Education is the Foundation of Choice

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.
No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality.
No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health….. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation.
And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended.”

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

Research in both education and public health has increasingly focussed on the school experiences of early adolescence as crucial in promoting engagement with learning and enhancing physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being. The school social environment has been shown to directly influence a young person’s sense of attachment, emotional well-being and health1. Genuine engagement with learning and with others within the school environment is a key to positive outcomes across a range of immediate and long-term health, academic and life outcomes.

Further research emphasises “connectedness” to family and to school as central to emotional well-being2,3 and that what matters most for young adolescents is a school environment in which they feel they are treated fairly, are close to others, and are part of the school. If the time spent within the school environment is associated with a sense of security, feelings of belonging, and being positively regarded, both educational and health outcomes are likely to be enhanced4.

Stars program design is therefore informed by this research in seeking to identify the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and the types of school environment, relationships, and learning experiences that best promote engagement.

The program’s focus is on both promoting a positive school environment that enhances a sense of belonging and connectedness for the participants, and on building individual capacity and life skills through the experience.

Program guidelines assist the mentors to plan, implement and evaluate strategies to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors, which affect student health and educational outcomes. Recognising that our health and well-being is affected not only by our own decisions and actions, but also by our interactions with others within the context in which we find ourselves, the program includes both individual-focused and environment-focused components5.

1    Glover, S, Burns, J, Butler, H & Patton, G 1998, ‘Social Environs and the Emotional Wellbeing of Young People’, Australian Institute of Family Studies
2    Resnick, M., Bearman, P., Blum, R., Bauman, K., Harris, K., Jones, J.,Tabor, J., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R., Shew, M., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L.H., & Udry, J.R. 1997, ‘Protecting Adolescents From Harm’, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 278, no. 10, pp. 823-832.
3    Osterman KF. Students’ need for belonging in the school community. Review of Educational Research 2000;70:323-67.
4    Glover S, Burns J, Butler H, Patton G. Social environments and the emotional wellbeing of young people. Family Matters 1998;49:11-6.
5    Glover S, Patton G, Butler H, Di Pietro G, B Begg, Ollis D, Cahir S, Watso J. 2002 Teaching resources for emotional well-being. Melbourne: Centre for Adolescent Health.