MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Health secretary Esperanza Cabral said sex education should be taught as early as kindergarten, and not when a teen is already pregnant.
"Actually, maski kindergarten dapat binibigyan ng konting information tungkol diyan. Hindi yung kapag buntis na, saka pa lang makakaalam kung papaano siya nabuntis. Mula pa sa batang edad, dapat may pagtuturo na appropriate sa kanilang edad," Cabral told reporters at the sidelines of the Conferment of Presidential Citation to Agencies Involved in Anti-Poverty Programs in Malacanang.
The Department of Education (DepEd) is going to start offering sex education this schoolyear on a pilot testing program to students in some public schools in grades 5 and 6, and high school. Sex education will be integrated in subjects such as science and values education.
According to Cabral, DepEd should be able to expound on what topics will be discussed in the sex education lessons in each grade or year level in the program. The Department of Health (DOH) is ready to provide technical assistance to DepEd in the program implementation.
DepEd secretary Mona Valisno said the experimental program will be carried out in 79 out of 6,000 public high schools, and in 80 public elementary schools in the country.
The coverage of sex education classes will be based on materials prepared by experts, psychologists and educators. Among the topics to be taught is the importance of making the right decision and avoiding vices.
"That is the general terminology but it will be what will be appropriate to certain level of grade and age level kaya may specialist, psychologist na gumawa ng materials na ito," Valisno said.
"There are areas by which they could expose themselves to preventive measures to protect themselves [from] getting things like infections [and] diseases," Valisno said.
Program results will be presented to various sectors, including the Catholic church.
Malacañang wants to include the church in consultations to be conducted about this matter, said executive secretary Leandro Mendoza.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), on the other hand, expressed dismay at Cabral's positioin that sex education should be taught in kindergarten.
"Nakakagulat. Di maintindihan kung ano ang ibig niyang sabihin. Nakaka-shock yun, ituturo ang reproduction, safe sex sa kinder," said Msgr. Quitorio, CBCP spokesman.
According to Msgr. Quitorio, "lahat naman ng panahon, may tanong, may tamang sagot. Di mo isasagot sa kinder ang para sa teenager. Malaking kamalian yun."
He said parents have the responsibility to explain to their children answers to questions such as why they have siblings and where they came from.
Msgr. Quitorio added that a child is not taught to hold a gun. The same should be true of sex education.
Sex education is oriented toward reproduction, explained Msgr. Quitorio, and he believes there is no appropriate sex education for kindergarten.
But he said the Catholic church has long been teaching sex education in the right context and to the right ages. Sex is not just an act but is something sacred. "Hindi dapat tinuturo ng ganun na lang," he said.
The right time to teach sex education, according to Msgr. Quitorio, is when students are in third year high school. -- Report from Willard Cheng and Niña Corpuz, ABS-CBN News.