The role of the education sector in CSE

The education sector includes both formal, school-based programming and informal, community-based programming.

Advantages to school-based CSE

  • Reaching a critical number of youth at one time. In most countries, children between the ages of 5 and 13 spend relatively large amounts of time in school. This provides the school with a practical means of reaching large numbers of young people from diverse backgrounds in ways that are replicable and sustainable.
  • The ability of school authorities to regulate many aspects of the learning environment to make it protective and supportive.
  • Cost-effectiveness in contributing to HIV prevention and to ensuring the rights of young people to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education and services (UNESCO, 2011a; 2016c).
  • The ability of schools to act as social support centres that can link children, parents, families, and communities with other services (e.g. health services).
  • Availability of teachers skilled in providing age- and developmentally appropriate learning experiences for children and young people, and young people viewing schools and teachers as trustworthy sources of information.
  • Young people experiencing at school their puberty, as well as their first relationships, including possible sexual ones. This makes it even more important to provide age-appropriate and phased education about rights, relationships, and SRH, as well as providing a gender perspective to children and young people through formal education.

Importance of non-formal and community-based settings

  • Significant numbers of youth worldwide do not attend school. Approximately 263 million children and young people between the ages of 6 and 15 are not attending school or have dropped out (UNESCO, 2016a). Non-formal settings, such as community centres, sports clubs, scout groups, faith-based organizations, vocational facilities, health institutions, and online platforms and resources, among others, play an essential role in education, including CSE (IPPF, 2016).
  • Community-based settings reach some of the most vulnerable youth. Out-of-school youth are among the most vulnerable and marginalized youth populations, especially in countries where school attendance is low or where adequate CSE is not included as part of the national curriculum.
  • Community-based settings supplement school-based programmes. Young people who do attend school also often go to community-based CSE programmes during weekends, evenings, and school holidays. Attendance at these programmes often complements and expands on content offered via classroom-based CSE. For example, in some parts of the world, teachers are prohibited from conducting condom demonstrations in classrooms, but most community-based settings do not have these restrictions. In addition, formal classroom lessons are time-limited, while community-based settings can offer programming that goes beyond a typical 40- to 50-minute class period.
  • Community-based CSE can support parents and community leaders. Typically, in-school programming is directed towards young people. CSE offered in non-formal and community settings offers opportunities to sensitize parents and community leaders. It can also establish and support stronger connections with SRH services. 

[Source: UNESCO. 2017. International technical guidance on sexuality education, p. 19.]

The health sector focuses primarily on treating or helping people avoid undesirable or unhealthy outcomes of sexual health (unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, STIs, physiological and psychological consequences of sexual violence, etc.). It is also an important partner in sexuality education programmes.