SEX EDUCATION IN POLAND
How is sex education taught in Poland? Are these classes compulsory? Who can teach ‘wychowanie do życia w rodzinie’ (‘Family Life’ classes – the Polish equivalent of sex education)? Below you will find information on sex education in Poland, ‘Family Life’ classes, textbooks, as well as our comments and some links to other sources and literature.
In terms of law, sex education in Polish public schools appeared in 1993, when the Act of 7 January 1993 on Family Planning, Protection of Human Foetus and Pregnancy Termination came into force. Article 4 (1) states that courses on the sexual life of an individual, principles of conscious and responsible parenthood, the value of the family, life in the prenatal phase, as well as on methods and measures of conscious procreation shall be introduced into school curricula.
Under this Act, the Ministry of National Education is obliged to conduct sex education classes in schools, and the government has to prepare a report on the implementation of this law every year.
The course details (its organization, content) are set out in the regulations of the Ministry of National Education. The latest regulation on ‘Family Life’ classes can be found here. Through this subject the Ministry of National Education implements the provisions of the Act of 7 January 1993.
‘Family Life’ classes – organization
According to the education reform in 2017, ‘Family Life’ classes are conducted in grades 4-8 of primary schools, in sectoral vocational schools stage I, in grades 1-3 of general secondary schools and in grades 1-3 of technical secondary schools. Under the regulations of the Ministry of National Education, 14 hours per year are dedicated to such classes, of which 5 hours are spent in separate groups of girls and boys only. In principle, the classes are compulsory, but it is possible to withdraw a child (or yourself if you’re 18) from the course.
We think not enough time is dedicated to these classes. They are often neglected. ‘Family Life’ classes are taught early in the morning or late in the afternoon, so many people decide not to attend them. What’s more, we think it is unnecessary to divide the class into girls and boys; the knowledge that girls gain (e.g. facts about menstruation) is as important for them as for boys. There is also no knowledge that should be available only to boys.
‘Family Life’ classes – core curriculum
The core curriculum, which describes obligatory content and skills to be acquired by students during ‘Family Life’ classes, was changed in 2017 and can be accessed via this link.
We have severe reservations about the core curriculum. Its authors focused principally on family. In the whole document, the word ‘family’ is used 173 times, while the word ‘sex’ is used only twice (in relation to cybersex and sexual addiction). The topic of sexuality is looked at more often, but mainly in the footnotes in reference to textbooks. Contraception is discussed very rarely, and each time, it is juxtaposed with natural family planning and compared almost to abortion. Although such topics as sexuality or puberty do appear, the whole curriculum imposes some values and beliefs. What’s more, sexual orientations are not mentioned anywhere! We think that it is harmful and dangerous to share with children such ideologically based, factually incorrect knowledge which does not satisfy the needs of young people.
‘Family Life’ classes – textbooks
The Ministry of National Education accepted one series of ‘Family Life’ classes textbooks. These are textbooks by Teresa Król entitled “Wędrując ku dorosłości” (published by Rubikon).
Their content is out of date, contradicts the facts, cultivates myths and stereotypes. What kind of myths? Women are presented mainly as mothers, but the role of a father is not stressed in the case of men. What’s more, the textbooks lack objectivity and are largely based on Catholic doctrine. Cyber violence and sexting are not discussed exhaustively. The textbooks are full of preposterous statements, for example: ‘For many young people, masturbation is a problem; they admit they feel bad and would like to be able to refrain from masturbating. Let’s not dramatize. We should treat it like this: I know such behaviour is immature, but I want to be mature, so I will make a great effort to solve the problem.’ Some fragments are even dangerous, for example: ‘A gynecologist is not a dentist. Regular appointments are not necessary at your age. If a girl feels well and there is someone she trusts, who can answer her questions and resolve her doubts (preferably her mum), she doesn’t need an appointment.
‘Family Life’ classes – teachers
For several years, on teachers online forums, there have been many questions as to who can teach ‘Family Life’ classes. According to Article 6 of the Regulation of the Ministry of National Education of 12 August 1999 on the way of teaching and on the content of ‘Family Life’ classes, the course can be taught by a person who is qualified to teach in a given educational establishment and has a university degree in family science or has completed postgraduate studies/received adequate training relating to the content of ‘Family Life’ classes, in relation to the Regulation on the qualifications of teachers.
It’s open to interpretation because on the market, there are many courses and studies concerning sex education, and teachers have doubts about what to choose in order to have required qualifications.
In the end, it’s the headteacher who assesses those qualifications and employs somebody. According to our reports, ‘Family Life’ classes are most often (31%) taught by biology, science or ecology teachers. History, civics, culture and art teachers represent another 20% of ‘Family Life’ teachers. 16% of people giving ‘Family Life’ classes do not teach any other subject. In 12% of cases, ‘Family Life’ classes are conducted by religion teachers.