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Quebec makes sex education mandatory – 10 years after abolishing it

Quebec sex education
The changes should be in place for the beginning of the 2018 academic year. Source: Shutterstock.com

Go back 10 years and Quebec’s sex education was pretty close to nonexistent. But that is set to change. Quebec has set plans in motion to make sex education mandatory across the province. Sex ed will be taught in an age-appropriate manner in all grades as of September 2018.

The decision was met with mixed reviews.

President of Ordre Professionnel des Sexologues du Québec (OPSQ) Nathalie Legault has faith in the Government’s decision. CBC News reported Legault felt it was a step in the right direction.

“We have to give the project a chance to unfold before we criticize it too much,” she said speaking with Radio-Canada.

The new program is to be formulated around a pilot project which the Education Ministry ran two years ago. The project was in place to encourage all teachers in the province to embed some elements of sex education into their lesson plans.

This project came to fruition nearly a decade after a risky move from the Quebec Government. In 2005, the Government made the decision to remove sex education from the school curriculum entirely.

But now, around one million students will be subject to sex education lessons, many for the first time. Students will be provided information on anatomy, body image, social roles, sexual assault, stereotyping, sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among many other facets of human sexuality and relationships.

The lessons will be taught to students in the Kindergarten class all the way through to the top grade at high school. The information will be tailored appropriately for their respective age groups.

The amount of time allotted for the new program varies depending on age as well. For example, elementary schools will be required to devote five hours per academic year to sex education. However, this increases to 15 hours a year for high schools.

While some have met the new program with approval, it has not been without criticism.

Teachers and unions have raised concerns over a lack of training. With the content soon to be mandatory, it is essential the educators expected to teach it are properly trained.

Dennis Simard, president of a teachers’ union in Quebec called the plan “improvised”.

“In principle, I think […] offering sexual education courses is important, but this is being done a bit too fast,” he told CBC News.

Simard also picks fault at the demands on teachers. The educators expected to teach the program were not consulted, and with an already jam-packed curriculum, there are concerns about a lack of time.

“It doesn’t work,” Simard said. “It doesn’t fit in with the schedule.”

Legault, however, asserted “integrating learning within courses is what is currently recommended when it comes to sexual education material”.

Despite the criticism, Legault told CBC News the program is a great step forward. Whether its drawbacks prove to be problematic or not, it is a move from “from nothing to something”.

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