When to start sexuality education
Ideas on the age at which sexuality education should start also vary. Most countries start between 12 or 14 years old or older. But in some Western European countries, including the Netherlands, age-appropriate sexuality education starts at ages 4 to 5. Children and adolescents have the right to be educated about themselves and the world around them in an age- and developmentally appropriate manner – and they need this learning for their health and well-being. Intended to support school-based curricula, the UN’s global guidance indicates starting sexuality education and information at the age of 5 when formal education typically begins. However, sexuality education is a lifelong process, sometimes beginning earlier, at home, with trusted caregivers. Learning is incremental; what is taught at the earliest ages is very different from what is taught during puberty and adolescence.
With younger learners, teaching about sexuality does not mean teaching about sex. For instance, for younger age groups, it may help children learn about their bodies and to recognise their feelings and emotions, while discussing family life and different types of relationships, decision-making, the basic principles of consent and what to do if violence, bullying or abuse occur. This type of learning establishes the foundation for healthy relationships throughout life.
What we do on sexuality education
Rutgers sees sexuality education as a lifelong learning process. We believe young people need it to inform choices in relationships and their sexual lives which are free from stigma, discrimination and violence. There is extensive scientific evidence that shows that sexuality education and information has positive effects on the healthy and safe development of children and young people.
Sexuality education and information should be for all young people. Our work is based on evidence from (scientific) research and tailored to the needs and contexts of young people. Rutgers works with experts, our partners in more than 29 countries and young people to establish and strengthen sexuality education and information. We advocate for laws, policies and regulations that guarantee access for all.
We develop tools and materials to make it easier to contextualise and deliver high quality sexuality education in different settings also in countries where sexuality is a taboo.
These tools cater for the needs of young people of different ages and abilities and from different backgrounds. They are used at home, school, in youth groups and young offenders’ institutions.