Students to get sex education
Teachers and school administrators are gearing up to launch a nationwide programme to better educate young students on sexual health as part of efforts to bring down the high number of teenage mothers.
The move follows the Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem Act coming into force last month.
With guidance from the Education Ministry, teachers and school administrators will be given lessons in sex education and an appropriate attitude towards sex education by specialists.
"Many teachers still perceive sex as a taboo subject and believe that teaching sexuality will lead young students to engage in more sex. We need to change their attitude to reduce the problems," said education permanent secretary Kamchorn Tatiyakawee. He said the programme will educate teachers and executives about the rights of pregnant and parenting students and their educational opportunities.
"Every school must understand that they cannot prevent pregnant girls from attending class or re-entering school after delivery, according to the Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem Act," said Mr Kamchorn.
He said students in the past were often refused permission to continue with their formal education while visibly pregnant. But from now on the ministry will make sure that every girl has equal rights to access formal curriculum.
"The future of all teen mums must not be defined or limited by pregnancy," he said.
According to the Public Health Ministry, Thailand last year was ranked 15th in Asia and fifth in Southeast Asia for teen pregnancies. The average figure was 52 pregnancies for every 1,000 females aged 15-19. It was higher than the average of 50 across the globe.
In some areas such as Bangkok, the ratio of teenage pregnancies reached about 75 for every 1,000.
Jittima Phanutecha, coordinator of the Women's Health Advocacy Foundation, said the high rate of teen pregnancy is a consequence of many factors including teachers avoiding sex education and parents being afraid to discuss sex with their children.
The group's research found that 90% of teen fathers are unaware of how to apply a condom, while 80% of teen mothers don't know how to take the morning-after pill correctly.
"It reflects on how inadequate our sex education is," Ms Jittima said.