Feb 16, 2013

Online sex education

From the conclusions of a new paper by Chong et al (February 2013), a draft is here
Widespread availability of internet-enabled computers in schools throughout the world as well as accelerated improvements in software quality make web-based education a plausible alternative in a context of tight budget constrains in public education. Sexual health education is at the forefront of this revolution because it is currently neglected in school curricula, opening an opportunity for low-cost online courses. In societies where teachers may be unwilling or unable to provide sexual education, online courses may also prove a useful substitute for in-person instruction.

We evaluate the effectiveness of a six month web-based sexual education course in Colombian public schools. The course showed itself effective in improving students’ knowledge and attitude indicators in the short and medium term, and led to a reduction in self-reported STIs among the sexually active at baseline.

A key methodological component in our study is the use of condom vouchers to measure changes in condom demand. This measure provides plausible evidence that the course was effective in changing safe sex practices. A second analytical innovation is the focus on spillovers, through a two-stage experimental design. The results indicate that spillovers from treated to untreated classrooms in the same school are negligible.

We did find strong indications that effects of the course were reinforced when treated individuals had larger percentages of their friend networks in treatment classrooms. The evidence is robust across a large set of sexual health attitude, knowledge and sexual behavior indicators. In particular, we found that students whose networks were more intensely treated had significant reductions in frequency of sex, number of partners and number of sexual relations, which we interpret as reinforcement effects or complementarities.
The title of the paper is "Effectiveness and Spillovers of Online Sex Education: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Colombian Public Schools."

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