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B.C. sex-ed curriculum should follow Ontario's lead: expert

03/03/2015 02:16 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT
A Vancouver sexual health educator is applauding Ontario's changes to its sex-ed curriculum, saying a similar update to B.C.'s curriculum should have happened long ago.

Saleema Noon, who speaks at schools about sex education, says B.C.'s current curriculum does well when it comes to teaching kids technical terms for body parts, puberty changes and Internet safety.

However, it's time B.C. follow Ontario's lead and include topics like diversity, differences in families, and gender identity and sexual identity, Noon said.

"What these changes to the Ontario curriculum will do is give access to children at younger ages information they need to have, like learning about consent, like learning about diversity and sexual expression and sexual orientation," she told B.C. Almanac's Gloria Macarenko.

Inclusive language key to change

Noon says such topics can easily be incorporated into the existing curriculum by using inclusive language.

"When I'm teaching kids of all ages, as well as parents … I also avoid using words like husband and wife, knowing that not all people have husband and wife and maybe never will. Rather, we use the term partner," she said.

"When we're talking about male and female anatomy … we also need to recognize that some people have bodies that look like a typical boy or typical girl, but they don't feel like a boy or even call themselves a boy."

Teachers need more resources and training: BCTF

The province is reviewing a new draft curriculum, but the B.C. Teachers' Federation says it's not enough to update the curriculum because it's up to teachers to decide how to teach sex-ed.

"It also has to do with what sort of learning resources are in the school library, what sort of things a classroom teacher is able to draw upon that is available in the community and from the school district, and how up-to-date are they," BCTF vice president Glen Hansman said.

"Are they medically accurate? Are they inclusive so that they recognize it's not just about male and female reproduction, that there are gay and lesbien students in the class, that transgender students exist in our school community?"

The revisions to Ontario's sex-ed curriculum were released last week, immediately drawing fire from some parents and religious groups concerned that concepts such as masturbation and same-sex relationships were being introduced to kids who were too young.

To hear the full interview, click on the audio labelled: B.C. sex-ed curriculum should keep up with Ontario's, expert say. 

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