Sexual education is returning to classrooms in Quebec.
Education Minister Sebastien Proulx specified on Thursday that mandatory classes would be taking place as of next year for elementary and high school students, affecting about 1 million students.
The program is based on a pilot project launched by the provincial government in 2015 at 19 schools across the province, although some teachers have said the province has been slow to provide guidelines for the courses. As happened with the pilot project, courses will include five to 15 hours of material to be taught during the school year.
Proulx said the current budget for material and guidelines is about $3 million, but that may increase if necessary.
He said the course content goes far beyond a basic discussion of the birds and the bees.
"This is light-years away from what we used to do. Calculating it over the duration of a scholastic education, it's multiple occasions to be exposed to multiple attitudes, and not just notions about sexuality, we're talking about respect, consent, and about accepting what is happening inside your body," said Proulx.
As with the original idea pitched in 2015, sex ed classes will always be age-appropriate.
Teachers and administrators have some reservations about the plans, said English Montreal School Board spokesperson Mike Cohen.
“We'll need to know how they intend to do teacher training because that's vital. How we train our teachers in order for them to be ready to roll this course out next September is of utmost importance to us. We are very confident in the teachers that we have in our system. We train teachers in different courses all the time, but you have to have the sufficient timeline to do that, so again that is something we're going to need to know about very soon,” he said.
Teachers will have to integrate sex-ed into existing programs such as math or French courses and students will receive five to 15 hours of teaching on the topic every years.
Quebec has not had a standardized sex education course for more than a decade.
The plans were outlined at a forum Thursday spearheaded by Helene David, the minister responsible for the status of women.
Six other ministers also took part as the government said it will add $25 million over three years to fight sexual assault and violence. Of that, $17 million will go to organizations that help support victims.