Comprehensive Sexuality Education

1. Context and background

2. Terminology

3. Laws and policies

4. Governance

5. Monitoring and reporting


1. Context and background

The Government of the Republic of Armenia acknowledges the rights of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education through national laws and international agreements. The topic of SRH has evolved from being an experimental and optional subject in 1999 to becoming integrated across a range of mandatory subjects. There is a clear commitment to sexuality education on the part of the Government, which also ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (known as the Lanzarote Convention) in May 2020, making it mandatory for the state to provide children with information on the risks of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and, where appropriate, sexuality. However, the content, scope and delivery mode of sexuality education programmes have been debated for some time (SERAT, 2016; UNESCO, 2021). ‘Sexuality’ may be presented as a negative concept (especially among women and girls) due to cultural taboos, while there have been some conservative approaches to sexuality education, with a focus on more preventative methods, such as abstinence. The ratification of the Lanzarote Convention was met with strong resistance from certain right-wing and conservative groups, which objected to the provisions calling for education on sexual abuse for school children. In response to these objections, the Ministry of Justice clarified that the Convention does not mandate the introduction of a sexuality education programme in the country’s primary schools, but is rather aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. In its explanatory report, it stated that 'it is first and foremost the responsibility of parents to educate children about sexuality and the risks of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse' (article 58). Moreover, the Ministry of Education came under intense criticism after circulating a draft regulation on the New Standards for General Education 2020, with some critics accusing the Ministry of trying to oppose the country’s 'national values', while raising concerns about how sexuality education will impact students. Despite some political opposition, in the past few years, conversations about sex, sexuality education, sexual abuse, and the Lanzarote Convention have gradually become more normalized, particularly through social media and among parents, teachers, lawyers, psychologists and activists.


2. Terminology

In official government documents, 'sexuality education' is referred to as 'sexual education' and 'healthy lifestyle'.

3. Laws and policies

3.1. Relevant international/regional agreements to which Armenia is a signatory

In May 2020, Armenia became the 47th state to have ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (the Lanzarote Convention), which officially came into force in January 2021. The Convention makes it mandatory for the state to provide children with information on the risks of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and, where appropriate, sexuality. Article 6 (Education for Children) stipulates that: 'Each Party shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that children, during primary and secondary education, receive information on the risks of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, as well as on the means to protect themselves, adapted to their evolving capacity. This information, provided in collaboration with parents, where appropriate, shall be given within a more general context of information on sexuality and shall pay special attention to situations of risk, especially those involving the use of new information and communication technologies.' At the Nairobi Summit, Armenia committed to 'uphold the right to sexual and reproductive health care in humanitarian and fragile contexts' … 'through the provision of access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education and services'. In September 2020, at the 45th session of the Human Rights Council, the Government also accepted recommendations to enhance women’s access to basic health care and SRH services, and to introduce comprehensive and evidence-based sexuality education into Armenian schools The recommendations stated that this must be 'evidence-based and comprehensive'. The Government was specifically asked to: i) 'establish comprehensive sexuality education as a stand-alone subject in schools, designed in collaboration with young people and women’s rights organizations', and ii) 'develop and implement alternative comprehensive sexuality education programs such as peer-to-peer education, counselling corners in clinics, and training for parents of out of school youth'.

Armenia has also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. At the regional level, the Government is a signatory of the [European] Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its associated protocols.

The table below provides a summary of how the international commitments relate to sexuality education. 



Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Ratification date: 1993

Acknowledges the need to guarantee sexuality education free from discrimination and stereotypes, conveying gender equality values.


Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Ratification date: 1993

Commits to the right to access appropriate health-related information.


Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Ratification date: 2010

Commits to the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities.


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Ratification date: 1993

Acknowledges that the right to sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of the right to health.


UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education

Ratification date: 1993

Reaffirms that education is a human right. It highlights states' obligations to ensure free and compulsory education, bans any form of discrimination and promotes equality of educational opportunity.


The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action


Calls for sexuality education, counselling and support mechanisms for adolescents, and identifies essential topics.



3.2. Relevant national laws and policies mandating comprehensive sexuality education

The Government of the Republic of Armenia acknowledges the rights of adolescents to reproductive health education and incorporates their rights into the Law on Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights, which was adopted by the Government in 1996. Article 5 specifically acknowledges and defines the rights of adolescents to sexuality education (including the right to the preservation of SRH); to be informed about matters pertaining to sexual development and SRH; to have the necessary/essential knowledge on abortion and STIs (including modern methods of HIV prevention); and to have access to full and affordable medical counselling in private and friendly conditions. According to Article 5.2, 'Adolescents’ sexual education in secondary schools and in other educational institutions should be carried out by professionally trained persons in close cooperation with families, health services, non-governmental organizations and the public'. The Law creates a legal enabling environment for the delivery of national programmes on reproductive health education within the curriculum of secondary state schools (SERAT, 2016; UNESCO, 2021).

The 1996 Law of the Republic of Armenia on Health Care (amended in 2011) provides for 'the right of everyone, including minors, to receive information to protect their sexual health and be aware about the complications and consequences of sexually transmitted infections'.

The 1999 Law on Education (amended in 2015) states that 'the instruction at a middle school shall be aimed at formation of scientific understanding of learners about healthy life style', while the 2009 Law on General Education considers 'measures to protect students’ health' an integral part of its main general education programmes. There is also a dedicated section (Article 22) on 'maintaining the health of students'. Finally, the New Standards for General Education (2020) explicitly stipulate that the general education curriculum at the secondary level should be aimed at ensuring that students are 'informed about the maintenance of human reproductive health, family, personal life planning' and that they 'lead a healthy and safe lifestyle'. The content for the physical education subject also aims at 'promoting health-promoting behaviors, developing responsible behaviors for oneself and others' physically and mentally healthy behaviors, living a safe life'.

3.3. Curricula

Mandatory or optional

Over the past 20 years, sexuality education in Armenia has evolved from being an experimental and optional subject to becoming integrated across a range of mandatory subjects at the secondary level. Topics related to SRH are integrated into the natural sciences and social sciences, and physical education, a compulsory subject, at the secondary school level (UNESCO, 2021). There is no stand-alone subject on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).

Model of delivery

In 1999, Armenia initially introduced an experimental life skills curriculum for grades 1-7 as a stand-alone, optional subject, with topics including gender, healthy living, personal hygiene, respecting diversity, safety, avoiding substance use, and conflict resolution. In 2008, through the government decree of the Minister of Education N637 – A/Q of the Republic of Armenia, the life-skills curriculum was replaced by the Healthy Lifestyle course, which was integrated into mandatory subjects for grades 1-4 and grades 8-11 (within physical education). Healthy Lifestyle was a non-graded course, which included 11 themes relating to reproductive health, incorporated into physical education and mainly delivered by physical education teachers (SERAT, 2016; UNESCO, 2021). Some information about the anatomy and physiology of human reproductive systems was also delivered through biology classes in Grade 8, although the emphasis was on anatomy. In 2017-19, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, and the Ministry of Health (with support from UNESCO) collaborated with a team of national experts from the Institute of Child and Adolescent Health and the National Education Institute to upgrade the Healthy Lifestyle curriculum. In addition, as part of broader curriculum reforms in 2020, Armenia started to incorporate sexuality education into several core subjects in the natural and social sciences, as well as physical education. This change was partly to enable natural and social science teachers to teach topics related to SRH, in addition to physical education teachers. In early 2021, a decision was made to introduce mandatory Healthy Lifestyle club activities in grades 5-11, to accommodate the most important topics on SRH and relationships, and to encourage more interaction between students and teachers for building better interpersonal and social skills (UNESCO, 2021).

Comprehensiveness of content

The curriculum covers issues related to health and healthy living, healthy nutrition, bad habits (such as smoking, and consumption of alcohol and drugs), puberty, hygiene and reproductive health, love and relationships, HIV prevention, human rights, avoiding unwanted pregnancy, responsible behaviour and parenting, gender roles and stereotypes, gender-based violence and sexual harassment, seeking help, human rights, avoiding unwanted pregnancy, responsible behaviour and parenting, and stress management and decision-making. Issues relating to sexual and reproductive anatomy, physiology, puberty and reproductive functions fall under the subject of biology, with some legal aspects of human rights and gender equality forming part of the subject of social studies (UNESCO 2014).

In 2016, the Sexuality Education Review and Assessment Tool (SERAT) concluded that the curriculum covered six thematic areas presented in UNESCO’s technical guidance for sexuality education, apart from human rights, which is the least covered aspect of the overall curriculum. While the time allocated for the programme seemed to be close to the standard set by the UNESCO technical guidance, several sections related to condom use and STIs were reportedly not well delivered, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the school-based programme. The curriculum also allegedly failed to discuss certain topics in greater depth to ensure that the goals set for each session had been adequately reached. (SERAT, 2016). In 2020/21, the Ministry of Education aimed to partially address some of these concerns by incorporating CSE topics into mandatory subjects in the social and natural sciences, as well as introducing mandatory Healthy Lifestyle club activities to accommodate the more critical CSE topics (UNESCO, 2021). 

Learning resources

To deliver topics related to SRH, teachers are equipped with a guide with detailed lesson plans for grades 8-11. The guide was revised in 2017 and disseminated across all schools in Armenia in 2018. 


3.4. Teachers

When the school-based programme was initially launched, the National Institute of Education organized and conducted a massive teacher training programme, with a second training conducted by the Scientific Association of Medical Students of Armenia. In 2016, a teacher training module for the professional training of physical education teachers in the Institute of Physical Education was also introduced. However, several international reports have raised concerns about inadequate teacher preparation, the lack of any specific guidelines developed for the particular subject matter, and limited teacher training or follow-up support (SERAT, 2016). To address some of these concerns, Armenia has been working to incorporate sexuality education into its postgraduate teacher programmes, revising and distributing the teacher guide on sexuality education, and rolling out a large-scale teacher preparation programme. Ten educational videos on sexuality education-related topics were developed to support teachers, with an evaluation demonstrating an average 20% increase in teachers' knowledge of the subject matter (UNESCO, 2021). However, the evaluation also found that some teachers still felt uncomfortable discussing certain topics, and that they would prefer a school nurse to deliver topics related to sexuality education.

3.5. Schools

Many schools in Armenia have nurses and local primary health facilities, but there are no formal mechanisms creating partnerships with local communities and services to potentially increase the effectiveness of the delivery of the CSE programme (SERAT, 2016). Some community-based non-governmental organizations work on reproductive health issues in local communities, which may serve as an additional resource (see HIV, STIs, and related services), with only a few non-governmental organizations providing free counselling, testing and treatment. Women’s clinics tend to focus on maternal care, so women who are not pregnant do not have free access to many health services, and have to rely on non-governmental organizations. 


4. Governance

4.1 Responsible ministries

The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports (in collaboration with the Ministry of Health) is responsible for providing an enabling policy for sexuality education in Armenian schools. This involves developing and getting the Government’s approval for national educational standards (overall learning outcomes) developing and endorsing relevant curricula, and ensuring teacher preparation and the provision of relevant teaching and learning materials (UNESCO, 2021). The National Institute of Education has organized a number of teacher trainings (SERAT, 2016; UNESCO, 2021).

4.2. Level of responsibility/decentralization and autonomy

The Law on Bodies of Self-Government (2002) provides for the Head of the Region (Yerevan Mayor) and the communities to supervise and ensure state policy implementation on education under their jurisdiction. Most schools are funded and report to municipal and regional (provincial) authorities. Schools are responsible for the delivery of topics related to sexuality education and reproductive health within existing subjects.

4.3. Government budget allocation

No information was found.


5. Monitoring and reporting

There is a lack of formal monitoring and evaluation of sexuality education in Armenia, in addition to the absence of formal inspection mechanisms specific for the Healthy Lifestyle course (UNESCO, 2021). The National Statistical Service collects and publishes information on a variety of health-related indicators in annual statistical yearbooks, but there are missing indicators on adolescent knowledge and behaviour relating to reproductive health and a general lack of well-defined indicators on the reproductive health of young people. The Demographic and Health Survey and the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children report collect more detailed information on young people’s needs. However, these reports are largely implemented through donor funding, which puts into questions the sustainability of such an approach (SERAT, 2016; UNESCO, 2021).

Dernière modification:

lun 27/03/2023 - 10:43