Sex education would more accurately be described as “education in family life” in schools across Poland, and has been considered to be outdated by the Western World. The level of sex education amongst Polish youth is seen as inadequate, while the number of teenage pregnancies continues to soar.
Since September 2009, Poland has tried to improve this image by introducing a compulsory sex education subject in schools across the country. There are many factors, however, that reduce the effectiveness of this new and up-to-date program. First of all, parents still have control on whether they want their child to participate in these classes. Secondly, it is priests or religious educators that undertake the task of sex education; as a result, they prefer not to touch the subject of sex. So even with this new education system in place the number of teenage pregnancies continues to rise. As a consequence the Catholic Church in Poland wants to completely scrap this new program, as they believe it encourages youngsters to take part in sexual activities.
But how does this compare to the old system?
The old “sex education” system, which is still the most popular program that young people partake in, is the abstinence-only model of education which is better known as “education for life in the family” (Wychowanie do zycia w rodzinie). However, this program is only taught at the discretion of the parents and school directors. In this program, young people are taught about human sexuality, responsible parenthood, family values, and prenatal life, with particular emphasis put on developing the positive value of the family, promotion of health and pro-social attitudes. There is no emphasis on anything to do with sexual education of both males and females. The abstinence-based education is predominantly due to the fact that the majority (90 percent) of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church according to the 2006 Central Statistical Office. As such, the Church has a major influence in schools in Poland.
There are several problems that need to be addressed with this issue. For one, sex education should include a discussion of the various contraceptives available, such as the use of the condom and the pill. When discussing pregnancies, a comprehensive system would teach both what is involved in the preparations for a healthy arrival and also what are the possible alternatives which are available for the individuals if the newborn is unwanted. Also, students should be aware of the various sexually transmitted diseases that are around and ways in which they can be avoided. The other main issue here is that there need to be appropriate educators who teach the young adolescents the ins and outs of sex education from the use of various contraceptives to appropriate family planning.
Overall, there needs to be someone with a vast amount of knowledge who won’t be biased towards Catholic teachings, but will rather focus on the health and safety of the young individual.