The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified treaty in history. It makes it a right for young people to have a meaningful say in matters that affect them, but rarely do we see it respected. This is particularly true in typical publicly funded schools, but change is finally in the air.
In 2021 the UNESCO International Commission on the Future of Education published its report titled: Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education, which “aims to catalyze a global debate on how education needs to be rethought in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and fragility.” In an effort to make the debate about more than talk, the UN held the Transforming Education Summit in September 2022 preceded by consultation with the Global Student Forum. Leonardo Garnier, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General for the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, gave these opening remarks at the Global Student Forum that outline the challenging task of transforming education to achieve all that it can be. See more here: #transformingeducation.
Education is the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal #4 – SDG4, but its focus is on education for upward socioeconomic mobility and increasing school enrolment rates at all levels. The importance of providing learning environments for all young people is undisputed, but the nature of these environments needs to be defined on the basis of the culture into which a child is born. For students to flourish no matter where their place of learning, attention to their mental health is crucial.
The Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has social justice and self-determination at the top of its list of core values. From this we can derive the formula:
mental health = social justice + self-determination
Young people need to be able to walk into their places of learning feeling neither inferior nor superior to others, and they need to have a high level of control over what happens to them. The UN Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education report and its Transforming Education Summit are indications that attention is now being given to more than upward mobility and increasing school enrolments.