Best Practices in Sex Education Implemented by Local Governments (Summary)

1 Project Objective

Knowledge about sex and health is vital in order for women to live according to their own plans based on their own initiative. Although the national Government has policies in place that aim to enhance sex education throughout the general educational system, the way these policies are being implemented varies from region to region. This project highlights best practices in sex education projects lead by prefectural governments. The objective of this project is to contribute to the promotion of sex education within educational institutions throughout Japan through the wide sharing of these practices.

2 Research Method

Information was first gathered from publicly available resources on the sex education projects being implemented across Japan. Interviews were then conducted over the phone with the people in charge of each project. An independent team selected the projects to be highlighted as best practices based on the criteria below.

  • Basic policies on sex education
    • Clear prefectural policies relating to sex education
    • Implementation of sex education activities led by the prefectural government targeting educational institutions
  • Implementation of effective and sustainable projects
    • Theme selection based on prefectural issues
    • Continuation for at least 3 years; implementation of project evaluation initiatives
  • Collaboration with local stakeholders
    • Cooperation with major community stakeholders, such as boards of education, medical providers, and so on.

Lastly, face-to-face interviews were conducted with people from the governments of the following prefectures, which were selected as the places where the very best practices are being implemented (in alphabetical order):

  • Aomori Prefecture
  • Gunma Prefecture
  • Niigata Prefecture (including Kashiwazaki City, Tokamachi City, and Minamiuonuma City, which are all collaborating with the Niigata Prefectural Government).
  • Saitama Prefecture

3 Research Results

Key takeaways on the promotion of effective sex education projects are as follows.

  • Policy on the implementation of sex education
    • Prefectures should have clear policies for sex education, including frameworks for sex education, or the inclusion of sex education in in prefectural education plans.
    • Prefectures should use a combination of budgets to fund initiatives, including Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) comprehensive school health support project funding, local government budgets (which may come from multiple departments and municipal budgets), and school budgets.
  • Activities
    • Planning: Project themes should be based on region-specific issues, recent issues, and school needs
      • Prefectures should set themes based on MEXT’s Courses of Study, the opinions of regional health care providers and education stakeholders, and feedback from school teachers and students.
    • Implementation: Project should use scientifically correct information and concrete examples
      • Prefectures should make use of medical experts such as obstetricians, gynecologists, and midwives as external lecturers to teach about recent issues in sex education and other specialized topics.
      • An agreement should be reached in advance about the circumstances of each school and the mind and body development of the students among school teachers, external lecturers, local government officials before external lecturers conduct classes for students. In addition, prefectures can work to promote an even quality of classes by encouraging lecturers to share opinions and presentation materials.
      • The sharing of best practices and concrete lesson plans can help reduce the burden on teachers and improve the quality of classes.
    • Evaluation and Improvements: Prefectures should implement project evaluation research
      • Prefectures should conduct quantitative and qualitative research studies and analyses that consider the opinions of project participants, and changes in knowledge levels before and after the implementation of each project. The results of such studies should be discussed with relevant stakeholders and reflected in plans for subsequent fiscal years.
  • Collaboration among stakeholders
    • Sex education projects for educational institutions are usually carried out by the school health education divisions in each prefectural government. These divisions should work for collaboration with other health and medical divisions in order to facilitate the introduction of external lecturers to schools, or the provision of information on individual health topics.
    • Prefectures should collaborate with local medical associations, dentist associations, pharmacist associations, and midwives to reflect the opinions of experts to the contents of sex education classes, and to facilitate dispatches of external lecturers to schools.

Best Practices Implemented by Local Governments

Sexual and reproductive health education by obstetrician/gynecologists that has been integrated into local curriculum for 35 years
Providing learning opportunities to all students by incorporating sex education into the prefectural education plan
Providing sexual and reproductive health education (AIDS/STD Prevention) through a community- and needs-based approach led by health centers
Providing equal opportunities for all students to acquire the same level of knowledge by enhancing teaching materials and teacher training

4 Main Lessons on the Promotion of Sex Education

HGPI’s view on the promotion of sex education by local governments is as follows.

  • Support for sex education projects by the national Government
    • Local government initiatives could be strengthened by further efforts by the national Government to communicate the importance of sex education.
    • Evidence-based classes help students understand that sex education issues affect them personally, and that helps them remember the lessons. A framework should be set up to allow schools to easily acquire batches of current, usable, and reliable national and local data.
  • Use of external lecturers
    • The use of regional health care providers as external lecturers can be helpful to students, because they can offer concrete examples from local areas as well as expert knowledge. These lectures also tend to be interesting for students, so students remember them.
    • When dispatching health care providers to schools, time should be set aside to allow students to share contact information with providers or have a consultation with them in order to solve the problems of the students.
  • Training teachers and external instructors
    • When dispatching external lecturers for sex education lessons, it is better to select people who have received appropriate training on the actual situation at the school they will visit, as well as the school’s thoughts about sex education.
    • It is difficult for external lecturers to handle everything. Health education and health teachers will continue to be important stakeholders responsible for health classes. On the other hand, some research respondents have noted that health education and health teachers do not seem very interested in teaching such classes. Moving forward, the importance of sex education and related knowledge should be communicated not only directly to teachers, but also as a part of the teaching license acquisition process.
  • Sharing other sex education project best practices
    • This project focused on activities by prefectural governments, but many other municipalities, professional bodies, educational institutions, and civil society organizations are conducting sex education projects as well. A platform should be established to share best practices.
  • Measuring the impact of education
    • Some interviewees stated a desire for the creation of concrete methods that could be used to measure the impact of education over the medium- to long-term. It is important that measurement indicators and methods be established in order to improve sex education initiatives even further.

The Project Team

  • Yuko Imamura (HGPI, Senior Associate)
  • Mariko Oyamada (HGPI, Vice President)
  • Yukiko Yoshida (HGPI, Program Specialist)

(In Japanese syllabary order)

Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) conducted this survey with the financial support of Bayer Yakuhin, Ltd. and MSD K.K. The Sponsor’s opinions were solicited, but HGPI exercised independent judgment in determining whether any such opinions should be reflected in the survey.