And who is responsible for this education: parents, teachers? Yes, Yes, and Yes, says the Czech organisation Konsent. They believe that the right education can help prevent sexual violence and harassment – in schools, and beyond. They are committed to providing teachers and students with clear and complete teaching materials. We spoke to its director and confounder Johanna Nejedlová about their activities.
(Not) part of the curriculum
In the Czech Republic, schools can decide for themselves whether – and how – they provide sex education. This means the subject is not always well-represented on the curriculum, says Johanna. ‘Many schools cover topics like STDs or pregnancies, and that’s it. But it’s not that they don’t want to do more: the problem is that there are no materials, guidelines, exercises, etc.’
At the same time, sex education it is not an easy topic. It is a complex subject that must be handled with care. Schools have to navigate through a sea of cultural and political opinions and ideas. Johanna: ‘There is always opposition surrounding this topic, and it often comes from the loudest voices. But it is not always the general opinion. We found that most teachers and parents want to provide sex education, but don't know how.’
As a result, the knowledge level of students on this subject differs enormously throughout the country. According to data from the survey of the Czech Secondary School Union. School survey report. 2020, almost half of the students do not learn relevant information about sex and sexuality at school. This leaves many children and young adults to discover the topic in other places. And just because it is such a sensitive and personal subject, this is not necessarily the best way. It perpetuates misunderstandings and prejudices and can even lead to sexual violence and harassment.
‘There is certainly a need for proper sex education,’ says Johanna. ‘47% of Czech youth claims that they learned nothing about sex in schools, but it turns out that 80% of the surveyed students consider sex education to be important and that they would like to learn about it at school.’
Beyond the birds and the bees
The founders of Konsent want to close this education gap. They developed a plan to educate teachers and guide them through the world of sex education. Their methodology goes beyond the biological aspects of the body, and focuses mainly on the social aspects of sexual life.
The result is a five-lesson plan that addresses topics such as consent to sexual activity, genital myths, gender stereotypes, sexual orientation and gender identity, respect, sexual harassment, pornography, sending intimate content. Lessons include interactive activities such as drawing genitals or recognizing consent during sex on model examples. In addition, Konsent organises workshops for teachers to enable them to help teenagers frame their sexuality, explore the relationship to their bodies, as well as boundaries, communication or pornography.
The first teachers were already trained to work with the new methodology, and fully prepared to test the materials in their classes. But here too, the COVID-19 pandemic intervened. Johanna: 'Unfortunately, we’ve been in lockdown for over a year and that has seriously delayed our tests. There was a short period in the summer where we could meet in person for trainings. We are now waiting for the schools to open again, so we can continue our work.'
Testing the material is an important part of the project: 'We will publish a methodological brochure based on the results and the feedback. This brochure will be available to the general public and anyone will be able to use it in their classes.’
Moving outside of the classroom
General awareness and availability is key to the project as well. Konsent believes that sexual education shouldn't only take place in the classroom. Johanna: 'It’s important that young adults can also get the right information at home. But how can parents speak to their kids about sex, if they haven’t received proper education themselves? That’s why we’re also developing materials for parents.'
And the organisation is not stopping there: other current and future materials and workshops are made for companies, universities and bars as well. Johanna: 'There are so many different topics that need to be covered, that we can keep on developing methodologies. We’re really building a platform for the whole community, both digital and offline.'
That there is a great need for these materials is also evident from the crowdfunding they organised. 'So far, about 750 people have contributed and that means there is a broad support. In combination with our own research we now have the data that shows this is important, that students are asking for it.'
The bigger this movement, the more leverage the organization has. For example, they already work together with various middle schools and other NGOs, and they also organise round tables with legislators and other stakeholders. Through these sessions, Konsent aims to realise concrete proposals for changes in the framework of sex education. 'But the ultimate goal is to stop existing, to not be needed,' says Johanna.
For now, the most compelling evidence of their good work are the stories of participants, says Johanna: 'We get messages and feedback from participants, telling us how we helped them and how it’s changed their lives. And that’s just a great motivation, it really reminds us of why we’re doing it.'
About the project
The project ‘No taboo in front of the blackboard’ provides teachers with a clear methodology on how to teach sexual education – and is therefore contributing on the prevention of sexual violence and harassment in primary and secondary schools. The main goal of the project is to They are intended for pupils in the 8th and 9th grades of primary schools and for students in the 1st and 2nd year of secondary schools. To support teachers further, they organise training sessions and seminars on the topic.
Since the beginning of the project, the project team has managed not only to create a methodological basis for teaching sex education, but also to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign to create awareness about the importance of sexual education in Czech schools.
Find all information about their activities on the Konsent website