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Perspect Int Planif Fam. 1987;(Spec No):1-6.

[Attitudes of Costa Rican students and teachers on sex and population education].

[Article in Spanish]



Students in 34 secondary schools and the last year of primary school throughout Costa Rica were interviewed to determine the attitudes of older students toward sex and population education. The sex, grade level, and geographic region of residence were considered key study variables. To ensure an adequate number of cases in each geographic region, the sample was stratified into 4 zones: downtown San Jose, the rest of metropolitan San Jose, other cantons of the central valley, and cantons outside the central valley. Various smaller studies were also conducted, including brief intelligence tests for 190 students, interviews with 286 parents, focus group debates in 8 schools, surveys of 10 teachers in each school, and interviews with Ministry of Education and other officials. The final questionnaire was very long, consisting of 281 questions as well as data about the student's residence. Although students cooperated in filling out the questionnaires, it was too long and 27% of all students failed to complete it. The average student completed 91% of the questions, but fewer than 1/2 of the 6th year primary students were able to complete it. Costa Rican students gain at least a partial understanding of sex at an early age. Almost all secondary students and 71% of the 6th year primary students knew 1 or more contraceptive methods. Most acquired contraceptive information before the age of 12, often from the mass media. 2/3 said their parents had been important sources of information on sex. Most students said they had received some information on sex or family planning in school, but no influence was seen on knowledge or attitudes. The survey results revealed considerable misinformation about sex and family planning. The attitude of Costa Rican students toward equality of the sexes appears conservative, but it becomes less so as their grade level advances, especially for girls. The majority of students had tolerant or indifferent attitudes toward premarital fertility, the ideal age at marriage, and having 1 or 2 children beyond their ideal average of 2 or 3 children. The 173 out-of-school youths who completed the surveys were even more family oriented and conservative and less well informed about family planning and demographic growth than were the students. Grade level was the most important factor explaining differences in knowledge and attitude toward the issues raised in the survey. Geographic region and socioeconomic level of the parents and much less influence. Special questionnaires administered to 327 teachers in the same secondary schools revealed that they assigned the highest priority to sex education of 8 possible educational innovations. Most teachers assigned a lower priority to population education. Major conclusions of the study were that Costa Rican students would welcome a more systematic program of sex education, but greater attention is required to train teachers in the method and content of sex education and population education.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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