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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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Executive summary

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

The policy climate surrounding issues of development and prosperity has gradually shifted during the last decade. There is growing interest in looking beyond the traditional economic measures of success, such as income, employment and gross domestic product (GDP), towards non-economic facets of well-being and social progress, such as health, civic engagement and happiness. Recent prominent initiatives include the French government’s Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (chaired by Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi) and the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health (chaired by Michael Marmot).

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