Sean Slade

Learning and Health are Symbiotic (and Global)

This week Education International—the world's largest federation of unions, representing 30 million education employees in 170 countries and territories—signed onto the Global School Health Statement developed by ASCD and the International School Health Network.

The Global School Health Statement was developed out of the first Global School Health Symposium, a multi-level, multi-sectorial discussion involving more than 60 leading education, health, and school health experts from across twenty countries held in Thailand in August 2013. Since then it has been introduced at a series of Global School Health Symposia and discussed at a series of key global events.

The statement is the educational response to the World Health Organization's Health in All Policies (HiAP) initiative and recent HiAP statement [PDF] (Helsinki, 2013). It supports HiAP, but calls for a revised partnership with education that uses a capacity-focused and systems-based approach to embed their school-related efforts more fully into the core mandates, constraints, processes, and concerns of educational systems.

Educators around the world invite their colleagues from the health and social sectors to join them in this dialogue that will lead to better integration of health and social programs within education. We strongly suggest that learning more about school systems, their core mandates, ways of operating, constraints and emerging opportunities within a systems-based, organizational development approach that includes a focus on various kinds of capacities at several levels across several systems will lead to more sustainable, comprehensive, and effective approaches and partnerships with educators.

—Global School Health Statement

In short, if health is to be a key part of education, it must fit within the context of learning, culture, and systems of education—and not be introduced or viewed as a distinctly separate entity. The fact remains that school environments that promote and support health and well-being are also the same environments that are most conducive the effective teaching and learning.

Health and education are symbiotic. What affects one affects the other. The healthy child learns better just as the educated child leads a healthier life. Similarly, a healthier environment—physically as well as socially-emotionally—provides for more effective teaching and learning.

—Global School Health Statement

Unite for Quality Education - Education InternationalThis stance also fits within Education International's third pillar of effective education: Quality environments for teaching and learning that are supportive, comfortable, safe, and secure facilities enabling teachers to teach effectively. This work is a part of the Unite for Quality Education campaign which seeks to ensure that quality education for all remains at the top of the agenda for a sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous future.

Despite economic, cultural, and social differences, we are united in our call to put in place these essential elements of a global future:

  • universal and free access to quality teachers,
  • modern teaching tools and resources, and
  • supportive and safe environments for teaching and learning.

—Unite for a Quality Education

Between ASCD, Education International, and the other key education organizations listed as signatories on the statement, we represent the majority of K–12 educators—principals, superintendents, teachers, support professionals, and policymakers—globally.

Sean Slade is director of Whole Child Programs at ASCD. The Whole Child Initiative is part of a broad, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from an academic focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes, enhancing learning by addressing each student's social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through the shared contributions of schools, families, communities, and policymakers.

During his more than two decades in education, Slade has written extensively on topics related to the whole child and health and well-being and has been at the forefront of promoting and using school climate, connectedness, resilience, and a youth development focus for school improvement. He has been a teacher, head of department, educational researcher, senior education officer, and director. He has taught, trained, and directed education initiatives in Australia, Italy, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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