Introduction of sex education in school and madrasa curriculum of Bangladesh
Sumaiya Tasnim/ HiFi Public
Within the span of ten years, the education board has added and changed quite a few things in the curriculum here and there. However, recently the government has decided to take the initiative to launch “Sex-Reproductive Health Education” program which is quite a breakthrough for our schools and madrasas.
The brain behind the initiative
“Generation Break Through” will run the program accordingly in schools and other educational institutions around the country. The Secondary and Higher Education Department has been working on this project for about 20 to 25 years. In an interview with Dhaka Tribune, Project Director and Director (Planning and Development) Dr Mohammad Jahangir Hossain mentioned in that the program took place in some schools and madrasas as “Phase One”. Since the program was running successfully, the government has decided to put it in under all schools and madrasas accordingly. With the end of a successful phase, the second phase of this program will start from this year. However, the official launch of this subject will occur around 2021-2022.
Better late than never
In the beginning, there were some concerns as most teachers and education institutions were doubtful of the program. However, with proper training funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the project broke through the stereotypes by taking small and steady steps. According to the sources, despite the “social constricting” ideologies, parents in most education institutions took an interest in the program. Elementary and middle school students are studying under this program through sports at ‘Gender Equality for All Corner’ or ‘Teenage Corner’ established in the institutions. From the second phase onward, the program will have strict rules to accommodate trained teachers, fixed content and the consistent habit of creating a healthy environment for the students.
Small steps to a safer space
In a society where sexual abuse of both genders has increased at an alarming rate, sex education is a very crucial step for us. The idea of consent is much more diverse than we think of it to be. “Be it a village or an urban society youths are sexually active, so they must know the dos and don’ts about safe sex and hygiene, in order to make the right decisions with situations like these” Says Nusrat Zahid, a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals, when asked about her take on this new program. The fundamental knowledge about sexual reproductive health and safe sex will bring awareness among youths and their surroundings. In context, The government has decided to introduce a sex and reproductive health education programme at all secondary level educational institutions, including schools and madrasas, across the country. The programme will be initiated under ‘Generation Breakthrough’ project of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE).
Project Director Dr Mohammad Jahangir Hossain, also planning and development director of DSHE, said that the success of the ‘General Breakthrough’ project on Sex Reproductive Health Education that remained in operation from 2014 till 2018 had caused the government to bring all educational institutions under its coverage. He said that a total of 207,052 students from 250 schools in five new districts will be covered under the second phase of the project that starts this year. The project would be introduced in educational institutions of Chattogram and Sylhet in 2021 and 2022, he said, adding that between 2024 and 2025, it would be introduced in half of the institutions in the other six divisions.
Associated sources and spot visits found that despite opposition from a religious quarter, interest about sex and reproduction health education is rising among students and guardians. Adolescent students aged between 10 to 19 years were being educated at the ‘Gender Equality for All Corners’ set up at different schools and madrasas. Although the Generation Breakthrough project had ended, many educational institutions affiliated with it were continuing to run it at their own initiative. DSHE and other concerned sources said that despite the inclusion of sex education and reproduction health as a subject in the secondary level curriculum, many schools and madrasas had not been initially able to teach the subject due to discomfort exhibited by the teachers themselves. Under the circumstances, the first phase of the Generation Breakthrough project was undertaken at 350 schools and madrasas across the country, including Dhaka, in 2014 with provisions for training teacher.
A total of 1,400 teachers from affiliated schools received 5-day basic trainings while institution principals received half-day trainings under the first phase of the project which concluded this year. The DSHE implemented the project with the aid of the non-government body, Concerned Women for Family Development (CWFD), and Plan International’s Bangladesh chapter at the funding of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).