ARCHIVED - Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education
The philosophy of sexual health education used in this document gives rise to five principles that characterize effective sexual health education programming. These principles are:
- ACCESSIBILITY – Sexual health education should be accessible to all individuals, regardless of background.
- COMPREHENSIVENESS – Sexual health education should address diverse sexual health promotion and illness prevention objectives and should be a coordinated effort of individuals, organizations, agencies and governments.
- EFFECTIVENESS OF EDUCATIONAL APPROACHES AND METHODS – Sexual health education should incorporate the key elements of knowledge acquisition and understanding, motivation and personal insight, skills that support sexual health and the critical awareness and skills needed to create environments conducive to sexual health.
- TRAINING AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT – Sexual health education should be presented by confident, well-trained, knowledgeable and nonjudgmental individuals who receive strong administrative support from their agency or organization.
- PLANNING, EVALUATION, UPDATING AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT – Sexual health education achieves maximum impact when it is:
- planned carefully in collaboration with intended audiences;
- evaluated on program outcomes and participant feedback;
- updated regularly; and
- reinforced by environments that are conducive to sexual health education.
Accessible sexual health education for all Canadians
Effective sexual health education is accessible to diverse groups and takes into account different needs for information, motivation and skills development. It ensures the availability of educational services and the development of supportive and nonjudgmental learning environments.
This section addresses the general principle of accessibility as it applies to effective sexual health education.
- Effective sexual health education requires financial and administrative support for a wide range of sexual health education activities, including staff training and resource materials for use in formal and informal settings. Access to effective sexual health education requires ongoing support in both formal settings, such as schools, community groups, health and social service agencies and in informal settings where sexual health education is provided by parents, caregivers, peers and others.
- Effective sexual health education is age-appropriate and responsive to an individual’s age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, physical/ cognitive abilities and religious background and refl ects different social situations and learning environments. For example, youth, seniors, sexual minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, ethno-cultural minorities, individuals with disabilities (e.g., physical, mental or developmental), individuals who live in geographically isolated areas, economically marginalized individuals and incarcerated individuals are among the groups that require improved and nonjudgmental access to sexual health education.
- Schools are one of the key organizations for providing sexual health education. They can be a major pathway to ensure that youth have access to effective and inclusive sexual health education. Since schools are the only formal educational institution to have meaningful (and mandatory) contact with nearly every young person, they are in a unique position to provide children, adolescents and young adults with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes they will need to make and act upon decisions that promote sexual health throughout their lives.
A CHECKLIST FOR PRINCIPLE 1 : Access to sexual health education for all
The sexual health education activity, program or policy promotes accessibility for all, as suggested by the Guidlines.
|The funding for sexual health education, which includes staff training and resource development, is sufficient for the goal of universal and inclusive access..|
|Programs and policies embody the key elements of sexual health education as identifi ed in the Guidelines.|
Comprehensiveness of sexual health education
A comprehensive approach to effective sexual health education addresses diverse sexual health promotion and illness prevention objectives and provides information, motivational inputs and skills acquisition opportunities to achieve these objectives. This approach also considers sexual health education to be the shared responsibility of parents, peers, schools, health care systems, governments, media and a variety of other social institutions and agencies. The principle of comprehensiveness suggests that effective sexual health education programs are:
- BROADLY BASED – All disciplines or subject areas relevant to sexual health are addressed.
- INTEGRATED – Learning in formal settings, such as schools, communities, health care systems and social service agencies is complemented and reinforced by education acquired in informal settings through parents, families, friends, media and other sources of infl uence.
- COORDINATED – The different sources of sexual health education work together along with related health, clinical and social services to increase the impact of sexual health education.
This section elaborates on the principle of comprehensiveness as it applies to effective sexual health education.
- Effective sexual health education at elementary, junior/middle and secondary school levels is taught within specific educational programs and classes. Accordingly, it is linked to related curriculum areas that address sexuality, relationships and personal development.
- Effective sexual health education programs are most effective when combined with access to clinical services, counselling and social services and support from family, peers and the community. These programs take into account the resources required to support individual efforts that will enhance sexual health and prevent negative sexual health outcomes.
For example, the sexual health concerns of seniors in retirement homes or care facilities may require an integrated approach that addresses access to information and counselling, staff attitudes and training, institutional policies, and physical arrangements that ensure the right to privacy.
- Comprehensiveness in effective sexual health education focuses on the needs of different groups and considers the various issues relevant to the sexual health of individuals within any group.
