According to a law passed in 1993, Poland’s school curriculum is required to include “knowledge about human sexual life, the principles of conscious and responsible parenthood, the value of family, life in the prenatal phase, and methods and means of conscious procreation”.
In practice, however, many schools, especially outside of large urban areas, choose not to teach it. For those that do, the official curriculum, titled Preparation for Family Life, places a heavy emphasis on abstinence and Catholic social teachings, with sex discussed almost exclusively within the context of procreation.
Making a distinction between family planning, on the one hand, and contraception, sterilisation, and abortion, on the other, the most recent official curriculum features the word “family” 160 times, whereas the word “sex” appears only twice—once in the context of sex addiction and once in a brief discussion on cybersex. The single most quoted authority is the late Polish Pope John Paul II.
The frustration, say activists, is that attitudes at the higher echelons of the church and state often do not reflect the views, or lifestyles, of many Poles. A recent survey by polling firm IBRIS suggested that 80% of Poles want sex education classes to be held in schools, with 47% in favour of classes beginning in primary school.
You can access my report for The Lancet here.