As the world awaits a vaccine for COVID-19, the spotlight has been put on the world’s health systems and scientific research. During this time, human lives are dependent upon collective and individual boundaries as well as the new social behaviors we adopt.
Now more than ever, the health and well-being of individuals and their communities depend on the type of education necessary for a comprehensive understanding of disease prevention and pathologies.
This critical moment in global history is not just a health crisis with social and economic implications. COVID-19 has put our model of civilization into question. Major issues are being obscured by our technological prowess, boundless exploitation of non-renewable fossil resources, forests and other ecosystems, leading to profound consequences on the climate and the environment.
The non-preservation of biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystems and the human invasion of animal habitats escalate the risk of zoonosis as well as new pandemics in the future.
Incheon's Declaration of 2015 confirms that education develops the skills, values and attitudes that enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions, and respond to local and global challenges.
The current health crisis is not just about health
The reality is, a vaccine for the coronavirus will not be enough to mitigate this health crisis. It will also require the ability to anticipate and better manage future infectious diseases.
It is becoming increasingly evident that human health relies on a healthy planet, where collectively we begin to acquire the knowledge necessary to take appropriate action to circumvent some of the damage done; finding balance and harmony with our planet.
It starts in our homes, with our families, and most importantly in our schools, which must provide relevant information and teach the fundamental notions of sustainable development.
The international community foresaw this need when it adopted in late 2015 Sustainable Development Goal 4 for education, including target 4.7:
By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles…
Rethinking education for the future
While recent efforts to bring this goal into reality are encouraging, essential work remains. UNESCO underlines that “the percentage of countries adopting its principles [of sustainable development] in student assessment rose from just under 50% to almost 85%. Yet only 21% of countries reported that teaching hours dedicated to the principles were ‘fully sufficient’ ".
Education post COVID-19 should adapt curriculums and study plans at every level. This reform is about preparing future leaders, scientists, medical practitioners and informed citizens. The education of future generations requires a curriculum that emphasizes life-saving everyday skills and responsibilities.