This paper suggests that there are two different paradigms within health education and the health‐promoting school, the traditional/moralistic paradigm and the democratic paradigm. The Danish network of Health Promoting Schools favours the democratic paradigm, within which the overall aim is to develop students’ abilities to influence their own life and the society – their so‐called “action competence”. The nature of an “action” is defined here as being “purposefully directed at solving a problem or facilitating change and consciously decided upon by those carrying out the action”. The key factors which influence action are discussed: they are insight and knowledge; vision; commitment; experience; and social skills. The paper then looks more deeply at insight and knowledge, suggesting that it has four different dimensions: knowledge of effects; causes; the processes of change; and vision of future possibilities. It suggests that teachers themselves need both the educational competence to facilitate the education of others, and high levels of action‐oriented knowledge and insight.
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