This is a topic that most curriculum development experts in most governments have to tackle. What needs to be carefully weighed up are providing the right kind of information in the right way at the right developmental stage to children. This is called scope and sequence by curriculum developers, and needs to be done by people who know a great deal about the topics plus have experience in child development.
As an experienced classroom teacher of this age group and a health educator for three decades - it concerns me that many lobby for RH/FP topics to be put into curricula at times inappropriate to the age and stage of the children. I am even unhappy with the Unesco guidelines in this respect. For me their scope and sequence is good BUT it is begun to young. I told them this at the time when they asked me to review their framework.
Even in the UK my own children had too much too soon in the way of RH/FP education and as a result the school and school system are able to tick the job off the list as 'done' but the actual education and development of the children was inadequate as they were not old enough to absorb it. What you might also find is that the teachers (who often know a lot better than those who write the guidelines and text books!) - are unwilling to cover certain topics at a young age.
Then you have the equally difficult issue of young adolescents who really do need the RH/FP inputs - not getting enough or not getting education in the right way.
In my mind the 'right way' to tackle these topics is to give enough space and discussion and using a lifeskills approach from the age 0f 10/12. Teachers' capacity needs to be developed to 'facilitate' vs 'teach' these topics and give room for discussion to the youngsters to express their views. This is even more important in an age when a lot of young adolescents are able to access information on the internet and via a phone but they do not have sufficient opportunity to make sense of the issues alongside adults who care about them and who can help tackle misinformation.
I have developed a great many lessons and sessions on these topics over the years which I would be happy to share. Another very good place to start is the 'Choices' curriculum (pupils guides and teachers books) developed by Gill Gordon alongside teachers in Zambia by the Aids Alliance many years ago. It is a fantastic piece of work and an excellent place to start.
HIFA profile: Clare Hanbury is director of Children for Health (www.childrenforhealth.org). She qualified as a teacher in the UK and then worked in schools in Kenya and Hong Kong. After an MA in Education in Developing Countries and for many years, Clare worked for The Child-to-Child Trust based at the University of London’s Institute of Education where, alongside Hugh Hawes and Professor David Morley she worked to help embed the Child-to-Child ideas of childrens participation in health – into government and non-government child health and education programmes in numerous countries. Clare has worked with these ideas alongside vulnerable groups of children such as refugees and street children. Since her MSc in International Maternal and Child Health, Clare has worked freelance and focuses on helping government and non-government programmes to design and deliver child-centered health and education programmes where children are active participants. Clare has worked in many countries in East and Southern Africa and in Pakistan, Cambodia and the Yemen. Her current passion is for distilling health information for teachers, health workers and others – into simple practical health messages actionable by children.
Email: clare.hanbury AT zen.co.uk