New e-tool for better quality comprehensive sexuality education
More than ever, countries are acknowledging the importance of ensuring young people have the knowledge and skills they need to make informed choices in their lives. In the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is increased risk of physical and mental health problems, unplanned or forced sexual activity, early and unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programmes is essential. CSE provides young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop and sustain positive, healthy relationships and protect themselves from unsafe situations. It empowers young people to treat each other with respect and dignity from an early age, learn to think about what is right and safe for them and how to avoid coercion, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and early and unintended pregnancies, and keeps children safe from abuse by teaching them about their bodies. CSE keeps pace with children and young people as they grow in years and change roles within their communities. It is a lifelong journey of learning that builds upon existing knowledge, attitudes, values, skills.
To facilitate the development of high-quality CSE programs in schools, UNESCO has released an e-tool for policy-makers, educators and curriculum developers. This e-tool, known as Sexuality Education Review and Assessment Tool (SERAT), is Excel-based and helps review school-based CSE programmes based on international evidence and good practice. It assesses the relevance of the CSE programme in relation to the national context and SRH priorities and provides strengths and gaps to inform improvement. It is also intended to stimulate debate and strengthen advocacy through producing data that is accessible to different audiences.
Joanna Herat, Team Leader in the section of Health and Education at UNESCO said while the SERAT e-tool has existed for many years and used in over 20 countries to help guide decisions about the quality of national CSE programmes, it was time for an update to reflect the revised UN International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.
“While SERAT is an extremely practical tool for policy-makers, enabling them to make evidence-based decisions on how and where to invest resources for quality and impactful CSE, it’s actually also incredibly important to young people globally. It means that CSE programs can be measured to international standards while leaving room for contextual nuances and enabling national programmes to improve,” Ms Herat said.
“If all young people had access to programmes that are periodically measured through the SERAT, then we can quickly arrive at a scenario where more learners are reached with high quality comprehensive sexuality education that meets their needs.”
Dimitri Sanga, Director of UNESCO’s Multisectoral Regional Office for West Africa in Dakar, Senegal, welcomed the revised SERAT e-tool. “The Dakar Office initially developed the SERAT to analyze comprehensive sexuality education programmes in a handful of West and Central Africa countries. The Office has been delighted to see the tool used across Africa and other continents, and to coordinate the revision that led to the 2020 version,” Mr Sanga said.
The e-tool looks at the legal and policy context for CSE, the objectives and principles used to design the CSE program, and reviews the curricula for age groups 5 – 8 years, 9 – 12 years, 12 – 15 years and 15 – 19 years in line with the revised edition of the UN International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education. The integration of CSE within the national or state curriculum is considered, alongside teaching and learning approaches, and the broader learning environment.