodies begin to develop is earlier than that of some years ago. One research in China yielded that the average age of the school age girls having their first menstruate flow is 13.13 years old with the earliest at 9 years old. The figure for girls in 40 years ago was 14 years old. For boys, the average age for them to have spermatorrhea is 14.42 year old with the earliest at the age of 6, whereas the figure of 40 years ago is 16.6 years old.
However, compared with the early development in children’s physical conditions, their psychological development is lagging far behind. Recently there happened a sexual assault case in a well-famed secondary school in Nanjing. The most discomposing thing is that the comments and discussions of the students toward the case were full of teasing and curious which showed their infantility toward sex.
Another example is that a 16-year-old school girl who has got 3 months’ pregnancy knows nothing about it, and also doesn’t know how and who the baby comes from. Therefore one of the purposes of sexuality education in elementary and secondary school is to guide the school age children to psychological mature. This includes teaching them the rights and wrongs, showing them the correct moralities, and letting them know what love is.
The last need arises with the involvment of multimedia in children’s life. According to a survey held in 10 elementary and secondary schools in Jiangsu province of China, only 5% of the students gained their knowledge of sex in classroom. The other 95% of their knowledge of sex came from various media such as television, movies, internet, fictions, strip cartoons, and etc. Of course the information exchange among students is also one of the important sources. Among these media, a large part of the contents concerning sex is quite erotic rather than scientific. What should be done through sexuality education is to deliver correct knowledge to students before they get the incorrect ones.
Parents’ Role in Sexuality Education
From the above paragraph, we can easily see that parents’ education is not a typical source of childrenЎЇs sexuality knowledge. This is especially true in a country with the culture background like that of China. However, through reviewing the records of interviews with parents with the issue of sexuality education between them and their children, we can find different thoughts among the parents.
Some parents avoid children’s questions of sex issues. Some of them don’t want to start this topic by themselves. They think children will automatically know about sex when they grow up. Some of them hope the schools take the responsibility of sexuality education. However, what needs to receive enough attention is that some parents not only avoid children’s questions, but also show negative attitudes toward children’s request to know about sex. This would make their children regard sex as a shameful thing in the future. One mother in the interview claimed very regret that she blamed her 15-year-old girl when she told her about a classmate who got pregnant. The mother felt she missed a good chance to begin sexuality education to her daughter, and admitted that this brought about negative result later in that her daughter never questioned her about sex and was never willing to have discussion with her in this topic.
However, there are some parents who practice sexuality education to their children. Although they do this in different ways, their thoughts about it are the same that they have done the right thing, and feel beneficial through telling the kids about sex. In the records of the interviews, there are all kinds of questions children will ask their parents about sex. Such as ‘where do I come from’, ‘why can’t I wear skirt’, ‘how do you know I’m your child’, ‘what’s the use of a bra’, and etc. Mrs. Xiao, whose son is in the third grade this year, said her first question about sex from her son is where he came from. She replied the question very scientifically and objectively. When her son knew that he came from such a little place in his mother’s body, he exclaimed that mom was so hard giving him birth.
The First Textbook for Sexuality Education
The first textbook for sexuality education in China, Blossom Out published by Chongqing University Press, is now being tested and probably will be applied next year. This book is written based on an investigation in sex knowledge through questionnaires to 700 students in 11 secondary schools and their parents in the city of Shenzheng. This book is one of the series of the books that are planned to be used in both elementary and secondary schools. This book is used in the elementary of 5 school districts in Chongqing province for the purpose of testing. In these 5 school districts, they arranged 0.5 credit hours for health education including sexuality education in grade 1 through grade 6.
The textbook is designed very vividly and easy to be accepted by elementary school children. Through the dialogues of two lovely cartoon figures, it introduces the changes in the body in adolescent hood, the sexual organs of human body, methods to protect and clean sexual organs, and the relevant issues like HIV.
The feedbacks from the children who have used this book are good. Some said they learned a lot from the book, and some said the classes are interesting. Most of the children appeared to be able to accept the content in the book. The most obvious effect is that it changes children’s overall understanding toward sex. One interesting example is that when a teacher entered a classroom before one class section with the textbook in the hand, a boy told others that the teacher was carrying a ‘yellow’ book, but after the class, he claimed that it is not ‘yellow’, but science.
The First VCD for Sexuality Education
Compared with that of the first textbook, the feedbacks of the first piece of VCD for sexuality education are much more complex. It is called Sexuality Education for Elementary and Secondary Schools, published by Electronic Audio Visual Press of Hainan Provoince. The content of the VCD consists of three parts, respectively for use in the elementary, junior secondary, and senior secondary schools.
Take the first part for an example. This part is designed for the use of elementary school. It consists of six big topics. They are ‘what is sex’, ‘get to know myself’, ‘the mystery of growing’, ‘be proud of my gender’, ‘this is not a mistake’, ‘protect myself’.
This VCD has received both praise and blame. The positive feedbacks include its creativeness, vividness, practicality, and significance as the first VCD in this area. A teacher highly appraised the topic of ‘be proud of my gender’. She said we should give more attention to some psychological illness like transvestism among adolescents.
However, there are a lot of negative feedbacks toward the VCD too. Some students said they can’t accept the pictures of real human bodies in the VCD, especially the close-up of their sexual organs. A teacher said it spent too much time to explain sexual intercourse in the topic of ‘what is sex’, and it ignored some important health care knowledge in the topic of ‘protect myself’, such as not to wear pants those are too tight. A girl even complained that there were much more naked female bodies appeared in the picture than naked male bodies, which was unfair, and made her very uncomfortable. The comments from the experts are quite authoritative, saying that the overall design of the VCD is very good and significant, but considering the ability of the psychological receptivity of elementary and secondary school students, some pictures need to be removed and some contents need to be revised for the purpose and best effects of education.

Generally speaking, the sexuality education in China is experiencing a transformational period. Currently it faces many problems such as lack of historical and cultural traditions, lack of specialists in this area, lack of proper teaching materials, and etc. With the development of economy and the improvement of education, there is more and more concern about sexuality education to adolescents, one of the blind-spots in China’s culture and education. The focus will be teaching the students to have correct understandings and attitudes of sex.