Sexuality education in the Netherlands

Although there is not yet an obligatory legal framework, comprehensive sexuality education is implemented in many secondary schools in the Netherlands. There is also growing attention for sexual and relational education in primary schools. There is a variety of programmes for non- school settings.

Secondary schools

Sexuality education is implemented in many secondary schools in the Netherlands, although there is not yet an obligatory legal framework. This is why some, particularly faith-based, schools still can refuse to implement sex education, an option often taken. Elsewhere, programmes are mostly comprehensive, often evidence-based and regularly updated.

Well-informed choices

Dutch sex education emerges from an understanding that young people are curious about sexuality and that they need, want and have a right to accurate and comprehensive information about sexual health. Materials are characterized by clear, direct, age-appropriate language in attractive designs. The leading message is: If you are going to have sex, do it safely. The leading philosophy is: Young people have the right to adequate sex education so that they can make well-informed choices in sexuality and relationships.

Primary schools

As well as targeting adolescents in secondary schools, primary schools are increasingly considered for sex education. Some small-scale initiatives are already in place. The desirability, feasibility and efficacy of structural sex education in primary schools is presently under investigation.

Non-school settings

In addition to school-based sex education, a variety of programmes are being carried out in non-school settings such as in youth-care contexts or community centres. Such programmes, for instance, focus on specific themes, such as the sexual empowerment of girls, or the prevention of sexual aggression. National media campaigns promoting safer sex are carried out every year. A national media campaign promoting responsible sexual behaviour more broadly is presently being developed. To a growing extent, specific programmes, measures and supportive structures are designed to serve groups with relatively high sexual healthcare needs, such as migrant groups and/or lower educated groups. Newly developed interventions include coordinated peer education and use of ‘new media’ such as social networks, internet forums and You Tube. Rutgers WPF is an important player in this field of sex-related intervention development and accompanying evaluatory research.