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Despite early inroads of school-based sex education, most of the information on sexual matters in the mid-20th century was obtained informally from friends and the media, and much of this information was deficient or of dubious value, especially during the period following puberty, when curiosity about sexual matters was the most acute.

This deficiency was heightened by the increasing incidence of teenage pregnancies, particularly in Western countries after the 1960s.

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Adolescents have suggested that sex education should be more positive with less emphasis on anatomy and scare tactics; it should focus on negotiation skills in sexual relationships and communication; and details of sexual health clinics should be advertised in areas that adolescents frequent (for example, school toilets, shopping centres)." The 2007 study found that "No comprehensive program hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex, results that many people fear." Further, the report showed "Comprehensive programs worked for both genders, for all major ethnic groups, for sexually inexperienced and experienced teens, in different settings, and in different communities." "It is taught over several years, introducing age-appropriate information consistent with the evolving capacities of young people.

It includes scientifically accurate, curriculum-based information about human development, anatomy and pregnancy.

In many African countries, where AIDS is at epidemic levels (see HIV/AIDS in Africa), sex education is seen by most scientists as a vital public health strategy.

Some international organizations such as Planned Parenthood consider that broad sex education programs have global benefits, such as controlling the risk of overpopulation and the advancement of women's rights (see also reproductive rights).

These programmes build life skills and increase responsible behaviors, and because they are based on human rights principles, they help advance human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of young people." It may also be delivered through sex self-help authors, magazine advice columnists, sex columnists, or sex education web sites.

Formal sex education occurs when schools or health care providers offer sex education.By emphasizing rights and gender issues, these programs help reduce gender-based violence and bullying, promote safe schools, empower young people to advocate for their own rights, and advance gender equality."Few sexual health interventions are designed with input from adolescents.Curricula should also address the social issues surrounding sexuality and reproduction, including cultural norms, family life and interpersonal relationships." Human rights issues, gender equality and gender roles should be integrated into every aspect of these discussions.This includes human rights protection, fulfilment and empowerment; the impact of gender discrimination; the importance of equality and gender-sensitivity; and the ideas underlying gender roles.Rubin and Kindendall expressed that sex education is not merely the topics of reproduction and teaching how babies are conceived and born.

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