In October 2015, the Province of New Brunswick launched a consultation on a new ten-year education plan. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development called upon two leading experts to consult with stakeholders and create a new vision for the education system. The Medical Society leapt on the opportunity to try to encourage the school system to focus on health, because doctors know education and health are absolutely intertwined.
In our public submission to this process, eight areas for focus in the education system were outlined. You can read the full submission here.
We believe schools can play a leading role in providing healthy food to children. After all, the school setting is the only place 96,000 New Brunswickers eat one meal every day. Fulfilling the vision of Make Menus Matter and providing healthy lunches is very important to model healthy behaviours.
Home economics – or nutrition, cooking, and healthy eating courses – should be mandatory in the secondary school setting. Many parents are no longer teaching these essential skills at home, but it’s been shown that students who learn these abilities actually teach them to their parents.
Physical activity is a challenge in an era when the average child gets six hours of “screen time” every weekday. Enhancing the physical education provided to students throughout their school career and increasing the credit requirements of physical education in secondary school would help to normalise the one-hour-a-day guideline for young adults.
The school system has a lot of potential to improve the attitudes of all New Brunswickers toward their peers with mental health needs. It also can help educate students about sexual health, and reduce the rates of sexually-transmitted infections and teen pregnancies.
Other recommendations focus on the school’s role within the community, including the use of health professionals to teach health-related curricula, and ensure schools open their gyms and corridors after-hours for communities to use as places of activity.
The full Ten-Year Education Plan will be published in 2016. We will be carefully examining the Plan and believe it should have a major focus on health.