Sexuality Education in Austria is comprehensive and supported by the government through a strong policy. It is part of the obligatory educational programme, which starts in primary school (around the age of 10) and ends in secondary school.
Implementation of Sexuality Education
In Austria Sexuality Education is integrated into different subjects. In Biology classes children approach the topic of Sexuality for the first time in primary school. The children start learning about basic aspects of it, such as body anatomy, the importance of proper body hygiene and puberty. Sometimes it is taught to the children by using more non formal education methods like playing games or showing short videos.
In middle and secondary school the topic Sexuality Education appears again and themes like biological aspects, pregnancy, contraception, love, marriage gender roles, HIV, sexual and domestic violence are treated. Youngsters approach these topics not only in classes, but also through different NGOs which provide sexual and reproductive health information for young people, disseminated mainly via mass media or social media. There are also additional programmes funded by the government, which consist in conducting workshops at schools in order to inform students about different topics related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
The Ministry of Education is responsible for the curriculum. Inputs for it were provided by representatives of other ministries as well as by teachers, educational experts and health professionals, all of whom participated in a working group.
Despite having a very comprehensive outline for Sexuality education in Austria there are gaps that are still existing.
Main gaps are: lack of well-trained teachers, religious aspects or conservative parents.
Some parents think this kind of education is inappropriate and encourages their children to have sex, but studies show that students, who receive formal sex education in schools are prone to first have sexual intercourse later than students who have not had sex education. Sex education does not encourage teenagers to have sex, it does quite the opposite. Correct and age-appropriate information, including information about sexually transmitted infections, the proper use of contraceptives and other important aspects, actually lowers teen pregnancy and STIs infection rates. In addition, often teenagers are either already sexually active or are curious about sex life, and in the same time many of them are not receiving such information from their parents. Access to comprehensive, medically accurate sex education is a human right and sex education should not be limited to certain people because of their parents´ views; educational systems should reflect this need of young people.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is a very important issue and a natural part in everyone´s daily life. This has been proven again and again. Young people make healthier decisions and face problems regarding relationships and sexuality with greater confidence, if they have the right information and are well prepared through the educational system. However, there is still much too little attention given to this topic.
Every young person regardless of gender, origin, religion or values should have the opportunity to receive proper and comprehensive education about SRHR. Just like Math, Sexuality Education should be a mandatory subject in schools all around the world, because knowledge is for everyone!