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LCQ11: sex education

     Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (April 29):


     It has been reported that the voluntary agency Mother's Choice received, in the first 11 months of the 2008-09 year, 207 cases of unwed pregnant women seeking assistance, with more than 30% of these cases involving underage girls below 17, some of whom even had several abortions.  Some members of the public put the blame for this situation on the outdated sex education curriculum at present and its failure to instil holistic sex knowledge and a proper attitude towards gender relationship among young people.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has compiled annual statistics on underage unwed pregnant girls; if it has, of the figures for the past five years; if not, whether the Government will consider compiling statistics so that the community will have a clearer picture about the situation of underage unwed pregnant girls;

(b) when the existing sex education curriculum was drawn up; whether its contents have been reviewed regularly; if so, of the details, including the review schedule and the outcome of the last review; if not, of the circumstances under which the Government will conduct a review;

(c) of the lowest grade at which the sex education and gender relationship curriculum are taught in school at present; whether arrangements will be made to teach the curriculum at a lower grade; if not, of the reasons; of the contents of the curriculum for each grade; and as the Government indicated that it would review and update the sex education curriculum for primary schools, of the relevant details;

(d) whether the sex education and gender relationship curriculum is at present compulsory in primary and secondary schools; if not, whether the Government will consider making it compulsory; if not, of the reasons for that;

(e) apart from implementing sex education in schools, whether the Government has formulated other measures to help children and young people develop a better understanding of and a proper attitude towards sex and gender relationship; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(f) whether the Government will consider providing social service agencies with more resources to help them launch sex education projects which are more comprehensive and provide enhanced counselling and support services to children and young people, especially underage unwed pregnant girls, their partners and families; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The number of childbirth and the number of lawful termination of pregnancy by unmarried women under the age of 18 from 2003 to 2007 are shown in the Annex. The Government does not yet have the figures for the year 2008.

(b) The Education Bureau (EDB) is committed to promoting sex education at various key stages of learning in schools through a holistic curriculum comprising knowledge, attitudes/values and skills.  For instance, elements of sex education are included in the Science curriculum at the secondary level in 2002 and the General Studies curriculum at the primary level in 2004.  Various aspects of sex education are also covered in the Moral and Civic Education (MCE) framework set out in 2002.  The EDB reviews and updates the school curriculum regularly to address the changes in society and the needs of students.  In April 2008, the MCE curriculum framework was revised and enriched, with learning expectations and teaching content on sex education specified for various key stages of learning to help schools promote sex education systematically.  In the new senior secondary curriculum to be implemented in September 2009, sex education will also be further strengthened.

(c) Elements of sex education are included in the school curricula of pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in accordance with children's developmental stages.  In the pre-primary school curriculum, awareness of self-protection relating to sex education is covered to help children learn how to protect themselves.  Contents of sex education elements in the primary and secondary school curricula include the following: General Studies at the primary level (e.g. changes in the physical,  psychological and social life aspects during puberty, gender roles and relationships, sexual feelings and reactions and ways to deal with them), Ethics & Religious Studies at the secondary level (e.g. heterosexual and homosexual relationships, premarital and extramarital sex, life and death: right to raise a family, birth control, abortion, etc.), Integrated Humanities (e.g. Personal Development: the preparation needed in order to get into an intimate relationship), Science (e.g. male & female reproductive systems, preparation for parenthood, various methods of birth control and how they work, abortion and its implications), Biology (e.g. sexual reproduction in humans, sexually transmitted diseases), Home Economics (e.g. planning for parenthood: preparing for parenthood), Liberal Studies (e.g. understanding oneself, interpersonal relationships) etc.  Contents in Moral and Civic Education (for both primary and secondary levels) include respecting others, protecting one's body, getting along with the opposite sex, handling the sex impulse, and dealing with social issues relating to sex etc.

     To address the developmental needs of the students and society, sex education has been revised and enriched in the revised MCE curriculum framework launched in April 2008.  The EDB is now reviewing the General Studies curriculum at the primary level which is expected to be completed in early 2010.  The General Studies curriculum will then be updated, including the part on sex education, to meet the developmental needs of the younger generation and to fulfill expectations of the society.