- Age-appropriate sexual health education should be provided from the beginning of elementary school to the end of high school. It should be provided in schools as an integral element of a broadly based sexual health education program, and continue beyond school through the coordinated interaction of community agencies and services that adults are likely to encounter throughout their lifespan.
- Adolescence is only one phase in a life-long process of sexual development and learning. Sexuality is a central and positive part of the total well-being of young people and, as a result, comprehensiveness of sexual health education for children, adolescents and young adults involves far more than the prevention of unintended pregnancy and STI/HIV education. Sexual health education should include an understanding of developmental changes (e.g., puberty), rewarding interpersonal relationships, developing communication skills, setting of personal limits, developing media literacy, challenging of stereotypes, prevention of STI/HIV, effective contraception methods, information on sexual assault/coercion, sexual orientation and gender identity and a critical examination of evolving gender-roles and expectations.
- Effective sexual health education provides information and opportunities to develop personal insight, motivation and skills that are relevant to an individual’s current and future development of sexual health in a safe, caring, inclusive, and nonjudgmental environment..
- Effective sexual health education requires multi-sector collaboration between the departments of education and health and other relevant agencies at the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal levels in order to help coordinate the development, implementation and evaluation of sexual health curricula in schools.
A CHECKLIST FOR PRINCIPLE 2: Comprehensiveness of sexual health education: Integration, coordination and breadth
Is the sexual health education activity, program or policy suffi ciently comprehensive in terms of the integration, coordination and breadth suggested by the Guidelines?
|The sexual health education program or policy is suffi ciently broad in content and meets the information, motivational support and skills evelopment needs of diverse groups and individuals seeking to achieve and maintain sexual health.|
|Sexual health education is offered consistently from the beginning of elementary school through to the end of high school.|
|Sexual health education is offered in specific programs dedicated to this topic.|
|Sexual health education is linked to other relevant curricular objectives and age-appropriate learning outcomes.|
|Sexual health education programs are coordinated to facilitate access to clinical and social services.|
|The departments of education and health collaborate with other relevant agencies to coordinate efforts toward effective sexual health education in schools.|
Effectiveness of educational approaches and methods
Effective sexual health education increases the knowledge, understanding, personal insight, motivation and skills needed to achieve sexual health. It requires sensitivity to the needs, experiences and circumstances of different groups, as well as of individual members within these groups.
This section describes the characteristics of educational approaches and methods that create effective sexual health education.
- Effective sexual health education integrates four key elements:
- knowledge acquisition and understanding;
- motivation and personal insight;
- skills that support sexual health; and
- environments conducive to sexual health.
For an in-depth description on the elements of sexual health education and the effects of environments conducive to sexual health education, refer to the section on Theory and Research in Sexual Health Education.
- A variety of formal, informal and non-formal approaches to effective sexual health education are available to accommodate the different learning styles, opportunities, and needs of people at different ages and stages of their lives.
- Effective sexual health education programs require financial and administrative support to develop, implement and evaluate age-appropriate and socially relevant programs. Schools can be a major source of creativity and innovation in the development and presentation of age-appropriate sexual health education. However, new and different approaches are needed to reach youth who are street-involved, have dropped out of school, or are living in institutional or care-related settings. Educational approaches should also be identified and utilized to more effectively meet the needs of specific populations, such as sexual minorities, immigrants, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, seniors and people with disabilities.
- Effective sexual health education provides opportunities for individuals to explore, question and challenge the attitudes, feelings, values and customs that may influence their choices about sexual health. The goal is to encourage positive sexual health outcomes and to increase individual awareness of the social support available for such behaviour.
- Effective sexual health education programs ensure access to clinical health and social services that can help people address their counselling and health care needs related to sexual health. Examples of such services include birth control and pregnancy counselling; counselling about sexual decision making (including decisions on whether to engage in particular sexual activities); sexual health and STI/HIV clinics; counselling sensitive to the concerns of sexual-minority adolescents; child sexual abuse or assault-survivor groups; peer-support groups for single parents; accessible sexual health services for people with disabilities; treatment for people who have committed sexual offences; and sex therapy for a range of sexual dysfunctions or paraphilias.
- Effective sexual health education recognizes that responsible individuals may choose a variety of paths to achieve sexual health. Correspondingly, each individual should have the right to accurate and nonjudgmental information that is relevant to his or her specific cultural and social needs.
- Effective sexual health education supports informed decision-making by providing individuals with the opportunity to develop the knowledge, personal insight, motivation and behavioural skills that are consistent with each individual’s personal values and choices. For example, some adolescents engage in partnered sexual activities whereas others will make an informed decision to delay these sexual activities.
