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“Healthy Sexuality” exhibition positively impacts Thai teachers and students

©UNESCO/R.Manowalailao

09.02.2012

A recent evaluation of the “Healthy Sexuality: The Story of Love” Exhibition at National Science Museum (NSM) of Thailand revealed interesting findings with potential implications for sexuality education efforts throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  The museum exhibition was found to positively impact knowledge on key sexuality concepts among both students and teachers.  The vast majority of those that viewed the exhibition rated it to be highly valuable and reported that they would recommend visiting the exhibition to a friend.  

Only 24 per cent of young women and 36 per cent of young men in low and middle income countries have comprehensive knowledge of HIV and young people age 15-24 accounted for 41 per cent of all new infections among adults in 2009.

Young people often are in desperate need of learning about sexuality in an evidence-based and non-judgmental manner.  In a world where, according to UNAIDS, only 24 per cent of young women and 36 per cent of young men in low and middle income countries have comprehensive knowledge of HIV and young people age 15-24 accounted for 41 per cent of all new infections among adults in 2009, sharing vital information with young people in a way that improves knowledge is of utmost importance (Securing the Future Today, 2011). What’s more is young people deserve and have a right to this information.  Armed with fact-based and accurate information about sex and risk young people can make informed decisions on when and how to express their sexuality safely.  

“Healthy Sexuality: The Story of Love” was a major exhibition that was mounted at the National Science Museum in August 2010 and closed in December 2011.  The goal of the exhibition was to deliver comprehensive sexuality education, primarily to Thai adolescents, in a straightforward manner.  

Students who reported no exposure to sexuality education in school showed lower levels of knowledge on key healthy sexuality concepts as compared to students who reported exposure to sexuality education in schools.

Ms. Ganigar Chen, Director of Science Communication at the National Science Museum, described that exhibition sought to be non-judgmental in its presentation of information. She said: “Our mission is to give people the appropriate information, and enough information…to decide their own way.”  

The exhibition included text panels, videos, games, interactive experiments and other multi-media materials. Major topics of the exhibition include: Love and Romance; Relationships and Communication; Sexuality, Birth and Contraception; Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV; and My Choice for a Healthy Life. There is also a website accompanying the exhibition where users can explore the content of the exhibition, play games related to healthy sexuality, and even take a virtual tour of the exhibition.  

In advance of the closure of the exhibition, UNESCO commissioned the Institute of Population and Social Research (IPSR) at Mahidol University to conduct an evaluation in order to better understand the impact of the exhibition and to inform future efforts within the region and beyond. The evaluation aimed to measure the impacts of the exhibition in terms of change in knowledge before and after visiting the exhibition and get feedback from visitors on the content, design, and materials included in the exhibition.  

“Many times there are questions that students, or the young generation, would like to ask [about sexuality] but cannot in the school context,” said Ms. Ganigar Chen of the National Science Museum, Thailand.  

The final sample included participants from 13 schools including 624 students, ranging from 11-23 years of age, and 39 teachers. Participating schools originated from 10 provinces on Thailand, representing nearly every region of the country.  Data collection took place from 6-9 September 2011 onsite at the National Science Museum.

The evaluation collected data through the use of questionnaires administered to students and teachers pre-visit to the exhibition and post-visit. Both the questionnaires for students and those for teachers consisted of three parts. The first part covered questions about respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics; the second addressed knowledge of major topics covered in the exhibition (30 questions for students and 29 for teachers); and the final section elicited feedback on the exhibition, including areas of improvement (only administered post-visit).  Responses were tracked to allow for the ability to measure knowledge change at the individual level.   

Findings from the evaluation were overwhelmingly positive. When comparing data from questionnaires on key concepts related to healthy sexuality that were administered pre-exhibition and post-exhibition, results reveal statistically significant evidence of knowledge gain among both teachers and students.  In addition, both teachers and students viewing the exhibition rated their experience as highly valuable and a good compliment to Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) taught in schools.  

