Pawana Wienrawee, technical director of the Thai chapter of Path, an international NGO working on health issues, said sex education lessons have never been formally incorporated in the Ministry of Education’s core curriculum.
At present, it is up to each school’s discretion to provide sex education. Usually, it is bundled in other subjects such as health education or science.
“It’s important that schools treat sex studies as its own subject. It’s also necessary that the subject be taught continuously and in a manner appropriate to the age of students,” she said.
Not only should lessons be given in state, private or vocational schools at all class levels from Prathom 1 (Grade 1) onward, but the time allotted to the subject must be sufficient, she said.
She recommended that sex education should be allotted at least 16 hours per academic year. At present, students learn about sex for an average of eight hours every academic year.
Ms Pawana said sex education should encompass all aspects of sexuality, human anatomy, reproduction, intercourse and gender.
The current mainstream sex education in schools is focused on “no sex, not safe sex” which could be counter-productive, she said.
“The average age at which Thai children and foreign children first have sex is not that different, but the number of Thai youths who have unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases is higher than that in other countries,” Ms Pawana added.
Suriyadel Tripathi, director of the National Institute for Child and Family Development at Mahidol University, said that “developmental assets” _ qualities that help children become caring, responsible and successful adults _ must also be taught to students.
He said Thai education is slanted more towards enhancing academic potential or life skills for young people.
Prasop Phetchan, director of Ban Bo Sai School in Phatthalung, agreed the Education Ministry should set minimum learning hours for sex education, or it will not be enforced.
“A top-down policy is required to pave the way for school directors or executives to allow sex education to be taught in schools,” he said. “Children are not properly educated about the matter as many parents do not understand [how to talk about this subject].”