It has been proven through extensive scientific research that “abstinence-only” sex education does not prevent teen pregnancy. In fact, it is more likely for teens receiving this education to not use contraception when they become sexually active. Santelli and colleagues estimated that 86% of the decline in adolescent pregnancies between 1995 and 2002 was due to improved use of contraceptives, and we know this is a result of comprehensive models of sex education. To a small degree (14%), an increase in abstinence has also contributed to the decline of teen pregnancies in the United States, though this is not necessarily a direct result of abstinence-only education. In fact, sex education has been shown to positively correlate with a delay in the onset of sexual activity and increase the liklihood that teens will use contraception when they become sexually active.1
As an educator, it is important to take in to account not only the local laws in place regarding sex education but also the cultural values of their individual students and how these values may shape their beliefs. Many religions are more successful at discouraging contraceptive use than sex itself, and this may be one of the most important topics to consider when developing a curriculum. It is not your job as an educator to instill values and beliefs about sex and sexuality in your students, but to simply relay accurate and useful information that can help them guard themselves against the potentially negative consequences of sex and embrace the positive aspects in a healthy way.
Good teachers are also good listeners, and it will be an important skill to be able to gauge what your students know and what they want to know by the questions they ask in class. Many sex educators overcome any discomfort in discussing sex by having students submit anonymous questions and draw from these at random in order to facilitate a student-based discussion. For more information on educating youth about sexuality and for topic guidelines, please visit our article on “Sex Education.”
Last Updated 7 February 2014.