As media reports this week have proven, Mr C is always right. This week has seen media coverage that addresses the NAPLAN testing regime and the lack of sex/sexuality education in schools, issues I have previously addressed on this site.
It seems that those responsible for administering the nationwide NAPLAN tests for Australian school students share my concerns about the extensive practice regime that schools are undertaking in the lead up to the tests, particularly with regard to the writing component. Subsequently, it has been mooted that schools will no longer be told in advance what type of writing task will appear on the test. Whilst this is a good thing in that it will, hopefully, reduce the level of disruption to curriculum delivery to accommodate practice tests, the ideal solution is to scrap the tests altogether. If schools are doing a good job in offering a broad curriculum in literacy and numeracy, all those elements tested in the NAPLAN tests would be assessed throughout the course of any given year anyway. However, given that NAPLAN is probably here to stay, this will at least take away some of the pressure on schools and reduce the amount of interruption to classroom teaching and learning.
Two separate reports this week highlighted the consequences of a lack of education surrounding sex and sexual health within Australian schools. An increase in the number of young people contracting sexually transmitted infections and the number of teen pregnancies in Australia each year are indicative of the unwillingness of education authorities to deal with sex, sexuality and sexual health in our schools. These reports indicated that only 1/3 of secondary schools offer any kind of genuine sex education program at all, with very few of these actually addressing the issue in an honest and forthright manner. It beggars belief that we are seeing an increase in the rate of STI’s, including HIV, in Australia and it is not acceptable for schools to shirk their responsibilities in protecting young people from the potentially life-threatening consequences of contracting a STI. How can schools claim to have any kind of duty of care to students if they are not making any effort to educate and protect them from STI’s and other potential consequences such as unwanted pregnancies? It is time for schools to stop being embarrassed about sex and start taking their responsibilities seriously and develop sex education programs that help young people understand how to have sex safely and responsibly. We need to remove the taboo of sex from the mindset of teachers and education administrators and allow frank and open discussion about a whole range of issues around sex and sexuality. Schools need to encourage teachers to discuss such issues with students where necessary to minimise the risk of students engaging in behaviours that might put them at risk. Yes, parents and the broader community have a role to play as well, but many parents are, quite frankly, clueless and/or embarrassed to engage in such discussions. Therefore, schools need to step up and lead the way in developing programs and strategies that are meaningful and effective. I don’t know whether the unwillingness from schools to take this seriously stems from their own embarrassment about such issues or their lack of faith in young people to discuss the issue maturely and honestly, but neither seems an acceptable attitude to me.