International technical and programmatic guidance on Out-of-school comprehensive sexuality education: An evidence-informed approach for non-formal, out of school programmes

Manual and Guideline
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The first edition of the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE) was published in 2009 by UNESCO with UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO. In the years since then, the field of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) has experienced considerable development globally, with positive shifts in the political and cultural climate for its implementation at national, regional and global levels.

In 2016 and 2017, UNESCO led a process to update the ITGSE to reflect new evidence and good practice.
The revised ITGSE was published in 2018 (UNESCO et al, 2018; all further references to the ITGSE in this publication are to this revised edition). It includes an overview of CSE; evidence on its effectiveness; and scientifically accurate key concepts, topics and learning objectives to be included in CSE curricula for four age groups: 5–8 years, 9–12 years, 12–15 years, and 15–18+ years. It also provides guidance on how to build support for, plan and deliver effective CSE programmes. The ITGSE is applicable to both in-school and out-of-school CSE programmes, but it has a stronger focus on CSE in formal education.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, United Nations (UN) agencies and other development partners have committed to leaving no one behind and to reaching the furthest behind first.
Among children and young people, those left furthest behind include those who are out of school and those who face discrimination and human-rights violations for various reasons. These are also the children and young people who are at greatest risk of poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Therefore, stakeholders requested the development of a separate guidance document focused on out-of-school CSE.

Purpose of this Guidance

This International Technical and Programmatic Guidance on Out-of-school Comprehensive Sexuality Education – Condensed Edition is intended to be used together with the ITGSE. The ITGSE provides the basis for all CSE and supplies detailed definitions of what CSE is (ITGSE, Section 2); how it can address children’s and young people’s health and well-being (Section 3); the evidence base for CSE (Section 4); key concepts, topics and learning objectives (Section 5); and guidance on building support and planning for the implementation and delivery of effective CSE programmes (Section 6).

This Guidance builds upon and complements the ITGSE by providing evidence- and practice-informed guidance specifically for programmes that deliver CSE out of school, and programmes that seek to address the needs of specific groups that are unlikely to be addressed in CSE programmes for children and young people generally. This publication offers in-depth programmatic guidance on how to develop CSE programmes that are appropriate and safe for these groups of children and young people. Thus this Guidance is intended to:

  • provide a clear definition of out-of-school CSE

  • promote an understanding of the need for out-ofschool CSE by raising awareness of the sexuality, health and rights issues and concerns that impact children and young people, including specific groups of children and young people, and that may not be addressed in school

  • provide guidance on how to develop out-of-school CSE programmes, including curricula and teaching and learning materials that are evidence-based, culturally responsive, age- and developmentally appropriate, and trauma-informed (see p.14), and that meet the needs of specific groups of children and young people.

This publication is a condensed edition of the full Guidance. It contains the most pertinent and practical information on planning, developing and implementing effective out-of-school CSE programmes. A complete list of references is available as a separate annex. In addition to the information contained in this condensed edition, the full Guidance includes:

  • a description of the literature review that was conducted as a basis for this Guidance

  • a more detailed introduction to the needs of each group of children and young people addressed in this guidance, and a description of the status of CSE for each group

  • evidence on the effectiveness of out-of-school CSE, both in general and for each of the specific groups of children and young people addressed in this guidance

  • detailed descriptions of a number of pedagogical concepts and approaches

  • a consideration of the current status, opportunities and challenges in the implementation of out-ofschool CSE

Intended users of this Guidance

This Guidance is intended to assist anyone developing or implementing CSE in out-of-school settings. This includes government departments, international and national civil-society organizations, community-based organizations, UN agencies, and young people.

Structure of the Guidance

Section 1 provides an overview of out-of-school CSE, including its definition, goals and roles, and the opportunities and limitations presented by out-of-school CSE.

Section 2 presents guidance for developing and implementing out-of-school CSE in general, as well as for engaging peer educators, involving parents or guardians, and using technology. It includes recommendations that are applicable to all the population groups discussed in Section 3.

Section 3 provides guidance on delivering out-of-school CSE to specific groups of children and young people (recognizing that many children and young people may belong to more than one of these groups): girls and boys separately; young people with disabilities; young people in humanitarian settings; Indigenous young people; young lesbian, gay, bisexual and gender non-binary/nonconforming people; young transgender people; young intersex people; young people living with HIV; young people who use drugs; young people who sell sex; and young people who are in detention.

How this Guidance was developed

In 2017, UNFPA commissioned a literature review of the effectiveness of out-of-school CSE. It was circulated for comments among a group of technical experts from around the world, working in the fields of education, health, youth development, human rights and gender equality, including researchers, ministry of education officials, NGO programme implementers, development partners and young people.

The findings of the literature review were presented and discussed at a global experts’ consultation convened by UNFPA in late 2017, where participants developed a draft outline for the Guidance.

Following further feedback on the outline, the Guidance was drafted, using input from additional interviews with senior and young experts to ensure it was based on practice and responsive to the issues faced by specific groups of children and young people. Experts on the sexual and reproductive health needs of these groups were also asked to review the relevant sections. This Guidance is, therefore, based on the evidence together with the input of a wide range of experts, including the perspective of young people, and an understanding of current good practices and successful programmes. The final draft of the Guidance was shared with key experts and UN focal points for their input and feedback