Letter – The truth about teenage pregnancy in the Netherlands

Your recent article on sex and relationships education claims that the Dutch method of teaching accounts for lower rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the Netherlands (Children Now, 31 January-6 February).

In reality, however, there is no standardised approach to sex education in Dutch schools, and a wide variety of methods are used – just as in the UK.

During their visit to the Netherlands (which was featured in a Channel 4 programme), UK head teachers Ralph Jagger and David Harris were presented with the most explicit end of a very broad spectrum, which is not typical of sex and relationships education provision in the country as a whole.

There is also no evidence to show that sex and relationships education in Dutch schools has resulted in lower teenage conception rates. In fact, during the years immediately following the introduction of compulsory sex education in Dutch secondary schools, teenage pregnancy rates went up rather than down, and teenage abortion rates and sexually transmitted infection rates have continued to rise.

Our own report, Deconstructing the Dutch Utopia, found that social and cultural differences between the two countries offer a much more convincing explanation for lower rates of teenage pregnancy in the Netherlands.

Norman Wells
Family Education Trust.

Published in Children and Young People Now, 6 February 2007