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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

DepEd takes a stand on ARH...

"Sex Education is better left to the parents. Sex education is the sole right and responsibility of the parents and no excuse or alibi can justify the public teaching of sex by strangers." These are just some of the views expressed by the hierarchy of the religious and some pro-life groups on the ARH programs and projects of Dep Ed . They further claim that teaching students about reproductive health will make the youth sexually adventurous especially if they are taught about condoms and other forms of contraception thus prmoting safe sex. Others have suggested to teach Moral Values intensively instead of sex education. It was likewise strongly suggested that a nationwide consultation and involvement of stakeholders in the review and validation be done.

With these opposing views, DepEd found itself in an uncanny predicament.

To the varying concerns aired by both sides on the matter of ARH Education, the Department of Education considered the following:

  • In various fora, DepEd representatives made it clear to the public that "Sex Education is not offered as a subject in the secondary curriculum. There are only Lesson Guides on ARH that are integrated in the different learning areas which actually promote healthier and responsible behaviour among the target groups of young people."

  • Filipino youth and adolescents need sound and accurate information on sexual and reproductive health, to protect them from teen pregnancy, early marriages, gender-based violence, risky social and sexual behaviors, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. They also need life skills to help them developm self-confidence, self-esteem and deal with a fast changing and complex environment.

  • DepEd accedes to the fact that parents must be responsible for their children's education about their reproductive health and rights. But this is not enough, for various reasons. providing the youth with sound and accurate information on reproductive health and rights is a joint undertaking by parents, school and community. Besides, many parents feel inadequate to communicate with their children about sex. They are concerned but unprepared for intervention. On the other hand, children are often reluctant or too embarrassed to approach parents with the topic and therefore have turned, particularly in more recent times, to more formal sources of sexual health education such as school-based lessons. (Impact of HIV and Sexual Health Ed on the Sexual behaviour of Young peole: A Review Update, Anne Grunseit, UNAIDS, 1997)

  • Reproductive and Sexual Health Education and Life Skills Building do not lead to promiscuity among the youth. On the contrary, it promotes health and responsible sexual and social behavior. Denying Filipino adolescents and young people access to sound and accurate information regarding their reproductive health as well as ASRH services may actually increase the number of unsafe abortions, unwanted pregnancies, STI and HIV/AIDS infection. (Effective Sex Education, Advocates for Youth, USA; YAFS III findings).

  • Despite the institutionalization of the PopED Program (1994-1999) through the UNFPA 4th Country Programme, young people continue to experience future and life threatening conditionslike the following (YAFS III findings)

  1. There are twice as many female youth (71.7%) as males (35.7%) reported to having experienced RH problems;

  2. 23% of young people have had pre-marital sex (PMS)

  3. Increasing rates of teen age pregnancies and early unprotected sex (18% in 1994, 23% in 2002)

  4. High incidence of induced abortion (16 per 100 pregnancies)

  5. Increasing number of youth without adequate knowledge about the means to avoid pregnancy and STDs.

These alarming incidence of ARH problems have prompted DedEd to focus and strengthen its efforts in developing educational programs especially meant for adolescents where enormous and radical changes take place, and which changes demand attention.

In view of the above discussions, the Department of Education takes a stand on pursuing the implementation of the ARH programs and projects integrating and strengthening reproductive health-related concerns into its formal and alternative learning system curricula. This move is aligned with two (2) international commitments made by the Philippines which were documented in the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) Program of Action and the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS). Such commitment is stipulated in the Country Program Action Plan for 2005-2009 as Millenium Development Goals (MDG) #2 - Education and #4 Child Health.

**culled from the position paper by the Department of Education on Mainstreaming Adolescent Reproductive Health in the School Curricula

** photos taken during a signature campaign calling for the inclusion of ARH in the HS Curriculum during the World Population Day 2006 celebration with the theme: "Pinoy Youth Empowerment for Health and Development"