Sex Education in International Schools

Hello ISR, I know this suggestion for a discussion topic is a bit off-key to those you usually address. With that in mind, I’m submitting my comments & asking if you would please consider taking them live. I believe there are many parents of international students who will find this conversation beneficial. Here goes:

Predictably, when Samantha, my 16-year-old daughter, tells us about her day at school, her comments follow a well-worn path. She talks about the state of affairs of her friends, excessive homework, the goofy science teacher & so on.  This evening was different as she went on to mention that the P.E. teacher (who’s also the Sex Ed. teacher) demonstrated the proper use of a condom. “Miss Wiggins gave us each a banana & a condom & said, ‘Now it’s your turn.'” What!?I exclaimed, trying my best not to overreact.

I’m good with the school including Sex Education, but I had no idea they were taking it this far. I’m not so sure I’m ready to think about the possibility of Sam soon jumping into the sack with her boyfriend. I’m wondering if Sex Ed. (emphasizing “sex”) may even be encouraging her to experiment? Or is Sex Ed. (emphasizing “education”) informing and helping her to mature with knowledge & safety in the forefront of her mind? That surely gave me something to ponder…

My first reaction, admittedly, was to lay the abstinence routine on her, but my conservative parents tried that approach with me & well….it didn’t work, as evidenced by Sam. So, I decided to ask Sam to what extent she & her boyfriend have taken their relationship. “NO,” she answered. “We don’t have intercourse, but we do other things.” I thought I’d better leave it at that & not probe for details (no pun intended).

After some days I decided to call the PE teacher. I thanked her for having the courage to tell it like it is regarding contraception. Miss Wiggins said she felt like she was making a positive difference in her students’ lives. I told her I had brought up the topic of maturity, consent & mutual respect with a partner, and Sam’s response was: “You think Mrs. Wiggins hasn’t taught us all about that, too? She definitely has!” Thank you, Miss Wiggins!

My question for the ISR Community is this:  Are all international schools like our school here in Brazil? Do international schools generally take a liberal view of sex education & prepare teens to act responsibly on their sexual desires? Or is this school an exception to the rule? I know for a fact that in my Midwest hometown they only teach abstinence, which, by the large number of teen mothers, is not working. I’m wondering how different things might be for Sam if we had not gone overseas…

Any parents, teachers, or admin out there who want to expand on this conversation &/or share their experience with teens & sex education in international schools? I’d love to hear from you!


10 thoughts on “Sex Education in International Schools

  1. I teach sex ed at an international school in Spain, and I have been given complete freedom on curriculum, topics, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by this. To grade 8 and above we teach them how to put on condoms, etc. With lower grades we also have courses about puberty, reproductive systems, healthy relationshpis, consent, etc.


  2. At my daughters school here in France the sex ed. courses are comprehensive, and I am glad for it. Julia is 15, looks like 19, and I’m aware that older boys are checking her out when we go places together.

    I did meet with the sex ed. teacher and was able to go over the curriculum with her. I did this in an effort to know what Julia had been made aware of. The wonderful thing is that Julia and I can have open conversations about sex and I’ve come to realize that the sex ed. course has prepared her for a responsible approach to safe sex. There are a few parents at the school that object to the frankness of the course and they have complained to the school. Fortunately the director is not intimidated by the power elite.


  3. Hi. My first thought was “what a wonderfully honest relationship you have with your daughter. She trusts you so much”. I don’t want to patronise you, but I think that is the most important thing in all this.

    No, not all international schools have this frank sec Ed policy. I have taught in international schools in Europe, Singapore and China (none were affiliated with the others) and in my experience, international schools often adhere to the culture in the countries regarding sex Ed, despite the varied cohort of international families enrolled.
    For instance, the type of explicit explanation that you daughter received from her PE teacher would be a big “no, no” in my former Singaporean and Chinese international schools, but ok in my European school. Why? Well, IMO Asia is generally more conservative than Europe and sex Ed is sometimes thought to be offensive by some local staff (higher up local admin weigh in) and the more conservative parents (I taught children of very conservative and/or religious parents at times). I guess some schools just yield to the parent/local cultural pressure…
    My European school had a much tougher stance against parents who had a problem with sex Ed. It was basically “we teach what is important to your children’s lives, not yours”. We didn’t have any complaints though. This European school was small but multi-denominational and multi-cultural. There were lesbian mums at the school who were fully represented by the school, and even the kindergarteners were taught “children can have two mums or two dads”.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents worth. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is no any doubt that young generation knows everything more than us but directly teach them sex education no more beneficial for them. The best way to provide them moral education and family respect so that they may conscious bout their own respect and family values.
    Sex is not matter of self-determination and freedom when kids mature and reach at the university level they get know everything they need.


  5. Most International British schools have an in-depth sex education program based on the British sex education program.


  6. The puritanical clientele in the Middle East do not permit sex education in their children’s schools, and the sycophants who are those schools’ “administrators” go along with it. So much for the IB’s “inquiry-based” education!


  7. I have taught sexuality education both in the states and overseas. I have taught this very lesson. And, unfortunately because we could not come up with anything else to use, we used bananas.

    The US system is widely varied from liberal to conservative and so are the depth and breadth of the lessons. Some schools have this very lesson as early as year 8, maybe lower depending on the district. Some districts are far more open in the discussions of the topics.

    I personally believe that we need to be open and honest with ourselves and students about sexuality. We need to teach these skills in school. Parents don’t teach them regularly. And the internet provides wildly inaccurate information about sexuality.

    Our students and children need to be comfortable talking to us about these issues. Schools can help be providing honest, scientifically accurate information.

    As an aside, this year I taught the lessons with a school nurse who was more open than I was about the content.


  8. My last school in South America offered the students a comprehensive course in Sex Ed. A few parents objected to the course and the school allowed them to keep their kids from attending. Rich, entitled parents with literally no connection to reality. They were planning to send their two teenage daughter to America to study after graduation. Good luck with that!!


  9. As an American working for a British school, I found our program to be very sensible and wish we could adopt something similar in the States. In Lower Primary, students learn about consent and safety (think ‘stranger danger’) then in Upper Primary they learn very matter of factly the reproductive organs and by age 11 they know the basics of how babies are made, as well as the preventative choices people have in that regard.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.