[eDiscussion] Engaging young people in health and education policy

Welcome to the eDiscussion on ‘Engaging young people in health and education policy‘ which is running from 7 October to 11 November 2016.

At the end of the discussion each of the contributions will be included in a synthesised final report, which will be circulated and made available on the Health Hub. If you would like to contribute further to this topic, please email the Health Hub Facilitation team at healthhub@commonwealth.int.


Young people constitute 60 per cent of the population of the Commonwealth. The commonwealth represents a diverse family of countries with many countries experiencing ageing populations, whilst others are experiencing the so called ‘youth bulge’ as a consequence of improved maternal and child health (a).

Poor health and low quality, or insufficient access to education in the youth population can be detrimental to national economies through direct economic losses for treatment and loss of productivity from indirect costs. Health and education goals can be better achieved if young people are fully engaged as partners and leaders in addressing social development issues through planning, monitoring and evaluating programs and policies (b).

Young people today face many of the same problems encountered by generations preceding them such as ensuring they have the necessary skills to find useful employment and lead healthy happy lives. Some challenges are new; some are long-standing but on a scale not previously experienced. Climate change and biodiversity are becoming some of the biggest drivers of change in the modern world. Globalisation, migration and technological innovation and their effects on decent work and health have been around in some form for decades. The pace of change, however, is now so fast that keeping up becomes increasingly difficult. In some countries, the current cohort of youth has even been referred to as ‘generation jobless’, or as a ticking health time-bomb.

Are the skills acquired by school leavers and graduates, and those required by employers in a rapidly changing economy sufficiently well aligned? Do young people develop sufficient knowledge and health behaviours to navigate the modern world with the increasing advertising noise and competing health messages? Please share your experiences and good practices.


  1. How do health and education policies and services need to change to adequately address the needs of young people responding to contemporary societal challenges such as?
    a. Urbanisation, which includes challenges for rural populations;
    b. Changes in job markets including; skilled labour migration and technological unemployment;
    c. Impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss;
    d. Extremist violence; and
    e. Gender inequities.
  2. How can governments meet the health and education services expectations of young people in Commonwealth countries?
  3. What techniques work to engage young people in education and health policy development in Commonwealth countries?

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References and resources

(a) Necessity could be the mother of innovation

(b) Youth Participation in development; A Guide for Development Agencies and Policy Makers. London: Department for International Development

Young People and the Future of Emerging Markets

The Commonwealth Youth Development Index (YDI)

Your Commonwealth – the youth perspective

The Commonwealth Youth Programme

A rigorous review of the political economy of education systems in developing countries

Impact of research on policy and practice

Bridging research and policy in international development: an analytical and practical framework

Decent work

Emerging discussion Themes:

As the discussion progresses it will develop its own themes which will eventually feed into a final document summarising the conversation. At present these themes are developing along the following lines:

Changing face of employment

As automation in certain industries increases, more opportunities open up in other industries. The nature of work is changes rapidly – operating a machine gives way to setting up and programming a machine.

Availability of jobs

Could policy makers intervene on the bottom line when it comes to tax rebates? If an organisation allows youth workers to gain experience, either through job shadows or internships, then the organisation could receive a tax rebate when they present the youth workers certificate of experience?

A more complex information age

Traditional approaches of controlling the masses are less effective in the information age, where all are more closely intertwined and dependent upon each other for safety. Hope and justice need to be provided for everyone.

Health and education are intertwined with food security

Malnutrition impairs school performance. It also slows economic growth and perpetuates poverty leading to an economic cost of malnutrition. Governments by tackling food insecurity issues can work towards the expectations of health and education of young people, developing nutrition specific module and working with civil society organisation


Previous Contributions:


Moderators Note

Our thanks to Brenda Gourley, Ben Sambe and Michelle Forson for their contributions.

In her article, Brenda highlights the crises of unemployment and how a generation of young people are being referred to as ‘generation jobless’. Pragmatic elements for solutions are suggested in the quest to leapfrog technological developments. Ben makes a number of interesting points in particular highlighting the need for awareness of emergent inequalities in health and particularly education opportunities, which need to be actively managed. He also makes specific reference for the need to provide sexual and reproductive education in schools, a good example of the crossover between health and education. Michelle Forson makes the case for appropriate education and decent work at adequate income levels.

