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26 Feb, 2010 06:20

The birds and the bees for German kids

In Germany, sex education is compulsory for pupils aged eight upwards, and opting-out on religious or cultural grounds is not allowed. While some parents deem it is right, others say such classes should be abandoned.

The advice column team at Bravo newspaper fields hundreds of questions daily. The letters come from teenagers who are curious about their bodies, reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sex.

Marthe-Anna Kniep is the counselor behind the column. She believes that talking to young people about sex does not condone sexual practice, but prepares them for sexual life and protects them.

“I know that some parents underestimate the sexual activities of their daughters and sons. So, it is also a good thing that they get basic information at school”, says Marthe Kniep.

Many parents in Germany share this approach.

“Here in Central Europe definitely the kids have a lot of burning questions, and so the school is well-advised to answer them, and parents of course are also in the picture, but I think it’s a very good thing that the schools conduct sex education here”, says a dad whose son is to start his sexual education classes next year.

However, while many parents have come to accept the lessons, others will not agree. Mandatory attendance at such classes, regardless of the parents’ religious beliefs has sparked controversy among some parents and those in the religious community. Some adults would be more supportive of a curriculum that focused on parents.

“Show parents, educate parents how to execute their responsibilities while they are educating their children. My view is to educate parents. They can make the difference,” says one of the parents, Helge Beer.

“I understand parents who want to decide on their own when they give their children all the information about sexuality and the development and the body. But I know about 25 per cent of boys and girls, even in Germany, cannot talk about these topics,” argues Marthe Kniep.

The issue was even brought to court when two parents argued that lessons at their sons’ schools infringed upon their religious beliefs and their rights as parents. The court has so far disagreed.