- Since the media plays a major role in the sexual education of individuals, effective sexual health education provides training in critical media literacies to help individuals identify and deconstruct hidden and overt sexual messages and stereotypes. Importantly, comprehensive sexual health education helps individuals to understand how these messages may affect their sexual health.
- Effective sexual health education identifies and assists, through referral and support, individuals who have experienced the trauma of child sexual abuse, sexual coersion and sexual assault, violence and exploitation. Individuals who provide effective sexual health education should create a caring, trusting, inclusive and sensitive environment that will be conducive to assisting all individuals, including those who have been sexually abused and/or traumatized.
- Effective sexual health education builds upon its broad-based support, often found among parents and caregivers, to strengthen student learning and positive parent-child communication.
- Effective sexual health education encourages and strengthens the role of peer education and support. Individuals involved in peer education should be well-trained, carefully supervised and be aware of the differences between this type of supportive role and professional counselling or therapy.
A CHECKLIST FOR PRINCIPLE 3: Effectiveness of educational approaches and methods
The sexual health education activity, program or policy incorporates effective and sensitive educational approaches and methods as suggested in the Guidelines.
|Approaches and methods effectively integrate the four key elements of sexual health education featured in Figure 1: knowledge acquisition and understanding, motivation and personal insight, skills that support sexual health and environments conducive to sexual health.|
|Various sources of formal and informal sexual health education are created for diverse learning styles and are age-appropriate.|
|Sexual health education policies provide fi nancial and administrative support for approaches that target specifi c audiences.|
|The sexual health education program provides positive opportunities to explore attitudes, feelings, motivations, values, community norms and moral perspectives relevant to choices about sexual health.|
|The sexual education program provides access to clinical and social services that support counselling and health care needs related to sexual health.|
|The sexual health education program acknowledges that responsible individuals may choose different pathways to achieve and maintain sexual health.|
|The sexual health education program provides training in critical media literacies relevant to sexual health.|
|The sexual health education program helps to identify, assist, refer and support individuals who have experienced sexual abuse, coercion or violence.|
|The sexual health education activity or program encourages informed parent and caregiver support to strengthen positive parent-child communication about sexual health issues.|
|The sexual health education program incorporates strategies for peer education and support with careful training, supervision and delineation of clear roles and responsibilities.|
Training and Administrative Support
Effective sexual health education involves institutional and administrative commitment and support. This support encourages the formal training of those individuals working in professional settings as well as the development of educational opportunities for parents, group leaders and others providing more informal sexual health education.
This section outlines the training and administrative supports that are important for providing effective sexual health education.
- Preparation and support of individuals who provide sexual health education in formal and informal settings are necessary. The requirements for individuals delivering sexual health education in formal settings, such as schools, public health units, clinics or group homes, should be mandated by the educational and administrative authorities that govern their professions.
- Sexual health educators should acquire the following characteristics and aptitudes through their pre-professional education at college/university and through their professional in-service and continuing education opportunities:
- understanding of human sexuality and the capacity to discuss sexual health in a positive, nonjudgmental and sensitive manner;
- understanding of the sexual health issues that are relevant to their profession and to the needs of their intended audience;
- teaching and/or clinical skills necessary to implement sexual health education within professional settings. In the case of educators, for example, these skills would be refl ected in their ability to provide students with information as well as opportunities to develop personal insight, confidences, motivation and self-esteem, and to facilitate the acquisition of skills necessary to achieve optimal sexual health;
- ability to identify and understand the diverse beliefs and values of individual students, clients or groups. This aptitude is based on sensitivity to the diverse cultural norms, beliefs, attitudes and goals of various racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gendered, sexual minority and religious groups, as well as to persons with disabilities as they relate to human sexuality. This sensitivity often involves the ability to address issues surrounding confl ict management and resolution;
- deconstructing personal assumptions and biases in order to work towards a nonjudgmental learning environment;
- understanding of contemporary and historical issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity and the skills to provide effective and inclusive education in this area;
- sensitivity to gender-related issues as they pertain to both the practice and content of sexual health education;
- teaching strategies that help people to effectively address sensitive and controversial issues. For example, educators who find themselves uncomfortable teaching about sexual health, sexuality and other related areas should, at minimum, be able to make suitable professional referrals;
- insight and skills to help individuals refl ect upon and evaluate the varied ways that media (e.g., television, Internet, music, movies, print and digital media, literature and the arts) can affect sexual health; and
- understanding of, and commitment to follow, a professional code of ethics as it pertains to sexual health education and related counselling and clinical services.