     In addition to the promotion of sex education in schools, the EDB encourages the Committee on Home-School Co-operation, the Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations in different districts and the Parent-Teacher Associations in various schools to organise talks, sharing sessions and seminars to enhance communication between schools and parents in order to promulgate the basic concepts of sex education.  Learning activities under the themes of sex education, including "Youth Case File - Child Developing and Parenting", "Parents' Talks on Making Good Use of the Internet", "Seminar on Anti-Compensated Dating for the New Generation", "Views on Articles Publication", etc. have been held accordingly.  Besides, the EDB has partnered with other relevant departments (e.g. the Hong Kong Police Force, Department of Health, Social Welfare Department, Radio Television Hong Kong, etc.), and different organisations (e.g. The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, Breakthrough, Yang Memorial Methodist Social Service, Women's Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, etc.) to arrange jointly organised/self-owned programmes to provide support to schools and parents for the promotion of sex education.

(d) Sex education is an integral and core part of the current school curriculum.  Themes relating to sex education and relationship between the two sexes are included in the school curricula at different key stages of learning, such as General Studies at the primary level, Liberal Studies at the secondary level and Moral and Civic Education at both primary and secondary levels.  In addition, schools also organise learning activities such as talks, debates, visits and exhibitions during class teachers' periods, assemblies or other life-wide learning activities to further strengthen sex education.

(e)  Family Life Education Units, Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs) and Integrated Services Centres (ISCs) operated by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) organise on their own, and also jointly with schools, family life education programmes for both children and their parents, to enhance parents' understanding about the physical and psychological changes of children and youth at different developmental stages, as well as ways to handle stress and issues, including sex-related issues, arising from these changes.  The Family Life Education Resources Centre of SWD has also produced resource packages to help youngsters develop a proper attitude towards relationships with the opposite sex, intimate relationships and marriage.

     The Adolescent Health Programme under the Department of Health (DH) is currently providing "Sex Education Workshops" (the Workshops) to F1 to F7 students to support the implementation of sex education in schools.  The contents include consequences of sexual intercourse, correct contraceptive methods and their limitations, how to protect oneself and avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases, promotion of a harmonious, equal and respectful relation between the two genders.

     The Student Health Services Centres (SHSCs) under the Department of Health is providing sex education to primary and secondary schools students who visit the centre.  The SHSCs distribute leaflets and brochures on specific topics related to sex education (e.g. puberty, dating and love, getting along with the opposite sex) to primary and secondary school students of designated year levels.  The SHSCs also regularly organise health talks on the subject of puberty for primary and secondary school students and their parents who visit the SHSCs, explaining to them the physiological and psychological changes and the worries that might arise during puberty.

     In addition, the DH has established the Central Health Education Unit website and a 24-hour health education hotline in order to provide citizens with general knowledge on sex education. The themes covered include advice on how to handle children's questions on sex and their curiosity towards genitals, adolescent health information on puberty and dating etiquette and safety, etc.

(f) The above-mentioned IFSCs and ISCs provide a continuum of preventive, supportive and therapeutic welfare services to people in need.  These centres also help to identify, at an early stage, underage persons in need, such as unwed pregnant girls and their families, and provide them with various support and counselling services.  These services include helping the girls develop a proper attitude towards sex and relationships with the opposite sex, strengthening their capabilities in handling stress and conflicts arising from unwed pregnancy, arranging pre-natal residential care and discussing with them the long-term welfare plan for their babies.

     Moreover, the SWD-subvented Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres also provide various counselling, support and socialisation programmes to youngsters, to instil in them a sense of social responsibility and help them develop their potentials.  Participating in the activities of the Centres help youngsters enhance their standard of behaviour and discipline.

     In addition, SWD also subvents NGOs to provide "one school social worker for each secondary school" service to all secondary schools in Hong Kong.  The service aims to help students with behavioural, emotional, social and learning difficulties resolve their personal problems.  When approached by unwed pregnant students seeking for help, the school social workers will assess the cases and provide counselling services to them.  Depending on the nature and seriousness of the cases, the school social workers may refer them to relevant agencies/government departments for appropriate services.  The school social workers will also liaise with the professionals involved to closely monitor the situation of these students.

     The DH currently provides subvention to the sex education services of the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (HKFPA).  A resource library has been established at the HKFPA Headquarters to provide reference materials related to sex education, sexual and reproductive health, family planning, family life education and population, etc.  The resource library is open to visits by appointment from schools and organisations.  The Association also organises talks on sex education from time to time, and produces audio-visual resources, teaching materials and books regularly to help the public acquire knowledge of sex through different channels.  In addition, the HKFPA has set up a sexuality education website, providing adolescents, parents and teachers with general knowledge on sex and answering queries from the public (in particular those from adolescents) concerning sexual health through email.

Ends/Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:27


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