Petition calls for upgrade of sex education in Czech schools

More than 8,000 people have already signed a petition initiated by the NGO Konsent, calling for the improvement of sexual education in Czech schools. What do Czech children learn about sex? And is it really the school’s role to educate them on the subject? I asked Konsent’s Karolína Křížová what prompted them to launch the petition:

“We mostly had experiences from our own work in schools, because we do workshops in elementary and high schools. And we knew that the students didn’t know much about the topics. They told us themselves that it’s not really spoken about, that they didn’t have any sex education or that it was very narrow.

Karolína Křížová | Photo: HateFree Culture

“In 2020 the Czech High School Union did their own research on what is or isn’t covered in schools, what students themselves think about sex education, what they would like to cover more and so on. That also revealed big gaps in sex education.

“We also did our own research with teachers and found out that a lot of them were motivated and wanted to teach these topics and tackle them interactively, but they don’t have sufficient materials. Because they are not trained, they are not confident speaking more complex social topics, such as consent, respectful relationship and so on.”

So what does sex education in Czech school look like at the moment?

“It’s really hard to generalize like this because one of the issues is that each school tackles this very differently. There are schools that talk about sex and have very complex sex education, but at the same a lot, a lot of schools don’t cover it or don’t cover it in the right way.

“But if we were to generalize based on the data, Czech schools don’t really teach sex education or if they do, they only focus on biological topics, or topics that are very fact-based, like contraception or STD protection.

“They don’t really do into topics where more discussion or more sharing of opinions is needed, because they are not as confident about those.

Illustrative photo: Anastasia Zamyakina

“Also, according to the High School Union’s research, Czech children learn about sex and relationships mostly on the internet and then from their peers. Parents and schools was the last place they would go to for information or the last place where they learn anything.

“And 47 percent of the kids in the research said they learnt nothing about sex and consent in school, which is pretty alarming. But in the same research, they said they were interested and that they wanted the school to pay more attention to these topics so they are definitely open to these topics.”

Based on what you just said, is it really the school’s role to teach children about sex?

“We definitely think it is the school’s role, but that doesn’t mean that it is not the family’s role. We don’t think it should be one way or the other.

Photo illustrative: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“I think there is a lot of discussion in the society about whether the family or the schools should do it and this carries with itself a sort of dissipated responsibility. The parents think: we don’t really have to have to talk about sex because they learn it all in school, and schools think: it’s the family’s job, it’s too intimate for the school to tackle. Finally no one ends up talking to children about these things at all.

“I think it should be both and it should be done in different ways. Each has something to provide. Sometimes schools rely on organizations like Konsent to come into schools and do workshops, which I think is really helpful because we have a different relationship with the kids than the teachers do.

“But it’s not the same and it can’t substitute for quality complex education, because we also think that sex education should be done throughout the child’s life, obviously in relation to what developmental stage they are or how old they are. It should be done sensitively but it shouldn’t just be a one-off lecture.”

What exactly can the Ministry of Education do to improve the way Czech school teach about sex? What measures are you proposing?

“We are not saying that the Ministry of Education does nothing. They published recommendations and standards in 2010, which we think are pretty good, but we believe it needs to be updated in line with the current development, new research findings and new data.

“So we would like them to update these recommendations on sex education in schools and also to provide more extensive methodical support to teachers, meaning training, handbooks and a methodical platform with manuals and materials that teachers can study to be better prepared to teach sex education.

“We also think it should be monitored. The Czech Ministry of Education should either monitor it itself or ensure that sex education in schools is monitored so that schools don’t get away with just avoiding it altogether or not adhering to standards of best practice.”