Population Education in Schools

 Formal population education aims to teach school children about basic population issues and to encourage them eventually to have smaller families.  It is vital to include population in the school curriculum because population and family life issues are an important aspect of many personal, community, and national decisions.  National population education programs began in about a dozen countries, mostly Asian, during the 1970's.  The most extensive school program is in the Philippines and includes all 12 grades.  Other countries are carrying out smaller-scale activities within the school system.  In the absence of government population policies, as in Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka, in-school programs emphasize "population literacy", e.g., learning about population issues from different viewpoints to enable students to make rational personal decisions.  Teachers play a crucial role in the success of a population education program.  Training teachers in population issues is a massive task and requires continued guidance.  Some training strategies include:  1) face-to-face training by experts/supervisors in short courses or workshops; 2) peer training, in which trained teachers instruct other teachers in schools; 3) Self-Learning Educational Modules which introduce teachers to population education through self-explanatory booklets; and 4) correspondence courses using standard population education training materials.  However, these strategies have not always proved practical and effective.  Teaching materials that have proved most successful are those which the teachers themselves helped to prepare.  The most efficient way to incorporate population topics into teaching materials is during a comprehensive curriculum revision; another is to include questions about population on standardized national or regional examinations.  Although funding from international organizations has helped stimulate programs, implementation in most countries has been slow.  What is needed is a long-term national effort to institutionalize a national program.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program