RSE deemed a failure after major academic review

RSE deemed a failure after major academic review

Relationships and Sex Education is deemed a failure following Major Academic Review.

A review of studies into global school-based Comprehensive Sex Education (another name for RSE) programmes has recently been conducted by the Institute for Research and Evaluation – New Published Study on Comprehensive Sex Education. “Re-Examining the Evidence for School-based Comprehensive Sex Education: A Global Research Review”, found that globally only 6% of the 103 studies on RSE programmes found any positive evidence of effectiveness, and showed that, overall, there is more evidence of harm than of positive outcomes from such programmes. They found 87% of RSE had failed in its primary purpose and 16% of worldwide programmes were shown to cause harm, including such things as a decrease in condom use, combined with an increase in sexual activity, of partners, oral sex, forced sex, STD’s and pregnancies. The negative impact was even higher for programmes delivered in Africa, whereby 24% of the programmes were shown to have caused harm. See the full report here – institute-research.com

The aim of the review was to look at whether studies showed that CSE reduced the number of both teenage pregnancies and STI’s, as this is what CSE programmes were primarily designed to achieve, on the basis that “these programmes work.” What the evidence in the review has found, however, is that they don’t work. The main factors considered by the review were to look at whether there was consistent condom use and/or abstinence from sexual activity following such programmes, and to see whether the programmes had been effective in maintaining the achievement of these goals continually for at least 12 months after programme delivery. They also looked at whether RSE programmes produced any negative outcomes across the entire target population. The studies reviewed looked at programmes that were implemented in schools, and were conducted by 3 major official agencies that had undertaken their own outcome-research of RSE programmes: the US Government’s Health and Human Service Teen Pregnancy Prevention Project, the US Centre for Disease Control, and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Out of the 6 programmes which showed any sign of effectiveness, 2 showed less effectiveness with condom use, and even fewer programmes actually measured pregnancy or STI’s as an outcome, so there is little evidence to suggest that RSE has any effectiveness with reducing these problems. 

43 studies of 39 Comprehensive Sex Education programmes were looked at internationally, outside of the US, and only 3 showed evidence of effectiveness. The executive summary notes, “In the U.S., the evidence, though limited, appeared somewhat better for abstinence education”. Of these 3 programmes, none of them showed a complete overall effectiveness: 1 found a reduction in sexual abstinence in teens, one found a reduction in teen pregnancy, and one found a reduction in STD rates, although none showed an increase in both abstinence and condom use. 9 of these 39 programmes were found to produce negative effects. 

None of the programmes on US school-based CSE found sustained reductions in teen pregnancy or STDs, or increased condom use; most of them didn’t even measure these outcomes and evidence from one programme had shown an actual increase in teen pregnancy. The review found more evidence of failure than success, and evidence of harmful impacts.  6 out of 60 programmes in the US were found to have harmful effects, which is a rate of 10%. They found that those showing some positive effects, such as reduced rate in teenage pregnancy, did not show consistency: teenage pregnancy may have been reduced immediately after the programme, but had increased 10 months after the programme. The review also showed that US programmes which had claimed to be effective actually had no effect or even had negative effects, such as an increase of sexual activity initially after the programme.

Overall, the review deemed Comprehensive Sex Education ineffective and a failure, but also to be harmful in some cases. There was no evidence to suggest that any one programme was effective with all the main factors they claim to address, such as teenage pregnancy, reductions in teenage STI’s or even promoting teenage sexual abstinence. 

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