Improving Health and Social Cohesion through Education

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Today’s global policy climate underlines the importance of better addressing non-economic dimensions of well-being and social progress such as health, social engagement, political interest and crime. Education plays an important role in shaping indicators of progress. However, we understand little about the causal effects, the causal pathways, the role of contexts and the relative impacts that different educational interventions have on social outcomes.

This report addresses challenges in assessing the social outcomes of learning by providing a synthesis of the existing evidence, original data analyses and policy discussions. The report finds that education has the potential to promote health as well as civic and social engagement. Education may reduce inequalities by fostering cognitive, social and emotional skills and promoting healthy lifestyles, participatory practices and norms. These efforts are most likely to be successful when family and community environments are aligned with the efforts made in educational institutions. This calls for ensuring policy coherence across sectors and stages of education.

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Education and health

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

In spite of rapid increases in life expectancy, OECD countries remain concerned about the deterioration in lifestyle habits and the sharp rise in chronic health problems. Can education play a role in addressing these health challenges? The literature suggests that education can help improve health by raising cognitive and socio-emotional skills and developing health related habits and attitudes. There is significant scope for education to improve children’s health, but can it fulfil this role in isolation? Evidence suggests that essential cognitive and socio-emotional skills can be most effectively developed in the family environment during early childhood. With a strong start, children are better able to capitalise on their school experience. Community environment can also complement the efforts made in school and the family. To ensure the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of education’s contribution to health, it is critical for schools to focus on enhancing what works, addressing what does not, and ensuring that the family and community environments are in harmony with school initiatives. Policy makers can support this by promoting policy coherence across sectors and stages of education.

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