Sex Education in New Zealand Schools

Sex education plays a crucial role in the holistic development of young people in Aotearoa. As part of the New Zealand Curriculum, it falls within the broader framework of health education, specifically Health and Physical Education. Here we explore what sex education entails, why it matters, and how it benefits learners.

Five people are pictured sitting at desks and all looking in the same direction. The people are aged in their early 20's and are of differing genders and backgrounds.

What Is Sex Education?

Sex or Sexuality education encompasses a range of topics related to sexual health, relationships, and well-being. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for positive and respectful interactions with others. Here are some key aspects:

  1. Self-Understanding: Children learn about themselves, their bodies, and their emotions. This self-awareness is essential for healthy development.

  2. Relationships: Understanding healthy relationships, consent, and communication is fundamental. It helps young people navigate friendships, family dynamics, and romantic connections.

  3. Safer Sex: Information about contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and safe sexual practices is provided. This knowledge empowers young people to make informed choices.

  4. Respect and Inclusivity: Sexuality education promotes respect for diverse identities, including gender and sexual orientation. It fosters an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued.

Why Is Sexuality Education Important?

  1. Changing World: Our world is evolving rapidly. Young people encounter shifting social norms, changing family structures, and digital communication. Sexuality education prepares them to navigate these complexities.

  2. Well-Being: Comprehensive sexuality education contributes to overall well-being. It equips learners with tools to maintain physical, emotional, and mental health.

  3. Social Inclusion: By addressing bullying, violence prevention, and social inclusion, sexuality education promotes a safer and more respectful environment for all.

Adolescent Perspectives

Over 800 adolescents were asked their opinions on school-based sexuality education. While this controversial topic affects all young students, their voices are not often heard. Adolescents make up nearly one-fifth of New Zealand’s population, and their health status and behaviors impact their well-being in adulthood and that of future generations.

Comprehensive sexuality education can improve decision-making skills, raise self-esteem, and lead to more informed sexual behavior. It provides insights into personal, familial, and societal values. Finnish research has shown that most adolescents accept sexuality education and find it useful1.

Three adolescents are pictured sitting at a desk facing each other and all laughing or smiling. On the desk sits two laptops, a book, and a glass of water.

Parental Rights and Teacher Training

Parents and caregivers have rights regarding their child’s sexuality education:

  • Informed Consent: Schools should involve parents in decisions about the content and timing of sexuality education.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Education respects cultural beliefs and values.
  • Teacher Training: Educators receive training to deliver effective and age-appropriate sexuality education.

Resources and Ongoing Support

The Ministry of Education provides guidelines to schools, ensuring consistent and quality sexuality education. Additionally, new resources focus on consent, digital technologies, and healthy relationships123.

Sex education in New Zealand goes beyond clinical information—it empowers young people to build healthy relationships, understand their identities, and promote well-being. By fostering inclusivity and respect, we create a safer and more informed society.

A wooden desk is pictured from the birds' eye view. On the desk is a laptop, a coffee and a person's hands are seen from the elbow only typing on the laptop.

Remember that open communication between parents, educators, and young people is essential for effective sexuality education. 


This article was compiled by our resident expert and scientist, Ami Reid, CEO of The Quiet Achiever. The Quiet Achiever is New Zealand's only women owned and operated sexual wellness store that sells only 100% body-safe toys and tools to women and couples. You can shop their products or learn more here or by following the link below:

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