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New Lectures Will Tackle Tough Topics

Lectures on drug addiction, AIDS prevention and safe sex may round out Shanghai's educational curriculum next year.

The new lectures are part of the changes to health education throughout elementary and middle schools, said the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. They will touch on more than 200 topics on physiology, psychology and sociology.

Topics once considered too embarrassing for parents or teachers to discuss will be part of the lectures.

"The first two lectures for elementary school fourth graders will tell children about the physiological differences between boys and girls," said Wang Shumei, a professor from Fudan University who was involved in compiling the textbook for the lectures.

"In the sixth grade, boys will know what to do with their first wet dream.

"And all high school students will be told what safe sex is and learn how to use condoms before graduation."

Wang said one of the main goals is to prevent AIDS, a recurrent topic throughout the lecture series.

"Starting from the first year of middle school, kids will be told what AIDS is, how people get infected, and how to treat the disease and those who get infected," said Wang.

"According to a nationwide study on underage development, conducted every five years, the country's underage are becoming more open-minded about sex, and kids in Shanghai tend to mature early."

In a metropolis like Shanghai, it is fairly easy for underage students to learn about sex from the Internet or other media.

"Discussing it with teachers in class will be more helpful to them," Wang said.

A team of experts on public health, education, psychology and sociology developed 18 topics for each grade, according to Wang. The topics were developed to take into account the maturity of the students as well as some of the most common diseases they may hope to avoid.

After the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and bird flu last year, people are paying more attention to public health, said Wang.

"And to establish both good habits from childhood is very important for people to stay healthy," Wang said.

Lectures on how to prevent diseases like trachoma and SARS will start as early as the first grade in elementary school.

Different from the previous courses conducted in schools that mainly focused on physiology, the new lectures will deal with topics covering a much wider range, including how to adapt oneself to society.

"In the first year of elementary school, kids will learn how to study," Wang said.

"In the fourth grade, students will face a question -- what should I do when others are better than me?

"In the second year of middle school, they will learn how to deal with friends of the opposite sex and what to do if parents lose their jobs.

"We all know Chinese kids suffer more pressure than those in Western countries. We are hoping the courses will help them stay happy and maintain a positive attitude towards life," Wang said.

(China Daily December 31, 2004)

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