Sexual and reproductive health

International Youth Day 2019

12 August 2019 ¦ The theme of International Youth Day 2019 is "Transforming Education". It is intended to highlight the need to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all young people. The theme of the day prompts three questions:

  • Why is education important?
  • Why is there a need to transform education?
  • How is WHO’s work contributing to transforming education?
School girls who will receive HPV vaccine in Brazil

Why is education important?

Education is essential to prepare children and young people for their lives now and in the future, and for preparing them for satisfying and rewarding work. Education is also pivotal to good health, gender equality, and peace and security:

As the Lancet Commission on adolescent health and well-being has noted, school attendance in itself is associated with reduced mortality in boys and girls, in addition to other benefits; school ethos is associated with benefits in a number of health areas including violence and drug use, and attendance at school increases the likelihood of access to health promotion, health prevention interventions such as micronutrient supplements and vaccinations, and to screening and curative health services in school-based on school-linked health services:

Why is there a need to transform education?

Primary school enrolment and retention grew dramatically in many low- and middle-income countries in the Millennium Development Goals era. In the Sustainable Development Goals era, alongside efforts to sustain and extend this positive development, increasing attention must be given to the quality (including the relevance) of the content and of the delivery of education, notably:

  • improving secondary-school retention and completion, especially in girls and increasing the enrolment of children and adolescents who are vulnerable e.g. those with disabilities and those in humanitarian crisis settings, because these populations tend to be left behind/out;
  • reducing violence in the school context because studies in many contexts point to the occurrence of physical, psychological and sexual violence both by teachers and by fellow students; and
  • making every school a health promoting school, including improving access to quality promotive, preventive and curative health interventions that children and adolescents need, as schools hold untapped potential for the cost effective delivery of these interventions.

How is WHO contributing to transforming education?

WHO is working with UNESCO and other agencies to transform education in many areas.

1. WHO guidelines and programme-support tools call for improved school attendance and retention:

2. WHO is calling for school policies and procedures to make schools free of violence by teachers and by fellow students:

3. WHO is developing global standards for health promoting schools:

It is also is working to develop guidelines for school health services.

In addition, WHO is supporting global efforts to improve school-based or school-linked provision of health interventions, including access to the Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination is young adolescents girls and improving the quality of the content and delivery of school-based health education.

In 2018, WHO contributed to the development of the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education which provides evidence-based guidance on the content and delivery of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).

CSE illustrates clearly how the objectives and approaches to transforming education and achieving universal access to health are intertwined. As UNESCO has noted: “It [CSE] improves sexual and reproductive health-related outcomes such as HIV infection and adolescent pregnancy rates, which in turn expands education opportunities. It disrupts harmful gender norms and promotes gender equality, which helps to reduce or prevent gender-based violence and hence create safe and inclusive learning environments. As an active teaching and learning approach centred on students, it helps develop skills such as critical thinking, communication and decision making that empower students to take responsibility for and control their actions and help them become healthy, responsible and productive citizens.”