With increasing calls for sex education to be taught in schools, chief education officer (CEO) Harrilal Seecharan says there are elements already being taught at both primary and secondary schools and the Ministry of Education will stick to that approach.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian at the ministry’s 2018 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) Recognition Ceremony at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando yesterday, Seecharan said those that were calling for sex education to be taught must be unaware that it has been a part of the curriculum since 2015.
"We have as part of our health and family life education a module on sexuality and sexual health education which treats with how students respond to situations," Seecharan said.
"This is what we are doing, it is a CARICOM-approved curriculum and, therefore, we are not about to change it."
Seecharan’s statements come a week after Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe made a public call for sex education to be taught in schools at a younger age. She was speaking at the launch of Partnerships for Youth Alive and Well at the US Embassy on November 29.
At that time, Cudjoe said the myth that sex education will promote irresponsible sexual activity among youngsters must be condemned. The Family Planning Association of T&T (FPATT) has endorsed Cudjoe’s call while the T&T Council of Evangelical Churches has strongly opposed it.
But Seecharan said sex education was taught at both primary and secondary levels, with age-appropriate content.
"It’s age appropriate, so at the primary school it is done as an integral part of the curriculum and at the secondary school it’s separate, so at the primary school it may be "good touch, bad touch" and secondary school is "how you respond in certain situations that you might be exposed to and addressing questions," he said.
“I am not sure what she is asking for, we have already rolled out a programme in school and that’s the approach we are using, we in the ministry have to balance the interests of all sectors, parents, educators, and that’s the approach.”
Seecharan said all stakeholders were consulted before the programme was introduced in schools and everyone was “on board” with it.
However, he said denominational schools will be able to "adjust" the curriculum to a certain extent based on their beliefs and practices.
Seecharan said within the framework that the ministry was using, the different denominational boards can make certain adjustments and adaptations based on their beliefs and practices.
Ministry shows appreciation for top SEA students
Education Minister Anthony Garcia said the recognition was important to show appreciation for the hard work of students, parents, and teachers for the SEA exams.
Garcia said while the ministry was happy to recognise those hard-working students, it was also placing special emphasis on those who were falling behind. He said parents needed to be more involved in their children’s school life.
"Today is really a time of recognition but while we recognise those students who have done well, we have not forgotten those students who have fallen behind,” Garcia said.
"So, therefore, we are putting things in place so their students will be able to step up to the plate both in terms of their own efforts and the efforts that are being made by the teachers and the parents.
"We have been asking our parents to play a greater role in assisting the school."