Evidence of Knowledge Gain
The percentage of students able to show a high level of knowledge on the key concepts covered in the exhibition jumped from 27.2 per cent pre-visit to 44.1 per cent post-visit.  Of equal importance, the percentage of students only able to show a low level of knowledge on key concepts related to healthy sexuality reduced significantly as a result of viewing the exhibition, from 20.8 per cent of students pre-visit to 12.5 per cent post-visit.  Average student knowledge of healthy sexuality increased in a statistically significant way after viewing the Healthy Sexuality exhibition at the National Science Museum.  

The exhibition worked to address myths about safe sex such as the commonly held misconception that wearing two condoms is more effective than wearing one if trying to prevent pregnancy.  The “Healthy Sexuality: the Story of Love” exhibition did positively improve knowledge on this point, with only 35.7 per cent of students prior to seeing the exhibition able to correctly identify that two layers of condom did not increase effectiveness and 47.3 per cent of students after seeing the exhibition answering this question correctly.  Although this data shows that the exhibition was impactful, the results of the evaluation also show that there is remaining need among Thai young people for improved knowledge on healthy sexuality.  

Those students who reported no exposure to sexuality education in school showed lower levels of knowledge on key healthy sexuality concepts before visiting the exhibition as compared to students who reported exposure to sexuality education in schools. Before viewing the exhibition, 47.2 per cent of students who reported not receiving sexuality education in school were able to answer between only 0-9 questions correctly out of 30 total questions.  However, after viewing the exhibition, the percentage of students not receiving sexuality education only able to answer 0-9 questions correctly was halved, showing a remarkable improvement in vital knowledge on sexuality among previously uninformed students. 

The majority of student and teacher respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the “Healthy Sexuality: The Story of Love” exhibition could be complementary to school-based sexuality education.  

Despite the fact that the exhibition’s target audience was young people, the evaluation revealed that teachers also showed statistically significant improvements in sexuality knowledge after viewing the exhibition.  After viewing the exhibition, 60 per cent of teachers showed improvements in knowledge pertaining to sexuality.  

Particular questions highlight marked improvement on essential knowledge for teachers.  For example, before viewing the exhibition 64.1 per cent of teachers answered correctly that assertiveness and negotiation skills can help a person resist unwanted sexual pressure.  

After the exhibition, the percentage of teachers able to answer this question correctly increased dramatically to 82.1 per cent.  Exposure to projects such as the “Healthy Sexuality: the Story of Love” exhibition could have long-term impact on teachers’ ability to offer accurate information to students and to serve as mentors on topics related to healthy sexuality.

Exhibition Highly Valued by both Teachers and Students
The evaluation found that, out of those sampled, the exhibition was popular with students of all ages and with teachers. After viewing the exhibition, 95 per cent of the teachers surveyed and 77.5 per cent of the students surveyed stated that the exhibition provided new information that they had not seen before. Of those surveyed, 100 per cent of the teachers and 83 per cent of the students said they would recommend the exhibition to others.

One of the intentions of the exhibition was to strengthen and expand upon the content of Comprehensive Sexuality Education taught in many schools in Thailand.  On the exhibition’s ability to compliment school-based curriculums, Ms. Chen of the National Science Museum said that, “Many times there are questions that students, or the young generation, would like to ask [about sexuality] but cannot in the school context.” 

When questioned about the ability of the exhibition to complement sexuality education taught in schools, 87 per cent of the students surveyed and 95 per cent of the teachers either agreed or strongly agreed that the exhibition could be complementary to school-based sexuality education.  

The evaluation results show that the information disseminated at the exhibition had an impact on both teachers’ and students’ knowledge and understanding of healthy sexuality, allowing for potential long-terms impacts to health, education, and general well-being.  Ideally, this model for sharing essential information on sexuality to young people as a compliment to school-based curriculum could be duplicated in other countries within the region for even more widespread impact. A delegation from the Ministry of Education in Vietnam visited the exhibition in September 2011 with the group leaving Thailand very interested in adapting “Healthy Sexuality: the Story of Love” to the Vietnamese social and cultural context.  


Full Evaluation Report
 

By Shelley Megquier, UNESCO Bangkok

 

Related Videos:

Healthy Sexuality: The Story of Love 

Interview with Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim on "How School Health is Important for Education and Schools?"

Ambassadors of Love 

"Love and Sex Talks" (trailer)

"Healthy Sexuality, The Story of Love" Exhibition, 10 August 2010, at the National Science Museum of Thailand