Sexual education to return to Quebec schools
Sex education courses will return to Quebec schools as of next fall.
About 15 schools across the province will be part of the pilot project, including one elementary school in the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
“My initial reaction is I'm delighted,” said Lester B. Pearson chairperson Suanne Stein Day, adding that she was particularly impressed the program will be offered immediately in English. “I'm so happy that the English material was on time. Normally it comes much later than the French material.”
The program will begin as a pilot program in the 2015-2016 school year:
- Elementary 1, 3, and 5
- Secondary I, III and V
In the 2016-2017 year, it will be taught as a pilot program in these grades:
- Kindergarten for 5-year-olds and in Elementary 2, 4 and 6
- Secondary II and IV
Sexuality education could then be extended to all schools starting in 2017-2018.
Lester B. Pearson's coordinator of student services, Marie-Eve Claude, is looking forward to seeing the program implemented.
“It looks amazing to us and we are one of the lucky boards because one of our schools was chosen to be part of the pilot project for the implementation of this new curriculum, so we're just excited,” said Claude.
The government's new sexual education program, which will consist of between five and 15 hours of instruction per year, comes after years of criticism that Quebec students are ill-equipped to handle the complexities of sexuality.
There has been no ministry program for sex ed in Quebec schools since 2005.
While many are applauding the decision, some have expressed concern.
Teachers’ union the Federation autonome de l’enseignment said it is worried there won't be enough support for teachers to teach the content, given the government has cut the necessary support staff from many schools.
"When the ministry talks about nurses or professionals in the school, well it's not the reality in 2015," said Nathalie Morel from the Federation autonome de l'enseignment.
“I can’t speak for them, but for us, this initiative seems like a great one, and it was long due,” said Claude. “In our board, it was always a concern that we needed to provide support to our staff, parents and teachers about ongoing issues related to health, sexuality being one of them.”
The Order of Quebec Sexologists said it was ready to provide support on the curriculum and its evaluation, but has not been consulted.
"This is something we've been wanting very much, having sexual education in school," said Nathalie Legault, president of the Order of Sexologists of Quebec. "Our concern is who is going to give the content of those courses... The problem is not about the content, it's about who is giving it."
Some sex therapists worry that the government's new curriculum won't go far enough in discussing such issues as same-sex marriage or pornography or how differing multicultural attitudes towards sexuality will be addressed, an issue of special significance for students in Montreal schools.
"When the students are asking questions or revealing they have been sexually abused, the teachers are very uncomfortable and they don't know what to do," said Legault.
The ministry says the pilot project was based on extensive consultations with educators and will allow the government to adjust how its courses are offered.