The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) published the updated sex education curriculum, which will be rolled out to students in Ireland starting from September. The new curriculum aims to build a society that is “inclusive of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, religious beliefs/worldviews, social classes and abilities/disabilities”.
Published today, May 16, the new Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) course encompasses 100 hours of learning for students in the Junior Cycle period, aged 12 to 15. The curriculum entails four strands titled ‘Understanding myself and Others’, ‘Making Healthy Choices’, ‘Relationship and Sexuality’, and ‘Emotional Well-being’.
The Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) included among the four strands will focus on exploring “the cognitive, physical, emotional and social aspects of relationships and sexuality through a positive, inclusive, rights and responsibilities-based approach”.
One of the learning outcomes includes having students learn how to “appreciate the breadth of what constitutes human sexuality, and how sexual orientation and gender identity are experienced and expressed in diverse ways”.
In the glossary of key terms published with the new curriculum, there is also a distinction between the terms “gender” and “sex”. Gender is described as “the social and cultural factors influencing what it means to be male and female, ie the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”
Moreover, it adds that “It is important to distinguish gender from ‘sex’ which refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that are defined as being male and female.
“When children are born, their sex is largely decided or ‘assigned’ on the basis of their external genitalia, which generally — but not always — reflects their internal hormonal and chromosomal make-up.”
Finally, the glossary also includes a definition of gender identity, which states: “a person’s felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex registered at birth.”
The new sex education curriculum will also teach students in Ireland about topics such as consent and safe sex, as well as “discuss the influence of popular culture and the online world, in particular, the influence of pornography, on young people’s understanding, expectations and social norms in relation to sexual expression”.
The course also includes resources from the HSE and from community organisations such as Belong To and Dublin Rape Crisis. For more information on the curriculum, you can visit the website for the course here.
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