BUTUAN CITY, JANUARY 26, 2023 – Teachers from 27 public schools in Agusan del Norte, on Friday, participated in an orientation on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health at the Provincial Training Center in Butuan City. The session, conducted by implementers of the I CHOOSE #MalayaAkongMaging campaign, aimed to equip educators with the knowledge and tools to deliver comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) to students.

The I CHOOSE campaign, national gold winner at the 2023 Healthy Pilipinas Awards, has been recognized for creating youth-centered online spaces providing localized sex education and health resources. The Department of Health annually confers this accolade to programs fostering a healthy lifestyle among Filipinos.

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RH Law) of 2012 and a 2018 memorandum by the Department of Education (DepEd) mandate the inclusion of reproductive health concepts in public school curricula. But implementing CSE has been challenging for schools. Last year the UN Population Fund reported that only 1.1 million out of 32 million learners received CSE in the country. 

Rosanna Gamutan-Duran, Nurse II and Adolescent Reproductive Health Program Coordinator of the Department of Education Division of Agusan del Norte noted, “CSE has received little funding and training support, and most educators are still unsure how to implement it. Personal biases also often impact the comprehensiveness and quality of instruction.”

She added, “We appreciate that campaigns like I CHOOSE help us fulfill our role as educators. This orientation ensures schools in Agusan del Norte are on the same page about prioritizing CSE and learning effective strategies and techniques to engage young people meaningfully.”

Gamutan-Duran reported that only 220 teachers and 10 school heads out of 3,200 educators in the division have been trained by the DepEd. 

Jan Servando, Youth Program Director of the NGO Roots of Health, an implementer of I CHOOSE, highlighted the evolution of teacher attitudes toward CSE.

 “When we started teaching students sex ed in schools ten years ago, some teachers were uncomfortable about certain topics. However, with the RH Law and the DepEd’s memo on CSE, more teachers are now grateful for our sessions and often request technical training support,” he shared. 

“Teachers know firsthand that CSE is important so that young people do not feel lost navigating their growing up years. Teens need a reliable and credible guide to make informed decisions that may affect the rest of their lives, and teachers understand their crucial role in this. They want to be better equipped and more confident in initiating and shaping the discourse,” Servando explained. 

Servando underscored that CSE is crucial in curbing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections that are on the rise among the youth in the Philippines. He added that age-appropriate conversations on boundaries, consent, healthy relationships, sexuality, and contraception are paramount. 

In April 2023, the DepEd expressed support for Senate bills on adolescent pregnancy prevention. These bills aim to make CSE standardized and compulsory in all levels of basic education and a criterion for school accreditation. DepEd lauded the bills for promoting “medically-accurate, rights-based, inclusive, and non-discriminatory” CSE that break taboos and reduce social stigma. 

A counterpart bill was approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives in September 2023 with no negative votes and no abstentions. 

Servando likewise advocated for law-backed public funding for teachers’ training, stating, “Our initiative is like a drop of water making ripples in a vast ocean. Without a proper budget, the rollout of CSE will not be successful nationwide.” He also called for the mainstreaming of localized I CHOOSE materials, covering puberty, relationships, mental health, and sexual health, and other topics in the school system. ###

About I CHOOSE #MalayaAkongMaging

I CHOOSE #MalayaAkongMaging is national campaign for Filipino teenagers on adolescent health and development. It was created by the Department of Health (DOH) in 2019 in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and other development partners. It is supported by the USAID ReachHealth Project. 

The non-government organization Roots of Health developed its website www.malayaako.ph and chatbot and co-manages its social media pages to help increase youth’s online access to credible and comprehensive reproductive health information in the Filipino language. Materials are designed with young people in mind and utilize visually appealing images, youth-centric language, and stories that teens would relate to. The platforms include tailored information on six key topics: sexual health, mental health, growing up, relationships and SOGIESC, and COVID-19.

More info

  • The teachers’ workshop focused on helping teachers implement CSE by
    – contextualizing CSE amidst the overall issues and challenges of adolescent sexual and reproductive health
    – discussing existing laws and policies that mandate and support its rollout
    – providing strategies in discussing sensitive topics to learners, such as boundaries, consent, healthy relationships, sexuality, contraception, among others
    – highlighting available online resources that will provide educators with essential, credible, and youth-friendly materials for seamless integration into their classrooms.

  • Philippine Statistics Authority reveals nearly 500 girls aged 10-19 give birth each day
  • Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act 
  • Senate Bills 372 and 1209 (CSE is discussed on Section 6)