In Britain we have appalling rates of teenage pregnancies, sexual transmitted infections (STIs) and the understanding of the emotional side to Sex and Relationships. Successive governments (both in Westminster and Hollyrood) have tried to put in place a system to solve this problem.
They have failed to consider the system that countries such as Holland use. I am a strong advocate of the “Dutch Experience” of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).
The Dutch teach their children in a way that focuses on helping young people make responsible decisions about relationships and sex, with the emphasis on mutual respect. They do learn the biological bit in detail, but they also spend a large amount of class-time discussing values and attitudes, and finding out how to decide when’s the right time for them, as individuals, to start having sex.
In Holland the SRE starts young, and everything is covered without embarrassment, from what it’s like to fall in love, to same-sex relationships, STIs and sexual abuse. It’s all very open and upfront and, most important of all, it’s in touch with the realities of teenagers’ lives.
Holland started getting a grip on its sex education in the 1980s when Aids first became a very real threat. Although there’s no national curriculum, sex education is compulsory in all Dutch secondary schools and over half the country’s primary schools put sex and relationships on the agenda too, for kids from the age of six.
The Dutch SRE experience doesn’t stop at the school gates either. There are special youth groups which continue the education further and reinforce what is being taught in school.
The Dutch education experience is so different from what we get here. My experiences of Sex Education were pretty poor and from talking to other people my age it would appear that this poor standard is in schools around the country.
The Dutch have shown that such a system works. They have the lowest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe and Britain’s are around five times higher.