BEIJING, March 18 -- In an early-morning class at a
local primary school in Beijing, about 60 curious students were giggling when
being asked where they were born.
"My mom told me I
was picked up on the street," an 11-year-old boy said loudly, triggering a burst
of laugh in the class. "Is it true, kids? " asked the elderly man standing in
front of the class. Another tall girl replied at once, "No. We were born from
|Middle school students take biology class
in Jinan, Shandong Province. Normally, sex education in China starts in
junior middle school and is taught in biology
The man with a pair of glasses patted her
shoulder, nodding. He is Min Lefu, deputy director of Beijing Sex Health
Education Research Centre, who has been promoting sex education in primary and
middle schools in Beijing for more than two decades.
His remarks concerning the beginning of life aroused
pupils' interests, ranging from puberty changes, feelings and relationships.
Kids listened, laughed and sometimes blushed to things they'd never heard
It is the first time for this primary school to
introduce sex education. In China, sex education commonly starts in junior
middle school and is taught in biology class.
"Healthy students should know what's going on with
them mentally and physically in adolescence," said Qi Zhenjun, principal of
Beijing-based Chaoyang Elementary School Attached to Chaoyang Normal Institute,
who arranged for his staff to attend the class so that they could learn from
experienced teachers. "Experts help us talk about adolescent changes to
The increase in the number of open-minded parents
also lessens the teachers' concern. "Parents often turn to us for help, asking
us to explain it to the children," Qi said. Qi's school of 500 pupils in
Chaoyang District is one of many trailblazers in the country in introducing
education on sex and relationships to pupils.
According to the China Population Communication &
Education Centre in Beijing, puberty is hitting children earlier. Its survey
shows that Chinese girls enter puberty at the age of 13.38, one year earlier
than a similar study done in the 1960s, and boys at 14.43 years, about two years
earlier than in the 60s. However, formal sex education generally doesn't start
until age 14.
"The earlier, the better," said Sun Yunxiao, a
researcher and deputy director of the China Youth & Children Research
Centre. "For a little kid, perception of a sex organ is as same as a cup because
they don't have sexual excitement." Scientific study has found that children
taught about sex are less likely to try it earlier, Sun added.
"Young children need sex education," said Min, now
62. "There is no way to avoid it. Children have the right to know their bodies."
But he remained cautious about his teaching approach.
"I will not show models of sex organs to primary
kids," Min said. "If you go too far, children will be more likely to get
confused than really grasp the message, and teachers will worry. But at the same
time, if you talk only on the surface, it won't help."
The method of communication that Min chooses is both
modest and comfortable. "Chinese kids are very shy," he said. "To begin with,
they need encouragement and to be reassured that growing up is perfectly normal
However, Min warned that teachers and parents who
want to hide the basic facts and hope that the sex education taught in biology
classes starting in middle school will solve all the issues are kidding
Yet, Qi, the school principal, emphasized the
morality aspects of Min's class. "I don't want to call it sex education; it is
relationship education," Qi said. "We have the responsibility to teach the
single-child generation about the importance of friendship and love to their
His viewpoint is reflected by the fact that only five
out of 50 minutes in Min's class can be properly called sex education, or about
things directly related with sex. But five minutes are enough for the beginning
- so long as the kids like it.
A big smile on the boy's face is, in Min's eyes, the
best response of all. "If they smile," Min said, "I know they understand what
(Source: China Daily)