Age-appropriate sex education

Published by rudy Date posted on May 25, 2011

Among the provisions of the controversial reproductive health bill is the institutionalization of “age-appropriate sex education” among the Filipino youth, specifically students of public elementary and secondary schools.

This has elicited diverse reactions from all sectors of society. Some agree that these things are better discussed in the objectivity of the classroom setting. Others say that talking to children about such sensitive matters is the sole responsibility of the parents.

But when we say “age-appropriate sex education,” what exactly do we mean?

Department of Education Undersecretary for Programs and Projects Yolanda Quijano does not even want to use the term “sex education” because of its negative connotation. “Reproductive health” would be a more palatable term— although that is, in itself, debatable after the acrimony that has been spurred by the controversial bill.

Quijano says that even before all the noisy debate and the posturing, the DepEd, under then-Secretary Mona Valisno, has in fact gone ahead with its program called “Institutionalizing Adolescent Reproductive Health Through Life Skills-Based Education Project.” The project, which began in school year 2005-2006, was undertaken by the department with the help of the United Nations Population Fund and Australian Aid.

Most of us think state-sanctioned sex education is just something that would dawn upon the nation only if the RH bill is passed. The fact is, it’s well under way. As of 2010, there were 80 pilot elementary and 79 pilot secondary schools in ten of the poorest provinces in the Philippines: Ifugao, Mt. Province, Masbate, Bohol, Eastern Samar, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Sultan Kudarat for the ARH program. The municipalities were chosen on the basis of poverty incidence, functional literacy, maternal mortality ratio, contraceptive prevalence rate, life expectancy at birth.

Evaluations are ongoing, Quijano says, and such would determine whether the program is meeting its objectives of enhancing the overall wellness of Filipino adolescents aged nine to 24 years— physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually, as well as contributing to better learning outcomes, reduced drop-out rates, increased completion rate and improved quality of learning.

Even the incumbent Secretary of the department, Brother Armin Luistro, a member of the religious community, has not seen anything objectionable in the experimental curriculum, Quijano says. His only directive upon assuming office was to put off expansion of the program until a thorough evaluation is obtained.

A Quezon City court does not find anything objectionable with the program as well. Last year, so-called pro-life advocates Jo Imbong and other parents asked for a temporary restraining order; they wanted the court to stop the department from implementing its pilot sex-education program. But Judge Rosanna Fe Romero-Maglaya dismissed the petition outright, saying that none of the petitioners’ children even attended the pilot schools in the first place.


According to the ARH, reproductive health concepts are integrated in two subjects for elementary school students.

Under Science and Health, fifth graders are taught about the human reproductive system, physical and emotional changes upon the onset of puberty, proper hygiene and common disorders associated with the reproductive system.

Under Edukasyong Pagpapakatao, fourth graders are taught “pisikal na kapakanan ng nagdadalaga at nagbibinata, paghubog na pag-uugali, barkada.” (physical well-being of adolescents, molding behavior, friendships). For fifth graders, “kapakanan at pananagutan ng nagbibinata at nagdadalaga na may kinalaman sa Adolescent Reproductive Health. Ano ang dapat gawin? Makilahok, makiisa!” (responsibilities of adolescents. Making decisions. Joining causes.) For sixth graders: “Mag-ingat ka! Pagpapahiwatig ng kaisipan at damdamin, malayang pagpapahayag, paglinang ng sariling lakas, paglahok sa samahan.” (taking care of oneself, expressing ideas, free expression, self-improvement, honing one’s strengths, joining groups)

On the other hand, the Teen Wellness Program for high school students spans at least six subject areas:

For Math: demography, population and profile of Filipino adolescents.

For Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health: substance abuse, self concept and identity, physical mental and social development in preparation for adulthood, sexual harassment, statistics of early pregnancy, ill effects of sexually-transmitted diseases.

For Filipino: “karapatan at pananagutan ng nagbibinata at nagdadalaga, papel ng magulang at institusyon, demograpiya ng nagbibinata at nagdadalaga.” (rights and responsibilities of adolescents, the role of parents and institutions, demographic profile of Filipino adolescents)

For Technology and Livelihood Economics: home and family living, making wise decisions, home management, child care, physical and psychosocial well being, development of desirable personal values.

For English: avoiding violence, establishing self concept, identity and decisions.

For Values Education: “kahinaan at kalakasan ng kabataan, sikolohikal na aspeto ng kabataan,” (strengths and weaknesses of adolescents, psychological; development of the youth) as well as psychosocial well being and sexual responsibility.


Children and teenagers need guidance, says Quijano. The ARH program is not designed to teach them sex per se, or even the various forms of artificial contraception. Rather, what are being imparted are life skills that kids need to make sound decisions based on facts.

If and when the reproductive health bill is passed, the Deped would most likely be tasked with drafting the IRR for the “sex-education” aspect of it. The department won’t be starting from scratch. It will just be taking off from what is already contained in the program, with a few additions in the topics of as marriage, counseling and family life, as the initial feedback indicates.

The danger is that there is often a lack of openness within families, Quijano adds. Schools should fill that gap, with confidence and secrecy. The program imparts dignity and forthrightness: there is no malice in the exchange of questions and answers. The program hopes to help students with the following: life skills, self awareness, decision making, critical thinking, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, creative thinking, effective communication, coping with emotions and stress, empathy and productivity.

Now what is abominable, disgusting and immoral about that? –Adelle Chua, Manila Standard Today

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