Nothing is more important than student health and safety.
That’s why we’re updating the province’s Health and Physical Education curriculum. At over 15 years old, the curriculum is older than websites like Facebook and Instagram and mobile apps like Snapchat. By keeping pace with the changing landscape and the skills and knowledge children and youth need to thrive in today’s world, we’re helping students understand the importance of things like:
• Building and maintaining healthy relationships;
• Saying “no” and standing up for oneself;
• Using technology and the Internet safely;
• Developing inclusive communities; and
• Nurturing mental health.
Our new curriculum will help schools and parents better work together to set students up for success. We know you’ve heard a lot about it, but we want to address some of the more persistent myths head on to give you a clearer picture of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Myth: Students will be learning about having sex in Grade 1.
Fact: In Grade 1, students will be learning about anatomy, personal hygiene (e.g. hand washing), and how to interact respectfully with their peers. Young children need to be able to identify the correct names for their body parts in order to communicate clearly and get help if needed in cases of abuse, illness or injury. They start to learn about expressing their romantic feelings in Grade 5, and only start to learn about sex in Grade 7.
Myth: Students will be learning about masturbation in Grade 6.
Fact: While the concept of masturbation is included in Grade 6 curriculum, it is only mentioned in an optional prompt. This is not a mandatory learning expectation. It is there to support teachers in responding to student questions that may arise. Teachers have repeatedly stated that students often ask questions on this topic, and they need guidance on how to answer in a factual and consistent manner.
Myth: Students will be learning about anal and oral sex in Grade 7.
Fact: In Grade 7, the curriculum expects students to identify ways of preventing STIs and/or unintended pregnancy. It talks about delaying intercourse and other sexual activities until a person is older, and using condoms consistently if, and when, they become sexually active. Oral and anal sex are included as topics for discussion to ensure all students are aware of the risks associated with any form of sexual behaviour.
Myth: We don’t need a new curriculum – ours is working because the teenage pregnancy rate is decreasing.
Fact: While Ontario’s teen pregnancy rate decreased by more than 50% between 1995 and 2005, a study involving students in Grades 9 and 10 found that 22% of students admitted to having had sexual intercourse by that age. Further, Public Health Agency of Canada data show that rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea have been increasing since the late 90s and mostly affect teenagers and young adults. From 2002 to 2011 in Ontario, the chlamydia rate has increased by 81% while the gonorrhea rate has increased by more than 20%.
Myth: The new curriculum will encourage children to be homosexuals.
Fact: The curriculum is not a how-to manual. Its content reflects Ontario’s diversity, and teaches students to appreciate and respect the visible and invisible differences between people. Regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, all students have the right to a safe and positive learning environment. It is worrying to note that a Canadian survey reported almost two thirds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, and 61% of students with LGBT parents reported feeling unsafe at their high school.
Myth: Children will be taught to question if they are a boy or a girl.
Fact: The curriculum teaches children that not all fit into the typical male and female stereotypes – not all boys like playing cars and not all girls like playing with dolls. Students are not pushed to question their own gender identity, but to recognize that others may identify themselves differently.
Myth: The new curriculum will make children more prone to having sex.
Fact: Research conducted by the World Health Organization and the United Nations looking at data from jurisdictions around the world shows just the opposite: when young people are provided with a comprehensive sexual health education program they are more likely to wait longer before—and be safer when—becoming sexually active.
Myth: Talking about sex at a young age robs children of their innocence.
Fact: Kids today are constantly bombarded with sexual images online, on TV, and in books. The curriculum presents them with facts and accurate information to help them filter and understand what they are seeing and experiencing on a daily basis.
Myth: There are many drastic changes to the curriculum – we didn’t need to rewrite the whole 1998 curriculum.
Fact: Many of the topics being brought up are not new additions to the curriculum. In the previous (1998) version of the curriculum, students in Grade 1 were required to learn the correct names for their body parts; students in Grade 5 learned about puberty; and students in Grade 7 learned about sex, and the prevention of STIs and unintended pregnancy.
Myth: Parents will not be able to have any say in the education of this curriculum.
Fact: This curriculum will not be replacing the role of parents in educating their children on sexuality and sexual health. Ontario’s education system is built on parents and schools working together for the betterment of their students. Parents play an integral role in their children’s education, especially in educating children on sexuality and sexual health. Schools address these topics to ensure all students have access to factual, accurate information about their health and well-being. Parents are responsible for sharing their values, morals, cultural and religious beliefs with their children.
Myth: Teachers are going to take this curriculum and use it to indoctrinate children.
Fact: Teachers are professionals and are trained to teach sensitive material. The Ministry of Education will be providing professional development and training for teachers across the province starting this spring, and will also be developing additional resources to help them teach these topics effectively in the classroom.
Myth: I already teach my kids how to be safe and respectful to others even when online.
Fact: While many parents do take the opportunity to discuss online conduct and safety with their children, there are still instances of unacceptable behaviour occurring online that put children in harm’s way. A study conducted by Kids Help Phone reported that 70% of the kids surveyed have been bullied online, and 44% admitted to bullying others. It has also been highlighted that by Grade 11, on average, at least three kids per classroom have sent a ‘sext’.
Myth: I’ve raised my kids well and my son knows how to be a gentleman.
Fact: Schools and parents need to work together to address the safety and well-being of all students and ensure they are working together to set their students up for success. In Ontario however, 46% of girls in secondary school have reported to being at the receiving end of unwanted sexual comments or gestures. Furthermore, 27% of girls in Grades 9-11 reported to have been pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do.
If you would like more information on the curriculum, please visit http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health.html
To download a hard copy of the Myths and Facts Sheet please see below.
Attachments:Health and Physical Education Myths & Facts
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