* England is the exception, but on March 1, 2017, it was decided that sexuality education would become ‘statutory’ in 2019, i.e. mandatory in all schools.
Table 3.1 presents an overview of the core data on the status of sexuality education
in the 25 countries included in this survey. Most of the information collected through
the survey questionnaire rarely, or not at all, represents a summary score and not a
binary (yes or no) result, first because the variables are essentially qualitative, and
second because the results can be interpreted correctly only in the context of answers
given to various other questions.
Table 3.1: Core data on sexuality education
M&E7 Resistance in society8
? Insufficient information available; N.A.: Not applicable
* Canton Sarajevo only
1 Is there a law or policy on sexuality education? + year of approval (latest adaptation); L = Law/decree/act; P = Policy only;
S = Strategy only; N = No
2 Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe (2010) used for: A = Advocacy; C = Curriculum development; N = Hardly or not at all used 3 Summary index law, practice and in country variation, based on six indicators in the survey questionnaire: – = (almost) not; + = little;
++ = quite; +++ = highly
4 Excluding ‘only in biology’. Y = Yes for all pupils; P = Partly (right to opt out, or not in all schools); O = Optional (largely) 5 N = No teacher training; + = only few teachers trained on sexuality education; ++ = several trained; +++ = most or all trained
26 Sexuality Education in Europe and Central Asia: State of the Art and Recent Developments, BZgA 2018
the document played a role in the development or adaptation of curricula, and in at least 10 countries it has (also) been used for advocacy purposes.
In Georgia, it was also used for curriculum development, but this process is still ongoing and is thus not included in the overview table. It should also be noted that in a number of countries the Standards have hardly or not been used at all, although a translation in the national language is available. This is most obviously the case for the Russian-language translation, which played a role only in the fYR of Macedonia and currently also in Georgia, but not yet in the Central Asian countries or the Russian Federation itself. In Ireland, Latvia and Spain the Standards have hardly or not been used at all, although English, Latvian and Spanish versions are available.
It is difficult to assess the extent to which the sexuality-education programmes meet the quality criteria outlined in the Standards, in other words, to which extent programmes are comprehensive (or holistic). This is mainly because there is quite a wide range of such quality criteria, but also because there is often large variation within one country.
For example, a very comprehensive programme was developed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but to date it has been implemented only in the canton Sarajevo – and it is an optional programme that is not chosen by the majority of pupils. Most of the criteria mentioned in the Standards are more or less fulfilled in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and – interestingly – recently also in Albania. Sexuality-education programmes in several other countries are gradually becoming more comprehensive (i.e.
those indicated in the table with ‘++’).
Only in 11 out of the 25 countries is sexuality education a mandatory subject in all schools. In the remaining countries, it is either optional or it is mandatory only in some regions or particular
schools. For example, in England and Ireland it is to date mandatory in public (local autority-run) schools but not in private schools (i.e. it is not
The training of teachers in delivering a sexuality-education programme is the weak link in many countries. Only in a handful of countries (notably Finland and Estonia) has teacher training in sexuality education been institutionalised to the extent that it has become part of the curriculum of teacher-training colleges and universities. In most other countries teachers are trained in special in-service courses, though usually only a (small) selection of teachers actually participates in such courses. Only in a few countries, like Albania and the canton Sarajevo, have large numbers of teachers been trained in such courses – and in some countries hardly any teachers have been trained.
In slightly less than half of the countries is there a clear link between sexuality education and youth-friendly SRH services. Such links most often mean that information on those services is provided during sexuality-education lessons. It can also mean that the staff of youth-friendly SRH services provides some sexuality-education lessons in schools. Finally, in some countries (for example, Sweden and Estonia), school classes regularly visit youth clinics and get their lessons there, which has the additional advantage that pupils become familiar with a clinic, thereby possibly lowering the threshold of seeking one out when they need services in the future.
Only in about one third of the countries is implementation of sexuality education more or less systematically monitored and sometimes even evaluated. In this context, it should be stressed that sexuality education is almost never an examinable subject, making examinations in
sexuality education during a school year rare.
Most often, M&E is rarely given more than marginal attention during the developmental phase of a sexuality-education programme, when there is a need to evaluate the results of a pilot project. In such cases, it serves the clear purpose of determining where a draft programme can be adapted and improved before being finalised.
It is important to note that in half of the countries sexuality education is (still) a sensitive and sometimes heavily disputed issue. Those tend to be countries in which sexuality education is developing (very) slowly or not at all. On the other hand, in only five countries respondents report opposition to sexuality education being hardly or not an issue: Belgium, the Netherlands, Estonia, Finland and Sweden. It is encouraging to see that a sexuality-education programme can be developed and implemented even in countries where there is serious opposition. Albania is an example of this. The most frequently mentioned opposition argument is that sexuality education causes early onset of sexual behaviour, despite all the research indicating that this is not the case.
Other arguments often used against sexuality education are that it remains the task of parents and not of the school, and that it will ‘spoil the morality’ of young people.
28 Sexuality Education in Europe and Central Asia: State of the Art and Recent Developments, BZgA 2018
Table 3.2 shows that there are huge differences in teenage birth rates, ranging from as low as 3 per 1 000 girls aged 15 – 19 years in Switzerland to as high as 39 in Kyrgyzstan and 38 in Georgia and Tajikistan. The rate is generally low in Northern and Western Europe and high in south-eastern Europe and Central Asia. In the United Kingdom, the rate is still relatively high compared to other Western European countries, although it was reduced by half in the past two decades. Cyprus, having a very low teenage motherhood birth rate, is the exception to the general rule in south-eastern Europe. In almost all countries, the teenage birth rate has shown a declining trend over the past 15 years. Albania is the only exception to this general trend, but it should immediately be added that the latest available data for Georgia also show an upward trend from 40 per 1 000 girls aged 15 – 19 years in the year 2 000 to 51.5 in 2014*. In general, there has been a rapid
decline (indicated as ‘---’) in the teenage birth rate in countries in which this rate was already fairly low, and a slower or absent decline in countries in which it was and still is high. Finally, the teenage birth rate tends to be very low in those countries where national, comprehensive sexuality-education programmes are in place, and (very) high in countries where sexuality-education programmes are still in an early stage of development.