International Day of Education 2023
Each year, the United Nations General Assembly observes the International Day of Education on the 24th of January to highlight the importance of education in enhancing peace and furthering the development of nations. The theme for 2023 is “to invest in people, prioritize education”.
Even though it seems that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, the damage is still evident all around us. It has especially impacted individuals in low and middle-income countries, leaving them disproportionately affected and vulnerable to severe illness and death. Reports suggest that COVID-19 pandemic deepened the global learning crisis. The full impact of children missing school is yet to be assessed but one can only imagine the lasting damage this can cause – not just to their numeracy and literacy skills, but to their nutrition, physical safety and mental health. In order to improve the collective well-being, productivity and livelihood of future generations, it is vital that we prioritize and promote education.
In the midst of a climate crisis, widespread violence and looming fears of a recession, inclusive, equitable education is now more important than ever to shaping a better, safer world. Health education presents a unique set of challenges. Despite a wealth of information and technological advances in the field of medicine, oftentimes this knowledge lies buried in academic texts and in medical circles, inaccessible to the general public. Barriers to access are compounded by cultural differences, stigma, myths and misinformation. These are further exacerbated by social issues such as discrimination, poverty and oppression. These social and cultural differences impact the effectiveness of education and the way it translates into health-seeking action. Approaching public health education with the lens of humanism and compassion will lead to more nuanced, transformative tools and resources.
Our evidence-based interventions were built on an in-depth understanding of the challenges in providing health education, particularly to disadvantaged groups. From our research on HIV/AIDS education, it was evident that the material was often too graphic, the content was unrelatable, delivery was vague and overwhelming, and the topic itself was mired in social and cultural stigma. There was widespread awareness of AIDS but limited knowledge and understanding. We set out to transform an inaccessible curriculum by developing interactive, animated films in regional languages featuring the voices and avatars of iconic social figures. This innovative, scientifically-backed resource was made available for free and led to a marked improvement in engagement and retention. In countries like India, where AIDS education had been typically embedded in sex education, this breakthrough software made the content less intimidating and more powerful. We used a similar approach of demystifying complex public health information and applied it to COVID-19 (breaking it down even further to make it relevant for kids) and concussions. As the environment and composition of populations evolve, we need targeted solutions to address educational needs.
At TeachAids, our goal has consistently been to close learning gaps by breaking down dense health information and bringing less frequently discussed topics such as concussion research to the forefront. We’re proud to be all in as we invest everything we have – expertise, finances and insight – towards reimagining health education everyday.