We are pleased to share the new Up Close & Personal interview series that provides transcribed interviews and reflections from international education experts and influencers from around the world. Check back monthly for new Global Perspectives!

Up Close & Personal With: Susie March Sex & Relationship Specialist

What made you want to work in the international education area of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Child Protection? "I began to move into a health promotion whilst in my role as a nurse working in sexual health, women's health and family planning. When my family moved from the UK to Germany my children attended the Munich International School. Initially I volunteered to assist with the delivery of certain aspects of the Health and Social studies program to middle school students. There was a clear need to develop the program, whilst this took place, the school assisted me to learn effective pedagogical practices. From those small beginnings, I have branched out to other schools within Europe. Over the years, the approach to SRE and Child protection has evolved. Previously the information was very scientific but now it's much more focused on relationships and how people interact. Science doesn't drive it anymore."

What impact do relationships have on a student's performance in the classroom and as a member of the community?"Children and young people's ability to understand healthy relationships will support them with the development their own social skills. Without social skills, many will struggle within an adult society to create meaningful relationships."

In your many years of international education involvement how important and effective is Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) for international students? "In addition to all the pressures faced by previous generations, young people have access to increasingly adult content both on and offline. Comprehensive age-appropriate SRE can have a positive effect on knowledge, values and attitudes.International students also face their own specific issues; living within the relative safety of the 'expat bubble'. When they leave home, whilst worldly, they have little knowledge of the reality of the outside world. The SRE they receive needs to prepare students for the different cultures, laws and situations they may face."

Why is it important for teachers, parents and school leaders to be educated in SRE? "Embarrassment or discomfort by teachers and school leaders can hinder children and young people obtaining honest answers to their questions, perhaps leaving them with little understanding of how their bodies work, ignorant of potential abuse and under prepared for modern adult life. Because of their unique relationship with their children, parents are in a fabulous position to be the first educators about sex and relationships. When asked, parents feel the same and would like to take on the role. However, the reality is that parents too can feel uncomfortable. The impact of new technologies can leave young people feeling their parents are out of touch."

Who do should students, parents and/or school leaders contact if they suspect abuse a student is being abused? Individual schools should have a reporting system with a Designated Child Protection Officer. Staff need to informed of this information. The reporting structure should well document and available for all.

How do healthy relationships impact self-esteem and sense of self during a child's schooling years and later on in life? "Confidence building during adolescence is extremely important. Young people who are exploring their gender and sexuality are more often living in a world where gender inequality and gender stereotyping is viewed as negatively impacting both girls and boys (although differently for each). Therefore, supporting young people to develop and grow confidently whilst allowing them to make positive choices for themselves is a vital element of SRE."

Why do you think an organization like AAIE is important to the future of Child Safeguarding and Protection and other important issues within the international education setting? "There is a clear need to drive forward the excellent New Standards for Child Protection. AAIE has an opportunity to assist schools with the implementation. Without guidance from respected organizations such as AAIE many schools will find the task extremely daunting."