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Interactive Sex Course Suggested for Shanghai Schools
If Shanghai local educational authorities agree to a curriculum change next month, sex education at primary and secondary schools won't be textbook-driven and instructors won't be seen as preachers.

Instead, sex education would be more interactive, with questions encouraged and teachers should be relating to students as friends and mentors, trying to dispel the embarrassment that often times has clouded the teaching.

If approved, the new approach would begin with the start of the next academic year in fall.

The new method will focus on adolescents who are starting to think about the opposite gender, what might be called sexual psychology, and on proper behavior involving boys and girls, as well as the traditional emphasis on the physical changes youngsters undergo when they reach puberty, said Dong Nianzhu, deputy director of the Shanghai Primary and Secondary School Mental Education Research Association.

The lecture format - and because some teachers are embarrassed teaching sex education - have led to questions not being encouraged, said Dong, whose association comes under the Shanghai Education Commission, the local education authority.

"Also, since local children are becoming aware of sex at earlier ages, we are considering moving the course from middle school to primary school," Dong said.

Currently, there is only one chapter tucked inside a sixth grade course - called Personal Hygiene Education - that has information about male and female anatomy, pregnancy and the spread of AIDS. A more detailed semester-long course is offered in the 11th grade.

Rather than teach Personal Hygiene Education, some teachers have ignored the course and instead have filled the time with a traditional academic course, students said.

At Changhong Middle School in Changning District, for example, several seventh graders said their sixth-grade teacher skipped Personal Hygiene Education.

Zhou Mingxiao, a researcher with the Shanghai Marriage and Family Research Institute, said when teachers and parents don't discuss sex with their children, they may turn to pornography. "That's dangerous," Zhou said.

(eastday.com March 11, 2002)

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