ALERT: Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in public schools in 2021

by Daniela Ellerbeck
26 November 2020

 

FOR SA has received various queries from concerned parents and teachers following a video that is currently doing the rounds on social media, regarding the teaching of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools in 2021.

The video seems to imply that, unless School Governing Bodies (SGBs) formally indicate to the Department of Basic Education (the Department) that their school will be following an alternative curriculum, the school will be forced to implement the Department’s CSE curriculum in 2021. The video urges parents to approach their SGBs as a matter of urgency, so that the SGBs can notify the Department accordingly this year still.

In this regard, please note the following facts:

  1. WHAT CANNOT BE CHANGED:  

There is only one curriculum in all public schools – the CAPS curriculum – that sets the learning outcomes for each year.  In terms of the CAPS curriculum, Life Orientation and Life Skills are mandatory subjects. Sexuality Education, in turn, is a mandatory component of Life Orientation and Life Skills.

2. WHAT CAN BE CHANGED, AND IS WITHIN THE SCHOOL’s DISCRETION:

The Department of Basic Education has prepared Scripted Lesson Plans (SLPs) (consisting of an Educator Guide for teachers, and a Learner Book for learners) to assist in the teaching of Sexuality Education. The Minister of Basic Education has conceded however that schools are not obliged to use the SLPs (which are controversial because of their explicit content) to achieve the minimum mandatory outcomes set by the CAPS curriculum. Instead, schools are free to choose their own material / resources (i.e. books) from which to teach Sexuality Education.

In other words, while the CAPS curriculum (of which Sexuality Education forms part) is not optional, schools can choose the resources / learning material (whether the Department’s SLPs, or alternative books that meet the CAPS outcomes) for teaching Sexuality Education and do not have to get the Department’s permission or notify them accordingly.

3. WHAT SHOULD CONCERNED PARENTS AND TEACHERS DO:

Schools need to choose their resources / learning material for the teaching of Sexuality Education (as for any other subject, at the end of every year) by the end of this year, so as to ensure that same is bought and available for learners by the start of the school year.

As such, there is an opportunity for parents and teachers now to recommend particular resources / material from which they would want Sexuality Education (as a mandatory component of the Life Orientation and Life Skills subjects) to be taught, to their SGB. (It is not necessarily correct however, that should they fail to do so, Government will automatically implement the SLPs. That may be what the school defaults to, but that would then be the school’s choice).

In this regard, we point out that “Smart Choices” (promoted by the social media video) is not the only alternative resource (to CSE). There are indeed various programmes that comply with CAPS, while at the same time promoting (more conservative) family and community values. For a list in this regard, see here and here for Cause for Justice’s summary of alternative programmes / books and whether they are CAPS compliant.

Kind regards,

Adv Nadene Badenhorst
FOR SA Legal Counsel