You read that correctly...
Whereas only about half of adolescents receive school instruction about contraception before they first have sex in the U.S and only 20 states and the District of Columbia require sex and/or HIV education to be medically, factually, and technically accurate (1), the Netherlands starts their comprehensive sex-ed at age four!
We came across this incredibly enlightening article by PBS and break it down for you here:
Now, it’s not that kindergarten students in The Netherlands are being taught about intercourse. But what they are being taught about (required by law!) is sexuality. And, by law, that education must address sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness. (Those who live in the U.S; Can you believe it?!).
For example, kindergarteners are asked to tune in to how certain actions feel in their bodies, like being hugged. The idea is that from a young age, they are starting to pay attention to the kind of touch that feels good and the kind that doesn’t. So this means that these students are not only learning how to communicate what they like, but what they don’t like as well.
The curriculum (created by Rutgers WPF, a Dutch sexuality research institute) continues throughout all of the students’ schooling. According to PBS, eight-year-olds learn about self-image and gender stereotypes. 11-year-olds discuss sexual orientation and contraceptive options.
It’s about having real conversations about love and relationships and based off the principal that sexual development is a normal process. It is also highlights the very vital notion that sexuality isn’t just about sex but it is also about, “self image, developing your own identity, gender roles, and it’s about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.”
Maybe this sounds all fine and dandy, but the proof is in the pudding:
“Netherlands boasts some of the best outcomes when it comes to teen sexual health. On average, teens in the Netherlands do not have sex at an earlier age than those in other European countries or in the United States. Researchers found that among 12 to 25 year olds in the Netherlands, most say they had “wanted and fun” first sexual experiences. When they do have sex, a Rutgers WPF study found that nine out of ten Dutch adolescents used contraceptives the first time, and World Health Organization data shows that Dutch teens are among the top users of the birth control pill. According to the World Bank, the teen pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world. Rates of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases are also low. Students who had completed comprehensive sex education in the Netherlands were also found to be more assertive and better communicators, according to an independent health research agency that conducted a study of the Dutch programs.”
Is this too good to be true?
Lisa de Pagter of Choice For Youth shares, “Now, it is true that The Netherlands are front runners when it comes to sexual freedom and CSE, with legislation in place to enforce it. However, The Netherlands being a liberal country, it is still very much up to the schools to decide with what magnitude they implement this. In other words: they follow the law, but they are completely free to decide how they explain to kids that, for example, people of the same sex can fall in love, too. The curriculum that was developed by Rutgers is fantastic and actually scientifically proven to boost confidence and eliminate gender stereotyping.”
While it may not be perfect, it still seems a far stretch from where the U.S is today. As we continue to give money to abstinence-only sex ed, here’s where we stand:
- One in three self-reported women and one in six self-reported men experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime
- The U.S some of the highest STI rates and teen pregnancy rates in the developed world
- 66 percent of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time
- Nearly four in 10 millennials report that the sex education they received was not helpful, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Something doesn’t quite add up here!
Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Isaac Maddow-Zimet, and Heather Boonstra, “Changes in Adolescents’ Receipt of Sex Education, 2006–2013,” The Journal of Adolescent Health 58 (6) (2016): 621–627.