- Effective sexual health education requires administrative support and sufficient time for educators to meet professional and academic development needs. Those training sexual health educators should also be supported in this way and enough time should be provided to do so within the curricula of the relevant discipline (e.g., education, medicine, nursing, social work, rehabilitation counselling, gerontology, psychology and library services).
- Effective sexual health education requires in-service training and continuing professional education that gives educators the opportunity to upgrade their skills on a regular basis. The organizations and agencies involved should coordinate such training to provide formal, informal and non-formal mechanisms for communication, information sharing and education.
- Effective sexual health education gives parents, guardians and primary caregivers access to a variety of opportunities to learn about sexuality and sexual health, which in turn provides them with the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to support them in speaking effectively to their children about healthy sexuality. Parents have an enormous infl uence on a child’s healthy development and well-being, particularly during the early stages of a child’s life. This makes parents, guardians and primary caregivers important sources of positive sexual health education. Effective methods to equip and support them in this role ought to be pursued, supported and authorized by all agencies involved in sexual health education.
- Effective sexual health education encourages training and educational opportunities for persons engaged in peer education, counselling and advocacy in all areas related to sexual health education.
A CHECKLIST FOR PRINCIPLE 4: Training and administrative support
The sexual health education activity, program or policy meets the expectations for training and administrative support suggested by the Guidelines.
|There are mandated professional requirements for those who provide sexual health education.|
|Professionals providing sexual health education have suffi cient opportunities for in-service training and professional development.|
|Those training sexual health educators receive strong administrative support.|
|Those providing sexual health education have acquired through their training or equivalent experience:
|Parents, guardians and primary caregivers are provided the opportunity to participate in learning about sexuality and sexual health.|
|Peer educators, counsellors or advocates receive training, supervision and opportunities for continuing education.|
Program Planning, Evaluation, Updating and Social Development
Effective sexual health education programs require careful planning, realistic evaluation and regular updating.
This section summarizes the principles of planning, evaluation, and updating and social development that contribute to effective sexual health education.
- Effective sexual health education programs are based on a broad assessment and understanding of individual, community and social needs. This process involves collaboration with persons for whom the programs are intended to be delivered.
- The content, delivery and methodology of effective sexual health education programs emerge from the assessment of community needs supported by evidence that draws upon input from community members, educators and researchers in a variety of disciplines.
- Effective sexual health education programs are evaluated on a regular basis. Program planning should incorporate evaluation into the early planning stages. Careful program evaluation ensures that learning outcomes are clearly defined from the outset and are being met over time, which in turn can guide program delivery and modification.
- Effective sexual health education programs are evaluated based upon their stated objectives and not upon opinions about what these programs should accomplish.
- Individuals who receive effective sexual health education are given regular opportunities to assess the usefulness and relevance of such programs. Evaluation tools should be used to detect outcomes that might be missed by focusing on specific, pre-defined outcomes.
Updating and social development
- Objectives for effective sexual health education programs are guided by a realistic awareness that education is one of a number of factors that contribute to health-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.
- Effective sexual health education identifies and strengthens social circumstances and behaviours that enhance sexual health. For example, the media represents a powerful infl uence on how individuals perceive themselves, others and the world around them. The images portrayed in the media are important factors that shape sexual self-image and sexual norms. Such images can be unrealistic in terms of the expectations communicated about sexual attractiveness and performance. As a result, media infl uence can be negative, especially in its portrayal of gender-role stereotyping and sexual health issues. Correspondingly, organizations and individuals should be encouraged to support media and social marketing efforts designed to help individuals enhance sexual health and avoid negative sexual health outcomes.
A CHECKLIST FOR PRINCIPLE 5: Program planning, evaluation, updating and social development
The sexual health education activity, program or policy incorporates the elements of planning, evaluation, updating and social development suggested by the Guidelines.
|Sexual health education programs are based on a careful needs assessment that includes input from community, educators and the scientifi c/ research sector.|
|Evaluations are incorporated right from the start of a program and are based on the stated objectives of the program.|
|Participant feedback is used to assess program effectiveness and to detect additional outcomes other than specifi c stated program objectives.|
|Evaluation incorporates realistic awareness of social and other factors that can affect outcomes of specifi c interventions.|
|The sexual health education program helps individuals to recognize environmental factors affecting sexual health and creates environments conducive to sexual health.|
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: