High school seniors in Thailand who recently took a nationwide multiple-choice test to determine whether they'd get into university were faced with an odd question: "If you are a teen with a sexual urge, what should you do?"
Naturally, "Proceed, if you're emotionally ready, it's consensual, and you're using protection" was not one of the options! Instead, students could choose between:
A: Call friends to go play football (soccer)
B: Talk to your family
C: Try to sleep
D: Go out with a friend of the opposite sex
E: Invite a close friend to see a movie
Most students would obviously pick C (because you could masturbate), D (duh), or E (isn't that where teens with sexual urges have been taking refuge for decades?), but they were so bewildered by the academic context of the question — what were they supposed to choose? — that they asked their teachers and parents, who were equally confused. Eventually, the test attracted national media attention, and Thai educational experts were called upon for advice. The general consensus was that option B — "Talk to your family" — was probably correct. Parental guidance is always the way to go, right? Nope! Dr. Samphan Phanphrut, head of the national exam board that wrote the test, finally set the record straight: option A — "Call friends to go play football" — is what both male and female students should preferably do when they're thinking dirty thoughts.
The takeaway for many Thais was not to go shopping for cleats, but that their country's officials know absolutely nothing about the lives of teenagers or about sex ed — an issue not only highlighted by bizarre multiple choice questions but also by the fact that Thailand has the second-highest pregnancy rate among 15-19 year-olds in the world. The country is highly conservative, so sex is rarely discussed at home, and — as the exam illustrates — they're not learning anything in school, either, as NBC reports:
Many teachers and education ministry bureaucrats refuse to acknowledge that premarital sex is a reality. Instead of teaching teenagers how to avoid pregnancy through the use of contraception, they preach abstinence. And when Thai teenagers become pregnant, they often have nobody to turn to. Legal abortion is only available to teenagers if their parents approve, and many Thai girls don't consider that an option.
"I don't think my school taught me enough about sex education," said Nat who asked not to reveal her full name, a 17-year-old who became pregnant after running away from her home in an area of northern Thailand where traditional values remain strong.
Unable to get a legal abortion because she was estranged from her parents, she chose the dangerous option of ordering abortion pills online and taking them without any medical supervision. She told me she suffered severe vaginal bleeding afterwards.
Conservative Thais, clearly in major denial, say that social media and R-rated movies, not antiquated education, are the real issues prompting teens to have unprotected sex. A recent study by the National Economic and Social Development Board actually cited Facebook as one of the causes of the country's pregnancy crisis. Unfortunately, Thai teens probably have a better chance of learning factual, helpful information about sex online than they do at school — or on the soccer field.
Image via Piyato/Shutterstock.