Education International
Education International

Health and education go hand in hand

published 3 June 2015 updated 5 June 2015

Can literacy and numeracy live together with public health, sustainable lifestyles and global citizenship in education policy?

Education International (EI) and affiliates said yes two years ago through its Unite for Quality Education campaign, focused on pillars that included quality teachers, tools and environments for teaching and learning.

All three pillars were center stage at the recent World Education Forum, where delegates from around the world, including a strong EI contingent, debated and produced the Incheon Declaration. In addition to agreeing to “ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems,” the document defined quality education as a benefit that “enable(s) citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions, and respond to local and global challenges through education for sustainable development (ESD) and global citizenship education (GCED).”

Last year, EI became a signatory to the Global School Health Statement, which said, in part, “Health and social policies, must be adapted, crafted, and integrated into the policies, processes, and practices of education systems. In short, health must find its cultural anchor within the education system.”

For three days beginning this week, a wide variety of global health, education and UN organizations are meeting to discuss issues of integrating disciplines such as health and social sustainability into schools as a way to improve both educational and health outcomes.

EI Deputy General Secretary David Edwards is making multiple presentations to the conference and helped draw the connection between the hard-won pro-teacher and student and pro-public education victories in Incheon and the subject of integrating health and social programs within education systems.

“We see policies in many parts of the world that reduce funding for education if test scores decline. We need to change the relationships to define success beyond the cut scores for literacy and numeracy,” said Edwards. “Improving the health of students, the civic engagement of their families and things like the water and nutritional environments in their communities and critical factors in terms of educational outcomes and societal wellbeing. There is great deal of opportunity for health and education to work together in a systemic way.”

The conference is sponsored by EI and partner ASCD in cooperation with the education program of UNESCO and the International School Health Network.

Through the three days, the discussions will include presentations from example programs integrating school and health in Germany, Canada, New Zealand, France, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, and Hong Kong. The perspective of EI’s European affiliates was presented by Susan Flocken, coordinator of Internal Policy Coordination, Occupational Health & Safety at EI’s European Regional Office, ETUCE.