Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sex Education in India: A case of Marketing Revamp for a proper Re-Introduction

If you are still blaming those uncanny politicians for banning sex education in India, think again. The issue has moved beyond realms of biology and moved into the core area of Marketing.

For the uninitiated, let me say a few words about Marketing to set things in perspective. Marketing is the holy grail of Management (or even Governance as in State matters) that aims to meet the needs of the society at any point of time with relevant products, services and ideas.

You must be wondering why I am getting into defining Marketing. This was just to eliminate that ubiquitous feeling among people that marketing is about telling lies and selling more.

Now what has "Sex Education" got to do with Marketing? Lots, to say the least. First of all, Sex Education is a bundle of ideas (product) that has its own target audience living in India. Sex Education was conceived with an idea to educate and thereby protect the interest of children who would develop life skills eventually. Thus Sex Education becomes the product and the school, college & children become the TG ( Target Group).

The Children of Today

Now, comes the tricky part. The syllabus or the content of the Sex Education was totally modeled on the U.S. education system. U.S. as we all know has always nurtured a totally different (and drastic) approach and ethos abut sex. The societal values depict the same.

In U.S., sex education is imparted with an objective to "just" protect children from having an unhealthy sex and lead a sexually satisfactory life.

However, in India, the approach to sex ( though is changing) has always been towards abstinence from sex till marriage. Thus the need of the Indian society from sex education is to propagate this widely held belief that is being imparted from one to the next generation. Children today are already being exposed to a huge media pourings of explicit sexuality. Children today pick up things easy and fast from various sources. However they are not geared up to rightly interpret them. The burden falls on the parents and the teachers.

The Indian Value System: 
As already mentioned, knowing Indian value system and the cultural context plays an important role in devising suitable ways of imparting sex education in India. So Piya Sarcar, the founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, has developed an interactive software to educate children about HIV in a way that's sensitive to the country's cultural mores. ( Ref: Technology Review). She kept a tab on the cultural responses to each and everything that went into her design and measured it against the local cultural ethos to ensure acceptability. As a result, even States who banned sex education have approved and distributed her software. 

This is a perfect case of Marketing gone wrong and right ( by Sorcar) !! There is still a case for re-introducing sex education in India, if the team handling the project does a careful analysis of the needs of Indian society and then carefully positions it in a way that is acceptable to the society. So what can the Govt. do about it? Here is a pointer, 
  • Consult parents, students, child psychiatrists and culture experts before finalizing on the syllabus and its intonation
  • Test these across India for suitability with each and every language and cultural specific requirements
  • Show it to select group of parents, teachers and students to get their feedback and fine tune the syllabus and methods of delivery so it fits into the cultural framework of India
  • Assure all the stakeholders of the care that has been taken this time around and how it will benefit the children. 
In fact, as a first step, the schools and colleges should educate parents with sex education and how they can deal with their children on the subject. This will make parents sensitive to the challenges faced by educators.

Hopefully, we will soon see a re-introduction of the subject in schools with a clear objective delivered within the cultural framework.

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