Sex education part of psychological health course

Besides, making girls aware of gender differences, the new textbook also tries to guide students to learn self-recognition, communication skills and a sense of responsibility.
Yang Meiping / SHINE

The girls' class at Shanghai Jing’an Zhabei No. 1 Central Primary School 

What would you do if your friend was elected class leader while you were not? And what would you do if a friend bestowed an unwanted nickname on you?

These were some of the questions girls at Shanghai Jing’an Zhabei No. 1 Central Primary School discussed in a recent class, targeting at some scenarios that commonly puzzle growing girls. 

In the past 10 years or so, more and more local schools have begun to explore sex education by themselves and many treat it as a part of the physical or psychological health courses.

Some of the questions discussed at No. 1 Central come from a chapter from the book “Girls at Blossom Age,” which was compiled by the school and the education bureau in Jing’an District and published by the Shanghai Education Press on sex education for girls aged 10 and 11.

The book is the third one the publishing house has produced to promote sex education in the city.

Xu Jianhong, deputy director of the district education bureau, said the books reflected the increasing awareness of the importance and necessity of sex education for youngsters and development of sex education from physiological knowledge to comprehensive growth.

Xu Jing, principal of the school, said the book — the first one in China focusing on growing pains and puzzles of girls of this age group — was compiled based on teachers’ experiences in girls’ education.

The aim is to provide suggestions, guidance and enlightenment in resolving problems for the children as they grow up.

“Girls are usually more emotional and sensitive than boys and the problems they encounter when growing up are quite different to boys,” she said. “Take this class for example, we have chosen several typical scenarios that have happened to many girls.”

Yang Meiping / SHINE

Zhu Yangyi (left) and Li Canran take a test on mutual understanding.

Zhu Yangyi and Li Canran, two fifth graders who had attended the class, said they had been in “cold war” for almost a week in a situation similar to one friend watching another being made a class leader, and they found the class helpful in enlightening girls on how to overcome such problems.

“We were guided to think hard about solutions and also heard opinions from our classmates in this class and realized that we should learn to appreciate and respect each other with trust, tolerance and honesty,” said Li.

The students said they liked the sex education classes at school as they still felt embarrassed to talk about sex with their parents. They also said that after “Little Men” was published last year and the school used it in sex education, boys in their class had become gentler toward girls as one chapter said boys should protect girls, rather than hurt them.

Sex has been a taboo topic in China for many years and most teachers and parents have shied away from explicit conversations about it with children.

But as more local schools have begun to take an interest in sex education, so more books on the subject are being published.

Shanghai Education Press started publishing books to promote best practice in 2011. The first book “Boys and Girls” is for early graders of primary schools and focuses on promoting awareness of children’s own bodies and self protection.

The second, “Little Men,” and the latest, “Girls at Blossom Age,” are for fourth and fifth grade male and female students respectively. Besides, making boys and girls aware of gender differences, they also try to guide students to learn self-recognition, communication skills and sense of responsibility.

Miao Hongcai, president of Shanghai Education Press, said their efforts had extended from merely awakening children’s awareness in physiological growth and self protection to helping children with comprehensive growth.

Li Hong, a teacher at Caoqiao School in Songjiang District, said new education ideas sometimes collide with traditional concepts. She added that while more and more schools are now educating students on sex, they also need to get parents involved.

Special Reports