UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reimagining sexual health education : centering youths' perspectives Yoon-Potkins, Qwisun


Sexual health education (SHE) is a provincially mandated element of the school health curriculum in British Columbia. Though intended to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of sexual health, I argue that the current top-down approach to designing and implementing SHE curriculum works to uphold colonial ideologies that limit, rather than enhance, youths’ knowledge regarding sexual health. Employing an interview- and observation-based study and utilizing reflexive thematic analysis, this study explores how bottom-up approaches to SHE, centering the experiences and stories of secondary-school-aged youth, have the potential to shift dominant narratives, not only for youth individually, but also within and beyond their wider communities. Grounded in an ethics of hospitality, participation, and critical hope, the following questions guide my study: (1) How can storytelling and collaborative dialogue provide insight into the messaging that youth have received about sexual health? (2) What do these stories tell us about the kinds of issues that youth are experiencing in the context of sexual health? (3) What do these stories tell us about the kind of SHE that youth want? My research challenges current colonial approaches to SHE by engaging youth, as experts in their own lives, in a collaborative process of reimagining what SHE might look like in BC secondary schools. Findings illuminate the transformative potential of bottom-up approaches to curriculum and pedagogy. In comparison to top-down approaches, which perpetuate or impose cultural norms on the knowledge being disseminated, bottom-up approaches have the power to change cultural and societal norms by (re)establishing what “the norm” looks like, directly from the perspective of those being affected; that is, youth. Buy-in, when it comes to SHE, is pivotal; if young people are not engaged in their learning, it runs the risk of perpetuating dominant sexual health discourses and overlooks opportunities to challenge accepted norms. The findings from this study contribute to a deeper understanding of youth voice in curriculum development, and how it can spur long-term systemic change, starting with sexual health.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International