Non-didactic methods are preferable

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7014.1226d (Published 04 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1226
  1. Jeyabala Balakrishna
  1. Senior registrar in forensic psychiatry Springfield University Hospital, London SW17 7DJ

    EDITOR,--Having been a volunteer resource person in the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association, I am encouraged by Alex R Mellanby and colleagues' description of the positive effects of sex education at school.1 As a result of reticence on the part of policymakers, the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association is a major provider of school sex education in Singapore. Like Mellanby and colleagues, we have found that group discussions, role play, quizzes, and other workshop activities get the message across better than does didactic teaching. The association also has a considerable number of doctors among its members, who give talks or lead panel discussions, often during school assemblies.

    I also support the idea of getting young people to teach their peers, an idea that the association has put into practice recently. Some five years ago we identified a dynamic pool of young people aged between 18 and 22. They had participated in our education programmes and volunteered to become facilitators in youth activities. The highlight of their work was to present scenes in local theatres, depicting topical issues in teenage sexuality, which were well received by other young people.

    The association is now piloting sex education modules in schools. It will certainly draw strength from Mellanby and colleagues' work, particularly with regard to the use of specific targeted methods and systematic evaluation.

    Sex education has a formidable task to achieve. It is not just about sex: it is also about comprehensive education in family life. This includes interpersonal and decision making skills and positive attitudes about self and family, with the hope that the young person will develop a sense of responsibility for his or her actions.

    Critics of sex education claim that evaluations of outcome must show change in the social and sexual behaviour of students outside the classroom. This is a tall order: it is like evaluating civics classes according to their ability to make students into better citizens. I am delighted that the work of Mellanby and colleagues proves the critics wrong. Promoters of sex education programmes around the world must persevere in their efforts. More importantly, they must constantly evaluate their programmes and publicise their findings to dispel myths and misconceptions about sex education.


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