12 August 2010 (Thursday)
4th Asian Conference on Sexuality Education 2010
Speech by Mr Michael M Y SUEN, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
Professor Ngan, Dr Greer, Professor Cheung, Ms Yan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am pleased to join you at the 4th Asian Conference on Sexuality Education (ACSE). Let me first extend a very warm welcome to those of you who have travelled to Hong Kong to attend this Conference.
I would also like to thank the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong for organising this meaningful event which promotes exchanges of new knowledge and skills on sexuality education across the region. The Association was established in 1950 as a leading non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting sexual and reproductive health in Hong Kong. And in 1952 it became one of the eight founding members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The Association is currently serving over 400,000 users every year through its wide range of clinical, educational and information services. Today, on the occasion of its hosting the 4th Asian Conference, it is a fitting celebration of the Association's Diamond and Jubilee Anniversary. My sincere congratulations to the Association for its many achievements to the community of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is noted for its vibrancy. Its skyline and its social fabrics are never left static for too long. These have resulted in fundamental shifts in family structure, working patterns and use of technologies. Nowadays, our children tend to spend more time in front of television, games stations or on the Internet. And so, there is a tendency for lesser opportunities to develop intimate family attachments and to have face-to-face interactions with people around them. According to recent studies, our young people nowadays are becoming more sexually active at an earlier age. The modelling and social function of family may not work as we did in the past because of fewer siblings and more working parents. Peers and the media have assumed greater influences on children and youths in terms of passing on values, ideas and behaviours. The unimpeded flow of information, including sexualised messages, delivered by television, the Internet and mobile phones makes it harder for parents to "gatekeep" the messages their children are exposed to. All these pose unprecedented obstacles in the provision of sexuality education. It points to the fact that we need to make greater efforts in helping our young people develop a healthy sexuality attitude and a higher sense of awareness to protect themselves from harm and abuse.
In Hong Kong, our school curriculum seeks to nurture the whole-person development of students. Important values, such as respect and care for others, responsibility and commitment, are instilled into students' mind to enable them to exercise proper value judgements when facing challenges arising from puberty and handling sexuality issues. Programmes are regularly organised to enhance teachers' knowledge, skills and competency in promoting sex education. Relevant learning and teaching resource materials are also produced to support schools.
We keep our curriculum under constant review to ensure that they cater for present-day circumstances. Last September, we started to implement a new curriculum for our senior secondary students, which is called the NSS curriculum in short. The new curriculum seeks to provide broader and more balanced education so as to enable every student to have all-round development who can contribute in meaningful ways in the society. Most important of all, we strive to equip our young people with the ability and desire to pursue lifelong learning.
Under the NSS curriculum, all students have to study four core subjects, one of which is Liberal Studies. In this subject, students explore contemporary issues through which they learn to develop critical thinking skills and a stronger sense of positive citizenship. Sex education elements are covered to strengthen students' understanding of sexuality issues, and enhance their ability to analyse and judge related personal and social issues with rational and responsible attitudes.
We also review and update our primary and junior secondary curriculum to meet the developmental needs of the younger generation. For instance, a new subject "Life and Society" will be offered at junior secondary level in 2012 to strengthen the provision of sex education.
Apart from school curriculum, a favourable school ethos and life-wide learning opportunities are conducive to developing students' positive values and attitudes in discussing sexuality issues. Schools are encouraged to create warm, caring and open atmosphere for students to discuss their personal growth and sexuality issues. Various life-wide learning activities such as talks, forum, debates and visits are also provided.
Other than Government and schools, parents are key players to accompany their children to grow up and to foster children's sexual awareness. Support is also provided to parents through various channels, including the parents-teachers associations in schools and non-governmental organisations like the Hong Kong Family Planning Association in the community.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we need to help our younger generation to develop a healthy lifestyle and responsible attitude so that they are better equipped to handle the increasingly more complex sexuality issues in today's world. Such work requires the concerted efforts of schools, parents and the community. It is also important to share good practices and valuable experiences in the delivery of sexuality education. The conference today gathers concerned stakeholders and academics in the region for such meaningful exchanges. I wish you all a most fruitful time at the conference. Thank you!