Too much too soon about birds and bees

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Recently there has been a significant move among Chinese educators to provide better sex education to students in college, primary schools and even kindergartens.

The Ministry of Education recently issued a circular requiring colleges to make courses on reproductive physiology and sex psychology part of the standard curriculum.

This kind of education as a rule is included in courses known as physiology and hygiene in middle schools, but in actual practice some more sensitive topics are either not addressed or glossed over by instructors who consider them embarrassing and not essential.

In the past, this kind of information about sexuality was generally passed on informally outside the schools, by young people.

One of the many stated reasons for offering formal, medically accurate instruction is to protect children from sex abuse, and to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Given the Ministry of Education mandate, the overwhelming response has been enthusiastic.

In Guangxi Financial College, professor Ai Jun even went beyond the basics to illuminate students about topics such as sex perversion, sexual satisfaction and the details of sexual intercourse.

His class is so popular that it has been oversubscribed in the college in Nanning in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Han Qunying, an anatomist-turned-sex instructor in Nanjing Medical University, deplored that "it is too late to make up for sex education in universities. It should start with the three-year-olds."

According to Freud, children at around age three began to evince curiosity about sex, body parts and where babies come from.

Although as yet we have no reports about actual sexual initiation for three year olds, the wave of enlightenment has already benefited some third graders ("Primary sex textbook launched," October 25, Shanghai Daily.)

A kindergarten in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, started to sex up its curriculum for preschool toddlers as early as 2008. It used anatomically correct dolls to explain the reproductive process and teachers would join pupils in a game dramatizing how a sperm manages to track down and fertilize an egg.

These dolls are said to be more explicit than primary school textbooks currently in trial use in Beijing and Shanghai.

Some parents are worried that such unusually early introduction of human sexuality and reproduction might arouse children's interest in having sex at too early an age.

Psychologist Xun Yufeng said that sex education, while necessary, should be in sync with children's psychological development, and should proceed gradually, and be handled with delicacy.

"Sex education is not the same as an encyclopedic and thorough grasp of knowledge about sexuality,"

But China's pioneering sex educators are learning from the "advanced experience" of the West.

It is reported that in the United Kingdom, sex education is required for children above the age of five. One UK kindergarten textbook is said to contain an illustration of a naked couple in bed, with detailed explanation of the situation.

Moral values

In some schools in the United States, condoms can be distributed to senior high school students.

There is a veritable "Great Leap Forward" in this pervasive thirst for reproductive knowledge.

Commenting on the current handling of sex education in colleges, professor Qian Xun said that a major problem with such education is that "it concerns only physiology and science, but is totally devoid of any moral and cultural deliberations."

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