By Kara Matthews
Ontario high schools need an updated sex education program for teens, a lobby group said Thursday.
“We want to ensure youth really have a voice in an updated curriculum,” Chris Markham, Executive Director and CEO of Ophea, the organization seeking the change told Humber News.
Ophea’s main concern is that Ontario’s Health and Physical Education curriculum hasn’t been updated in 15 years.
Markham said it’s not that there are major issues with the 1998 curriculum, only that it’s too outdated.
“The biggest issue is that it isn’t current,” Markham said.
“Kids are reaching maturity much earlier than ever before. There should be more focus now on things like mental health and cyber bullying.”
He said the standstill in implementing an updated curriculum stems from general inaction among school boards, politicians and parents.
“No one involved in these decisions wants to address the issue due to conflict from parents and the government in the past,” said Markham.
Need is there for updated curriculum
Abby Stefan, a masters student in Education at York University said the need for an updated curriculum in Ontario is obvious and essential.
“Today’s classrooms are growing more and more diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual identity and disability, yet students in a minority status are rarely reflected in the curriculum,” said Stefan who recently wrote her thesis on sexual minority student experiences in Ontario’s sex-ed program.
Right now, sex-ed classes tend to focus on the biological aspects of sex and its negative connotations, she told Humber News, adding that she believes there’s room to talk about topics important to students.
“Teachers need better training and sex-ed shouldn’t just be one class offered during a semester of Phys. Ed,” she said.
Urges ‘open discussion’
“It should be integrated across the curriculum in all subjects and it should be more of an open discussion among students, teachers, and parents.”
Markham said Ophea’s goal is to raise $200,000 from Ontarians through an innovative crowd-funding project with Indiegogo. The money will go towards creating and circulating a public service announcement.
“We’re essentially looking to spread PSA’s in newspapers throughout Ontario to help dispel negative and inaccurate myths about sex education,” he told Humber News. “For example, people often think sex-ed is only teaching kids how to have sex. This is fiction.”
Markham said sex-ed is about equipping students with education on how to have sex safely.