THE SEX education programme used in Portuguese schools is a “cause for alarm”, according to an American specialist who has been speaking at a Lisbon congress this week. According to William Coulson, the sex education classes given to children in Portugal serve only to stimulate an early interest in sex and cause pupils to engage in premature sexual activity.
During the congress, entitled ‘50 years of sex education – views and findings’, Coulson advised against the use of the sex education programme that he himself created together with Carl Rogers back in the 1960s, and which is still used in many western countries like Portugal. “It is very alarming that the Portuguese government is using an educational format that has already proved to be destructive in the United States,” he told delegates at the congress organised by the Universidade Católica and the Associação Família e Sociedade.
Coulson went on to explain that the idea behind the teaching style was to “encourage the pupils to have new experiences and speak about their feelings in the classroom,” however, it was found to have a detrimental effect and only increased the children’s interest in sex. Therefore, this approach to sex education was dropped in American schools. João Araújo, a university professor specialising in family matters and sex education, was just one of the delegates at the congress who was critical of the sex education format used in Portugal, considering it out of date and agreeing that “it should not continue to be imposed on pupils to shock the Portuguese.”
According to Coulson, based on his knowledge in the US, “more experienced children began to influence those who were less experienced, persuading them to have sex at a younger age, which isn’t good because of sexually transmitted diseases.” He went on to say: “If you want your children to remain virgins until the age of marriage, don’t given them sex education lessons, because they have exactly the opposite effect than people want.”
He spoke of a return to “a more academic education” that would give pupils “very strict instructions about traditional values,” such as the discouragement of sex before marriage. “All the old traditional ideas have been viewed as ‘traditional’ because they work. And the new teaching methods, in which I myself participated in the 1960s, don’t work,” he said.
For his part, Professor João Araújo said that he considered the material for sex education lessons, currently supplied by the Ministry of Education, to be “very bad”. “The content is not appropriate. It features many activities that are depraved and there is material which is totally offensive,” he considered. He continued: “There are around 300 different sex education teaching programmes available, but it is my opinion that no sex education programme should be introduced before it is discussed with parents.”
Sex education in the UK is also under review after recent statistics revealed that the UK still has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe. The number of under-18s who became pregnant in England and Wales rose from 40,966 in 2001 to 41,868 in 2002. Portugal has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the European Union after Britain. In 1999, there were around 7,000 teenage pregnancies, a significant number for a country with a population of 10 million.