Introducing sexual education to Russian schools: effects of dance4life program on perceptions and behavior of adolescents and teachers
Purpose: This is the first empirical study of the effectiveness of the international volunteer program “dance4life” in Russia. The program addresses taboos, stigma, discrimination, HIV/AIDS prevention, promoting Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), healthy lifestyle among adolescents/youth. The program uses the “edutainment” model that allows involving youth more meaningfully through music, dance and youth icons. Educated volunteers provide schoolchildren with comprehensive information on SRHR and organize practical application of the life and leadership skills. The program cycle ends with rewarding celebration event for children involved.
Methods: Qualitative and quantitative methods were used. The qualitative research involved youth aged 13-19 (20 interviews, 6 focus groups), teachers (8 interviews), volunteer team members (8 interviews), and program managers in 4 regions (5 interviews). In quantitative research 105 respondents took part, of which 48% were 13-16 year old, 44% - 17-19, 8% - 20-23, both boys and girls.
Findings: Young people’s participation in dance4life had significant positive impact on perception of SRHR and knowledge level; it changed some misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and helped develop social and healthy lifestyle skills. The program contributed to the growth of voluntary activity and organizational skills of youth. Perception of SRHR by teachers positively changed due to their participation in the program.
Limitations: The limitations of the quantitative research sample (N = 105) does not allow us to disaggregate the data by region or by gender. These limitations were minimized by choosing relatively comparable socio-economic status of the 4 regions and through quota sampling in equal proportions for boys and girls. This study was conducted for the first time, so it is not possible to draw conclusions about the impact of the program in the long run.
Practical implications: The short implementation period allows for the dissemination of information and training to large numbers without much funding.
Social implications: The dance4life approach uses a special way of providing information on SRHR to youth, which rouses their interest and is perceived as relevant and important. Program participants use this information themselves and share it with their friends, parents and other adults.
Originality: The dance4life program is unique for Russia, there is no regular sexual education in Russian schools. School programs are rarely evaluated with the methods used in this study.