The controversy over the explicit nature of the sex education course material for schools has put the Delhi government on the defensive. And though Union ministers Renuka Chowdhury and Ambumani Ramadoss insist there is nothing wrong with the material, it has decided to withdraw Volume 1 of the teacher’s handbook Yuva.
Volume 1 is meant for classes VI-VIII and Volume 2 for classes IX-XII. The book was prepared by the Department of Education, Delhi and Delhi State AIDS Control Society on the basis of a module developed by the HRD Ministry and National AIDS Control Society (NACO).
Delhi Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely told HT a new handbook is being readied under the Adolescence Education Programme (AEP), which will consolidate both volumes, sans the objectionable portions. He claimed Volume 1 was withdrawn soon after its introduction in 2005, on the recommendation of a committee. He also admitted he was not aware of the controversial content till the recent media reports, saying: “I can’t be expected to know each and every detail in all the books.”
Teachers, however, say both volumes were used to train them during seminars in 2006. Both the curriculum and seminars did not go down well with them. “Teachers were very upset about it. It encouraged some people to ask very embarrassing questions to women teachers,” the vice-principal of a government school said. One teacher revealed that at the seminar she attended — a gathering of both sexes — all present were asked to relate their first sexual experience.
The Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, which launched an agitation on July 14 for withdrawal of the books, claims the government planned to implement the programme in 2007 but backtracked after gauging the public mood.
Another educational aid for AEP is a 66-page ‘flip chart’ produced jointly by UNICEF and NACO. The first section of the chart has realistic illustrations of naked people of both sexes at different ages, and detailed drawings of the male and female genitalia. The second section on ‘sexually transmitted infections’ — which 15-year-old boys and girls are required to view together — has graphic illustrations of the male and female sexual organs as they appear with STI.
NACO has also agreed to a review. “The course material is going to be reviewed, but the process hasn’t started. We don’t think there is anything wrong with the books, but perceptions vary,” said director Suresh Kumar.
Social activists and teachers are demanding that their views be taken into account. “Academicians, psychologists and those opposing this programme should also be involved in the review,” said Dinanath Batra, secretary, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. “We accept sex education is a must. But the manner in which it is sought to be taught is objectionable. It could have a negative impact on students,” said Satish Tokas, senior vice-president, Delhi Government Teachers’ Association. “Since teachers will be the ones implementing this programme, they should be involved in its formulation.”
(With inputs from Sanchita Sharma)