Education International
Education International

Health education crucial for quality education

published 10 March 2016 updated 11 March 2016

Students must be seen as holistic beings, and the impact of the state of their health on their education taken into greater consideration. This was the key message highlighted by Education International at the 60th Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society.

The Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) is being held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from 6-10 March.

Health and social policies must be adapted, crafted, and integrated into the policies, processes and practices of education systems, said Education International (EI) Research Coordinator, Martin Henry. He was addressing a workshop on 6 March, School health promotion and development in the 21st century: comparing progress in behaviours, programs, contexts and capacities.

The theme of the conference is “Six decades of comparative and international education: taking stock and looking forward”. The CIES was founded in 1956 to foster cross-cultural understanding, scholarship, academic achievement and societal development through the international study of educational ideas, systems, and practices.

Holistic approach

‘The OECD and UNESCO are becoming increasingly clear about the need to apply the whole child approach in education, and health education is central to this process,’ Henry said.

‘A quality education is one that focuses on the whole child, preparing the child for life, not just for testing.’ That is the definition articulated by EI and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). It is supported by three key pillars championed by EI: ensuring access to quality teachers, providing quality learning tools and professional development, and establishing safe and supportive quality learning environments.

Henry reminded attendees of EI and ASCD’s call for a clear definition of quality education that places the needs of the child at the fore. This is contained in the joint statement released on 17 February by EI and the ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning and teaching. The EI Coordinator also referred participants to Maori approaches to wellbeing: “What we learn from the Maori culture has a global message: it is unhelpful to dissect the child into a brain, a body, a feeling and a social context.”

Maori culture

Just as in the Maori culture, EI sees links between health curriculum policy and the world of education, Henry added. “If we are going to have sustainable futures, health, the whole child, quality education, wellbeing (for students and teachers) and community connectivity are key factors,” he said.

‘There is a tendency to reduce health to shallow concerns with obesity and body image,’ he went on to note. ‘Health, however, is about far more than body image, it is about hauora- a New Zealand Maori concept and philosophy of wellbeing,’ he said.

Positive attitude

According to Henry, attitude and values are therefore highly regarded – a positive, responsible attitude on the part of students to their own wellbeing; respect, care, and concern for other people and the environment; and a sense of social justice. Health promotion is a process that helps to develop and maintain supportive physical and emotional environments and that involves students in personal and collective action, he also explained.

The workshop debated school-based and school-linked health promotion, humanitarian and relief aid, safety, social, equity and sustainable development programmes, which have been integral to the social role of schooling around the world for decades.