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Sex education is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, and other aspects of human sexual behavior. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, school programs, and public health campaigns.
Sex education may also be described as "sexuality education," which means that it encompasses education about all aspects of sexuality, including information about reproduction (fertilisation,conception and development of the embryo and fetus, through to childbirth), plus information about all aspects of one's sexuailty including: body image, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, values, decision making, communication, dating, relationships,sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and how to avoid them, and birth control methods.
Sex education may be taught informally, such as when someone receives information from a conversation with a parent, friend, religious leader, or through the media. It may also be delivered through sex self-help authors, magazine advice columnists, sex columnists, or through sex education web sites. Formal sex education occurs when schools offer sex education.
Sometimes formal sex education is taught as a full course as part of the curriculum in junior high school or high school. Other times it is only one unit within a more broad health class, home economics class, or physical education class. Some schools offer no sex education, since it remains a controversial issue in several countries, particularly the United States (especially with regard to the age at which children should start receiving such education, the amount of detail that is revealed, and topics dealing with human sexual behavior, eg. safe sex practices, masturbation, premarital sex, and sexual ethics).
In 1936, Wilhelm Reich commented that sex education of his time was a work of deception, focusing on biology while concealing excitement-arousal, which is what a pubescent individual is mostly interested in. Reich added that this emphasis obscures what he believed to be a basic psychological principle: that all worries and difficulties originate from unsatisfied sexual impulses.
When sex education is contentiously debated, the chief controversial points are whether covering child sexuality is valuable or detrimental; the use of birth control such as condoms and hormonal contraception; and the impact of such use on pregnancy outside marriage, teenage pregnancy, and the transmission of STIs. Increasing support for abstinence-only sex education by conservative groups has been one of the primary causes of this controversy. Countries with conservative attitudes towards sex education (including the UK and the U.S.) have a higher incidence of STIs and teenage pregnancy.
The existence of AIDS has given a new sense of urgency to the topic of sex education. In many African nations, where AIDS is at epidemic levels (see HIV/AIDS in Africa), sex education is seen by most scientists as a vital public health strategy. Some international organizations such as Planned Parenthood consider that broad sex education programs have global benefits, such as controlling the risk of overpopulation and the advancement of women's rights (see also reproductive rights).
According to SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 93% of adults they surveyed support sexuality education in high school and 84% support it in junior high school. In fact, 88% of parents of junior high school students and 80% of parents of high school students believe that sex education in school makes it easier for them to talk to their adolescents about sex. Also, 92% of adolescents report that they want both to talk to their parents about sex and to have comprehensive in-school sex education.