Sex education leaves much to be desired
Hong Kong secondary schools are lacking in sex education, with half of them having only five hours, or even less on the subject a year, a survey has found.
The Equal Opportunities Commission said results showed over 90 percent of schools have 20 hours or less sex education courses each year because of tight learning schedules for academic subjects.
It advised authorities to adopt the 1997 sex education guidelines for schools to add the elements into academic subjects and extracurricular activities.
The poll was conducted between November 2020 and April 2021, with 203 of 473 secondary schools responding. As face-to-face classes were suspended due to the pandemic, respondents were asked to use the data from the 2018/19 school year to answer questions related to teaching hours and curriculum design.
Five focus group discussions were also conducted with 26 principals, teachers, non-governmental organization or school social workers.
The study found that 18.3 percent of schools did not teach sex education whereas 12.3 percent did not organize any sex education activities in 2018/19.
Among the schools that taught sex education in formal lessons, over 90 percent provided 20 hours or below, and nearly half of them only arranged a total of five hours or below.
Operation executive director Ferrick Chu Chung-man said the hours are insufficient even by the standard set by the Guidelines on Sex Education in Schools published in 1997 that called for a total of 36 hours and 30 hours of sex education classes for junior forms and senior forms.
The guidelines have been removed from the Education Bureau's website and no new guidelines have been uploaded.
Also found was that 47.6 percent of schools indicated that sex education teaching staff had not taken any professional development courses on the subject.
Over 95 percent did not impose training requirements on staff responsible for teaching sex education.
On difficulties in implementing sex education, 82.3 percent said there was no time "as the secondary school curriculum is already jam-packed."
Up to 61.6 percent of school representatives would like the government to revise the guidelines, and 55.7 percent would like to have recommended lesson hours for sex education in school subjects.
Chu suggested the government consider readopting and updating the 1997 guidelines, and provide a unified framework and recommended class time for sex education elements in different subjects and extracurricular activities.
He also said schools and the government should provide sufficient resources and incentives for teachers to receive professional development training.