Pupils should be encouraged to abstain from sex as part of their sex education classes, a Christian charity has told MSPs who are looking into ways to reduce teenage pregnancies.
Approaches which focus on harm reduction through contraception and preventing sexually transmitted disease "do not seem to be working", according to Christian education charity CARE for Scotland.
Its education officer, Dr Alastair Noble, told Holyrood's Health Committee that such approaches could be "inadvertently encouraging" teenagers to have sex. He also called for a fundamental review of sex education programmes in schools.
Dr Noble was one of a number of representatives from children's and sexual health charities appearing before the committee as it gathers evidence for its inquiry into teenage pregnancy rates.
Figures published in June showed a key Scottish Government target for reducing pregnancies among under-16s was missed. Ministers hoped to cut the pregnancy rate among this age group to 6.8 pregnancies per 1,000 girls by 2010. But the rate for that year was 7.1 per 1,000, the same as in 2009.
Dr Noble told the committee: "We have a view which is that the balance of advice and the balance of the content of sex education in schools gives a very mixed message. The impact of sex education generally in schools is that the harm reduction emphasis somewhat overshadows the need to encourage young people to delay any sexual activity until they are in a stable relationship, and our view would be preferably marriage.
"The net effect it seems to us is that the harm reduction message seems to assume that teenagers will be involved in sex and has this kind of risk-compensation problem, that you may be encouraging the very thing you are trying to prevent."
CARE for Scotland has created presentations which "focus on the need to encourage young people to delay sexual activity", and there is evidence that this approach is supported by parents and teachers, Dr Noble said.
But the organisation has experienced "antipathy" towards its programmes from some parts of the education sector.
"The antipathy to what we do is sometimes related to a feeling that there is no future in an abstinence-based approach to sex and relationship education, or to encouraging young people to delay," he said. "Current approaches do not seem to be working and we suggest a fundamental review of the approach to sex education in schools."