City sex education text targets families

by The China Watch on February 13, 2012

The publisher of the city’s first sex education textbook for primary schools, the release of which last year was a source of controversy, has put out a new edition tailored for family use.

Titled Boys and Girls, which is the same as the first printing, the new edition will work as a complement to the previous. And it’s more suitable for parents and children to read together, according to Zhang Zhijun, an editor from Shanghai Education Publishing House, who worked on the book.

“Last year’s textbook stirred much controversy, and some parents complained about it. But after using it for some time, many parents have begun to applaud it,” Zhang said.

“Since the textbook are still being used on a trial basis in some of the city’s schools, some students cannot receive the curriculum in school. And many parents have come to ask if they could have an edition that can be used by parents at home,” she said. “So we designed this edition for family use.”

“Like the previous one, we also emphasize gender education rather than sex education. Biological knowledge is only part of it. The book gives appropriate education from a psychological standpoint,” said Xu Jing, vice-president of the primary school affiliated with the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, who is also an editor of the book.

Xu said the new edition and the textbook are mutually complementary.

“The old textbook largely relied on teacher’s instruction, while the new edition can be picked up by children independently,” Xu said.

Unlike the textbook intended for school use, the new edition utilizes a large number of paintings and cartoons, which give it a more lively and light-hearted style.

The new edition uses a lot of fold-outs when covering some sensitive topics, such as answers to questions like “Where did I come from?”

“We use the fold-out design because we want children to know that some parts of the body are private and should be protected,” Zhang explained.

The sex education textbook, the first of its kind in the city, is being tried in 18 schools citywide. Earlier, it had drawn fire from some parents, who complained that the book’s language is more direct and its content involves too many names of private parts of the body.

Gu Jun, a sociology professor at Shanghai University, said that giving children earlier exposure to sex education will have a positive effect.

“This book gives a chance to have a discussion with children on some topics that are embarrassing to talk about,” said Xu Yang, who plans to buy the book for her 7-year-old daughter.

“Sometimes I want to talk about sex with my daughter, but I don’t know where to start and how to start. As parents, we need some guidance so we can have an appropriate dialogue with children on sex,” she said.

Xu said that teen pregnancies have been on the rise due to a lack of sex-related information. Children must learn to protect themselves as they grow, she said.

By Wang Hongyi

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