No question that 2015 was a milestone year for education globally. But education advocates see 2016 as a critical year; a time to build on the success of placing education as a top United Nations goal for achieving sustainable development.
The momentum accelerated recently as Education International and U.S.-based ASCD promised combined initiatives to support a “Whole Child” approach that links health and well-being directly to the UN’s education goal.
The organizations issued a joint declaration this week that makes clear education and health must operate in an integrated fashion: “A quality education is one which focuses on the whole child – the social, emotional, mental, physical and cognitive development of each student…based on the pillars of excellent teaching, appropriate and effective learning tools, and supportive learning environments…”
ASCD is a global community, with 56 affiliated entities in 138 countries focused on excellence in learning, teaching, and leading. The organization is lead sponsor of the Global School Health Statement endorsed by EI, which says, 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.”
The EI-ASCD collaboration illustrates the continuing impact of EI’s mobilisation to put quality education front and center in the discussion of global goals. Through our Unite for Quality Education campaign in 2014-2015, EI led a global call for quality teaching, and quality tools and environments for teaching and learning. Some 10 million of our 32 million members in 61 countries organised more than 300 events focused on a single point; that access to quality education was a permanent, sustainable development goal worth fighting for.
While EI mobilised, we also organized and collaborated with advocates across the globe. The result is a growing understanding that achieving the SDGs will require progressive organizations to work in harness, advocating systemic changes that focus multiple sectors in communities, nations and internationally on common purpose.
This new declaration of joint effort with ASCD recognizes the essential role of quality education across the broad array of challenges the world faces for sustainable development in the period leading up to 2030: “Our duty to students, and to the educators that serve them, is to stand for goals that are meaningful beyond simple metrics and to support goals which are commensurate with what we know. Education reduces poverty and hunger across generations, and improves health outcomes, especially for mothers and children. In addition education improves the economic health of nations, enhances civic participation and raises the likelihood of peaceful resolution of conflict.”
Advocacy at the nexus of education and health has accelerated since the 2014 Global Education Monitoring Report, which said “Education is one of the most powerful ways of improving people’s health. It saves the lives of millions of mothers and children, helps prevent and contain disease, and is an essential element of efforts to reduce malnutrition.…Despite its benefits, education is often neglected as a vital health intervention in itself and as a means of making other health interventions more effective.”
The connection has become even more clear with the increasing numbers of school-aged youth displaced as refugees and victims of conflict. As the statement notes, “ours is a world of severe challenges, with millions of students under fire, unsettled and unschooled due to conflict and governments globally failing to meet their funding commitments to education, especially with regard to their poorest citizens. Education advocates have a responsibility to promote policies that integrate schools, communities and nations into a system that supports development of the whole child; ensuring that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.”