Sexual Health Education

Goals of Sexual Health Education

The overall goal of health education is to foster the growth of knowledge, attitudes, skills and lifelong behaviours that will enable the individual to assume responsibility for healthy living and personal well being.

In order to achieve this goal it is expected that Health Education programs strive toward:

  • building self-confidence in individuals;
  • developing positive relationships with others;
  • providing a safe environment in which students feel free to discuss related topics;
  • promoting individual responsibility for well-being;
  • actively involving the student in the learning process;
  • teaching life skills that will enable individuals to make responsible choices and to deal more effectively with the challenges they may encounter throughout their lives.

Adapted from the Calgary Board of Education.

Comprehensive Sexual Health Education

Effective sexual health education needs to emphasize the shared responsibility of parents, peers, places of worship, schools, health care systems, governments, the media and a variety of other institutions and agencies. The principle of comprehensiveness emphasizes that programs are:

  • Full Information (All subject areas pertinent to sexual health are addressed in a way that is both culturally appropriate and reflects different social situations with the intent of reaching the widest possible audience.)
  • Integrated (Learning in formal settings, such as schools, community health care centres, and social service agencies is complemented and reinforced by education acquired in informal settings through parents, families, friends, the media and other sources.)
  • Coordinated (The various sources of sexual health education work collaboratively with each other and with related health, clinical and social services to enhance the impact of the education.)
  • Evidence Based (Planning occurs in collaboration with intended audiences, is based on research, and is evaluated on program objectives and participant feedback, updated regularly, and reinforced by an environment conducive to sexual health.)

Adapted from Health Canada’s Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education (2008).

Facts About Sexual Health

“Effective Sexual Health Education should be provided in an age-appropriate, culturally sensitive manner that is respectful of individual sexual diversity, abilities and choices.”
-Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education, 2008.

  • In 2005, a national survey revealed that approximately 43% of Canadian teens aged 15-19 had sexual intercourse at least once compared to 47% in 1996/1997.
  • 29% of teens aged 15-17 and 65% of teens aged 18-19 had intercourse at least once;
  • Parents have reported that school-based sexual health education makes it easier for them to engage in conversations with their children as it creates natural opportunities for communication to occur and information to be shared within the home.
  • In a recent study, 45% of Canadian teens who participated stated that they looked to their parents, regarding them as role models and valuable sources of information.3 Youth prefer to receive their sexual health information from their parents as many expressed that they saw their parents as credible sources of information and felt that their parents had their best interest in mind.
  • Most parents would like to play a role within their child’s sexual health education. Some parents reported that their motivation to do so came from a desire to provide information to their children that they wish they had received from their own parents.
  • Research indicates that parent-child communication about sexuality can have a positive influence on teen sexual behavior.
  • From recent studies, it has been discussed that the majority of parents feel they should be talking with their children as a way of protecting them from negative sexual health consequences, such as STIs and unintended pregnancies.
  • Evaluations of comprehensive sexual health education programs (full information at appropriate ages) revealed that they result in postponement of first sexual intercourse and increases in condom use. Evaluations of abstinence only programs indicated they are ineffective at delaying intercourse, preventing pregnancy, and preventing STI.
  • Teens should be encouraged to consider or re-consider abstinence. When trying to avoid STI, abstinence means avoiding vaginal, anal, oral intercourse and other behaviors that expose a person to semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, cervical or vaginal secretions, and blood.
  • Many parents support comprehensive school-based sexual health programs as they see schools as knowledgeable and competent sources of information for their children.
  • Youth have reported that they do not trust that the Internet is providing them with the accurate information they are looking for, but will use the Internet to verify what they have been told by their parents, teachers, or peers.