In Thailand, sex education is combined with health education. 3rd graders, usually between 8 and 9 years old, will begin learning about sexual harassment at school, with teachers explaining what it is and how to avoid these situations.
Is the 3rd grade early enough and is what the school provides enough to protect them? What do youths, and parents with children in the Thai educational system, think about their sex education?
Some say the curriculum is outdated, while some parents say sex education should be introduced before the 3rd grade.
Thai PBS World spoke to 2 parents on a vox pop and they added on the matter that starting to learn about sexual harassment in the 3rd grade is too late, they should start in kindergarten, because most small children can be easily deceived. Some people might bring snacks to tempt them, we have to teach them.
They also added that “Everything is fast-paced now, so the quicker they learn, the better”.
We also spoke to 9th grader Yhin from Phayao province, about what she thinks of the things they are learning in class and what she hopes high school sex ed classes will include.
She tells us that in the 9th grade she is being taught about family planning, birth control, and infectious diseases. These three are the main topics.
Yhin adds that safe sex should be taught and sexual harassment should be taught too, family planning is a bit too far for my generation or high schoolers.
Meanwhile, Kunthida Rungruengkiat, an education expert who runs a school in Chiang Mai and a former Future Forward MP. She said education about sex and gender in Thai schools remains inadequate.
Kunthida said that “Actually, the national core curriculum has been updated, and the learning materials, but what I’ve realized from my fieldwork is that many teachers in many Thai schools are still using knowledge or materials from earlier days, rather than the updated versions. What I have found missing from the Thai classrooms, as well as Thai families is a discussion of the rights over one’s own body, as well as consent, which is a core issue in really learning about sex and gender.”
While, ideally, schools should provide a safe space in which to talk about sex and gender, with updated tools for educating the young, each family should also take responsibility.
Kunthida said sex remains a taboo subject in Thai society, people feel awkward discussing it. The teaching-learning method has not really been developed. A lot of teachers have no training in teaching the subject the way it is supposed to be taught in the 21st century.
“The classroom should be a safe space where they can be very curious, they can ask questions that they don’t know where else to ask”
“I believe this is the work of families and schools. So, start really with the families from a young age, about the body, which a child owns, and where to touch, not to touch and who to report and all that, to prevent any sexual harassment that could happen to a child.”
While sex education has been in the Thai curriculum for years, it has not been updated and it does not mention safe sex and sexual harassment, which is something essential for children, so they know how to protect themselves.
School cannot be the only venue for children to learn this difficult and complex subject, the family has to take part too.
By Stephanie Adair and Hathai Techakitteranun Thai PBS World