THE controversial Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum, which was withdrawn from secondary schools by the Ministry of Education last week following revelations of content deemed inappropriate, is being rewritten and will be ready for reintroduction to the schools in two months, the ministry said on Thursday.
Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites ordered an immediate withdrawal of the manual, developed with the assistance of a number of local and international agencies, following media reports of the graphic sexual questions being asked of students in grades seven to nine.
The offending questions that sought to ascertain the sexual behaviour of students disturbed many parents and teachers and brought into question the process under which curricula are approved by the education ministry.
In a release Thursday, the ministry said the controversial pages in the manual would be removed immediately and a broadbased committee would be established to review the Sex and Sexuality component of the curriculum. The group will be chaired by the deputy chief education officer for curriculum and support services, Sharon Neil.
The release said to prevent any further disruption to the HFLE programme, schools would be advised to utilise the second edition of the curriculum — which was not published with the controversial pages — until the current curriculum is reviewed.
“Following the revision of the Sex and Sexuality component, broad-based consultations will be held to ensure that the new version reflects and upholds appropriate family values, cultural norms and principles of tolerance and respect for all,” the release stated.
It is expected that the recall of the curriculum and the adjustments will be completed within two months.
Commenting Thursday, Thwaites said most of the curriculum would still be used, as only the offending sections were being taken out.
“The course itself is good, the material is excellent and the vast majority of it is worthy and it will continue unabated,” he said.
The news release also said that the HFLE curriculum was prepared by representatives of the ministry and that the external partners who supported the process of curriculum development were not involved in the drafting of the controversial sections of the HFLE curriculum.
Those external partners included the United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nation’s Population Agency, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, in addition to Jamaica’s National Family Planning Board and the National HIV Programme.
Earlier this week, some health educators and stakeholders expressed disappointment at the withdrawal of the manual, saying that there was extensive consultation among stakeholders about the curriculum before it was introduced in schools, and that its content was well known by guidance counsellors and teachers.
The health educators said the offending sections were important because adolescents were having sex and that some teens in Jamaica were having anal sex.