Why Holland Is Teaching It’s Kids About Sex From A Young Age

Kindergarteners attend the opening assembly for Spring Fever week at the St Jan de Doperschool in Utrecht, the Netherlands. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker

Holland, the small European state is world renowned for its views on sex, liberal politics, from tolerant drug laws to liberal beliefs on prostitution and gay rights it is a world leader in open mindedness and liberalism.

Its liberal views are held up not only by its citizens but through its government and education system.

An education system that sees school children as young as four being taught about sex.

However the results of educating children as young as four has had surprising results.

Teaching children at a young age is ensuring that they don’t get pregnant. Or rather they get pregnant are a dramatically lower rate.

Holland has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in Europe. In 2009 there were 5.3 teen pregnancies per 1000 women between the ages of 15-19 in Holland, compared to 23.8 per thousand in Great Britain. In the United States the rate of pregnancy dwarfed even the UK in the same year with 39.1 teen pregnancies per 1000 women.

So it would appear that if Dutch children are being educated about sex at a young age, they are certainly having safe sex, because they are failing pregnant at far lower rates than other Western industrialized countries.

Many people recoil in horror at the thought of young children being taught sex in schools at a young age, with arguments being made that it robs the children of their innocence but Dutch educators refute that idea.

Ineke van der Vlugt, who works for the Dutch sexuality research institute Rutgers WPF(who administer the Netherlands sex education curriculum) explains there is so much more to the sex education they deliver than just educating kids about intercourse.

They have what is known as a comprehensive sex education in Dutch schools. So while the building blocks of sex ed start at a very young age with talks about feelings and emotions it continues throughout their adolescence. These lessons get them thinking from an early age about intimacy and being aware of their own bodies.

By seven years old they are expected to properly name their body parts including their genitals. They learn about different types of families and how a baby grows in a mother’s womb.

By the age of eleven they are taught about different types of contraception, but van der Vlugt argues that these lessons are teaching the children about more than just the actual act of sex. She says;

“People often think we are starting right away to talk about sexual intercourse with kindergartners. Sexuality is so much more than that. It’s also about self image, developing your own identity, gender roles and its about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.”

Despite the scare stories in the press about young kids putting condoms on bananas and contraception being given out wantonly, Dutch education emphasizes the seriousness of all areas of sex, from consent, the significance of losing your virginity and the consequences of a potential pregnancy.

It would appear that this comprehensive approach, what is known as an “empowerment and respect” agenda to sex education would appear to be working.

Teenagers in Holland on average lose their virginity a year later than those in the UK, with British teenagers on average losing their virginity at the age of sixteen and a half.

Their abortion rates for teenagers are also some of the lowest in Europe. Dutch teenage girls (15-19) have 3.9 abortions per thousand compared to 21.3 per thousand in the UK and 30.2 per thousand in the US.

Again these figures would suggest that the Dutch method, ensures that if their teenagers are have sex, they are having safe sex.