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How school-based health education can help young people navigate an uncertain world

Rachael Dixon (School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)
Jenny Robertson (Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 23 March 2021

Issue publication date: 1 March 2022




The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us a striking demonstration that the future is dynamic, unpredictable, complex and volatile. It is increasingly important that those working in the field of school-based health education reimagine the possibilities and potential of the subject to rise to the challenges presented and make a difference in learners' worlds. In this paper we explore the potential of health education learning to contribute to aspects of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD's) Learning Compass 2030 from our perspective in Aotearoa New Zealand. This is a learning framework that uses the metaphor of navigation to demonstrate the competencies young people need in order to thrive in the world and has a significant focus on wellbeing for people and society (OECD, 2019).


We explore the links between the learning compass and a socio-critical approach to secondary school-based health education learning opportunities by producing and refining our own knowledge of the learning contexts and experiences that could potentially contribute to the elements of compass. We present this as dialogue produced through asynchronous online conversations between the paper's two authors across a three-month period in 2020 – a method befitting our COVID-19 times.


After employing a deductive thematic analysis we found extensive links between health education learning and aspects of the compass which are congruent with the notion that it is more about how the subject is taught than what is covered in a socio-critical health education. We communicate our findings by organising them into three themes that arose for us in analysis: learners' capability to understand the world, navigate the world and change the world.


We conclude the paper with key questions to consider if we are to reimagine school-based health education in order for learning experiences in the subject to enrich learners' understanding of how to navigate the complex and uncertain times they will face across their lives.



Research funding: None.


Dixon, R. and Robertson, J. (2022), "How school-based health education can help young people navigate an uncertain world", Health Education, Vol. 122 No. 1, pp. 91-102.



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