Chinese children as young as 12 will receive sex education in a pilot scheme in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
With the proliferation of sexual diseases worldwide, in particular HIV and AIDS, and complaining from the public about a lack of sexual awareness, China is a facing the issue head on with the introduction of its first series of textbooks on sex education.
Published in Harbin this January, the books are designed for junior and senior middle school and college students, providing basic knowledge on sex to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases. The textbooks are to be used as reference books by local teachers.
To date, nationwide, China has no official sex education curriculum and has no official course books, according to the Ministry of Education.
Middle school students complained in the past they were not getting enough sex education from their teachers, who either skipped over sections in textbooks or asked students to read the parts by themselves.
Also, the majority of Chinese parents are said to avoid the subject of sex education or even scold children for asking such questions. However, the situation appears to be improving, as increasingly more schools throughout China begin sex education classes.
Some students at a middle school affiliated to the Beijing Institute of Technology are said to be looking forward to their first sex education course this term, as are their parents, as it saves them the somewhat embarrassing task of teaching their children.
Universities and colleges are also placing sex education on their list of priorities.
In East China's Fujian Province, Fujian Normal University offers an elective sex education course. The 32-hour course introduces basic information about sex, including physiology, psychology, ethics and health care.
For about 100,000 students in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, sex is no longer taboo. A two-hour compulsory course on sex education has been included in the curriculum of Changsha's 22 universities and colleges.
Sex education experts said it is not enough for youngsters to receive sex education at school. Society and families all bear an equal responsibility to tell children the truth about sex.
(People's Daily May 16, 2002)