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Counting the cost of comprehensive sexuality education

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17 September 2021 Tags: Comprehesive sexuality education, CSE

Delivering comprehensive sexuality education can be expensive initially. However, like many future-oriented investments such as buying a house, the early high costs are well justified in the long run. This stance is supported by a recent costing analysis done for the SETRARA curriculum which is being implemented in Indonesia under the Explore for Action programme.

The research investigated what it costs to set up a SETARA programme in a school, looking at the price tag of implementation in three areas in Indonesia. It drilled down into item expenditures for the whole school and went further to find out how much it costs to provide each student access to comprehensive sexuality education.

Before going into the numbers, a bit of background first.

The SETARA programme is a rights-based CSE curriculum with a gender transformative approach. Over two years, adolescents aged 12-15 years enrolled in the 7th and 8th grade in schools in Denpasar, Semarang and Lampung are instructed on crucial CSE themes like gender norms, sexual wellbeing and power. Teaching and learning under the SETARA programme emphasises the participatory method and nurtures critical reflection.

Figure 1

Now to the numbers 

To start a SETARA programme in a school costs between USD 10-15 per student. This includes items like training teachers, setting up sensitisation meetings with parents and developing a lesson plan. But a big chunk of that cost is dedicated to producing and printing of SETARA modules. This item alone can sometimes take over 85% of the total costs (Figure 1).

Nevertheless, this expense is limited to the set-up phase. Crucially, by the time the programme has been running in a school for three years, the cost of providing CSE tumbles to as little as 50 cents to one dollar per student.

The over 90% reduction in costs in just three years creates exciting opportunities for future-proofing CSE work and creating an enabling environment for greater institutionalisation of CSE programmes. It provides an evidence-based framework for civil society to become even more strategic in its approach to CSE. The is especially important in defining a role for non-profits that prioritises the greatest efficiency and effectiveness of interventions.

Civil society can decide to concentrate efforts on creating a strong foundation for CSE and absorbing the initial costs of setting it up. Given the low maintenance costs, they then have a strong case to make to duty bearers to assume responsibility for the continuation of such programmes in a relatively short timeframe. As early as year 3 implementing CSE because much more affordable, and thus more attractive for sustainability.

In addition, a big component of the costs involved consumables, usually in the form of printed teaching and learning materials. This raises the question as to whether there is room for innovative solutions to further shave down the money needed to starts up CSE programmes. A recommendation from the reports is to further explore digital CSE as a viable way to decrease the cost of the initial investment.

Delve deeper into the numbers by reading the report here.
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