AS teenagers have intimate experiences at earlier ages, sex education continues to divide parents and educators, writes Sara Yin
A merica was shocked this month to learn the teenage, unwed daughter of Republican vice - president hopeful, Sarah Palin, is pregnant.
Conservatives firmly believe in telling youngsters to avoid sex and believe abstinence is all that is needed to prevent it from happening.
In a modern country with so much information available to young people it is almost unthinkable teenage pregnancies could occur. But it does raise the question of attitudes towards sex education.
Here in Hong Kong views are divided, as they are in the US.
Some believe there is not enough sex education, while others think parents should decide what their children learn, and when.
Still others believe there is no more to the whole picture than abstinence or contraception.
But in an era when young people are beginning to date at earlier ages, most experts in Hong Kong agree sex education in schools needs improvement.
in 2006, a Youth Sexuality Survey conducted by the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK) concluded although youths were more open to sexual experiences, their knowledge of the many consequences of sex had not improved since 2001.
Jacky Wong Chung - yin, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Sex Culture Society, thinks young people should be taught to say " no " to pre - marital sex.
" We care about the casual sexuality among Hong Kong youths. We are eager to teach them to protect themselves and avoid pre - marital sex, " says Mr Wong.
" Teens who are having sex can easily contract STDs or end up with unwanted pregnancies.
" Mentally, teens, especially girls, become easily attached after sex. This can lead to depession once the young couples eho have sex will focus on more on physical intimacy than on [meaningful] communication."
Parents should decide when their children learn about sex, says Joseph Zen, Hong Kong's Catholic bishop.
Late Last year, he published a pastoral letter urging schools to promote parents as the primary value setters and educators. He says parents should simply tell their children to wait until after marriage.
" It is no mystery... that in this, our city, the high rate of divorce, the easy access to abortion procedures and the low birth - rate are cause for much worry about our future, " he wrote in the letter.
On the other hand, some experts think sex education should accept that youths are having sex at earlier ages.
" Proper sex education should empower young people to make the right decisions, " say Hung Suet - lin, a professor in the social work department of Hong Kong Baptist University.
" There's a myth many parents and teachers cling to - the more you talk about safe sex and contraception, the more promiscuous and experimental students become. " saya Grace Lee Ming - ying, education officer - in - charge at FPAHK.
呢句系"There's a myth...既前面" Many of the girls I encounter want to have intimate relationships with boys. They want love, But sex education doesn't address these issues."
呢句都系在"There's a myth ..."既前面Rather than telling young people not to have early intimate experiences, they should be taught how to have them safely and responsibly, she argues.
" contraception is just one of many factors of sexual behaviour. you should also ask : what is your relationship with your partner ? what are your own beliefs about pre-marital sex ? what are the legal implications of underaged sex ? "
Providing inadequate information about sex can lead to other dire consequences as well : youths going online to satisfy their curiosity. social worker Au Yeung Hau-keung previously told the scmp about how youths sometimes MS< or online dating sites.
" they can be as young as 13 or 14 , " he said . " there's loads of information about sex around , but a responsible attitude towards sex is lacking. "
FPAHK's Ms Lee says : " the information on the internet or in the media is inaccurate , and what's more , the messages promote stereotypes about issues like homosexuality and gender roles. "
fortunately , she says , more teachers are taking advantage of government-subsidised courses to learn how to teach swx education to students.
the subsidised courses were made available in 2004 , and teachers are further motivated to enrol by the fact they receive a certificate at the end of the course , which contributes to their annual quota for enrichment learning.
" the situation is improving , " Ms Lee says. " Parents and educators realise the importance of early sex education , but often lack the skills and confidence to start the discussion. "
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