Contributions to eDiscussion

Brenda Gourley, United Kingdom

Bredna Gourley refers us to her article in the University World News in which she states: “Not unexpectedly, youth unemployment and under-employment have now reached a critical level globally with the ‘crisis’ of unemployment now so pronounced that the current cohort of youth has been referred to as ‘generation jobless’. This is partly due to a lack of jobs, but also to a mismatch between skills and market requirements. This is most pronounced in developing countries.” She goes on to say: “The solutions lie in adopting the best and most pragmatic innovations and practice, making the necessary policy changes, redirecting funding accordingly and, most importantly, getting on with implementation.” Brenda Gourley’s pragmatic solutions that represent opportunities (expanded in the article) are:

  • Harness the technology
  • Embrace the ‘for-profit’ providers
  • Move to competency-based education development
  • Reform accreditation
  • Strengthen quality assurance
  • Partner with the informal and commercial sectors
  • Strengthen funding as a ‘steer’

The article makes some suggestions about how better to use the resources that many countries devote to education and have the advantage of being able to leapfrog technological developments, learn from the best and make policy steers that would put them in the forefront of education transformation – if they have the will (See: University World News).

Ben Sambe, Nigeria

Response to question 1

Governmental agencies in charge of youth issues should be proactive in collaborating with sectoral agencies in Trade, Agriculture, Tourism Industry and Private sector to find ways in new spaces and opportunities to engage the teeming youth.

Sensitisation among Youth about their labour rights, despite differences in age, gender and educational background.

Affordable Education are opportunities for adequate jobs.

Better protection of young people’s labour conditions is required, including promotion of better mechanism and reduce exploitation.

Also, Transparency should be ensured in selection processes, which meant that the most vulnerable youths are often excluded in favour of those with better connections.

Response to question 2

The population of most common wealth countries, for example Nigeria is made of 60 to 70% Youths. The major health challenges predominant with this group is in the area of Sexual and Reproductive Infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy. Hence, Advocacy and Prevention programming should be encouraged and well-funded by the Government. More resources should be committed in providing conducive learning environment, by providing adequate stationery, well equipped classrooms, ensure that teachers are well trained and  adequately paid. Also, Sexual and Reproductive Education  should be made compulsory in Primary and Secondary Schools.

Response to question 3

Engage the youth in health education policies to know their views thereby giving them sense of belonging.

Give the youth the opportunity to work thereby building mutual trust between the government, youth and their communities.

Strengthen advocacy and prevention program relating to health and education among the youth.

Michelle Forson, USA

Young people will get engaged when they feel their well-being is a concern of the society – the government in particular. And the solution to that problem is a simple one in my view – governments in the Commonwealth need to do three things:

  1. provide good quality affordable education to the young that is USEFUL – for job acquisition in a changing world.
  1. the government should provide an economy with JOBS for the educated young.
  1. the economy should be one in which these educated young people have jobs which provide ADEQUATE income.

The incentive of a reward always garners more interest.

A working economy and society (as a whole) will provide incentive for the young to seek education and this in turn opens up opportunities and interest for and in policy making.


Christopher Beukes, South Africa

The trend towards fewer and fewer jobs does not seem to be slowing down. If not already undertaken, a study should be conducted to determine the end result of a purely capitalistic system. If the focus is on lower costs and fewer staff through automation, a time will come where citizens of a country will not have any work opportunities. It is said that the factory of the future will have a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog and the dog will be there to bite the man if he presses any buttons. [i.e. automation will have reached its peak]

It is not just that the youth don’t have the skills (easy excuse as there are clear solutions for this challenge) but also that there really do not seem to be enough jobs, especially in urban areas. To test this theory, one needs to simply put out a job advertisement for a medium to high skilled job. The number of responses should indicate the level of competition for that particular job. When doing the first screen of applicants, the recruiter will generally look at two main components. The first will be formal education credentials and the other will be previous related experience. While a number of youth may have suitable qualifications, a large number will not have the qualifications. This is the “catch 22” that the youth find themselves in: They need experience to get work, but they need work to get experience. The irony of it all is that many of those who do not have the formal qualification or experience may actually be exactly what the organisation needs.

It is true that because of the pace that organisations need to operate at, it is often not possible to allocate sufficient resources to train up the new incumbent. Furthermore, the high turnover of youth workers makes this process impractical for many organisations. This is where governments can intervene on the bottom line when it comes to tax rebates. If an organisation allows youth workers to gain experience, either through job shadows or internships, the organisation should receive a tax rebate when they present the youth workers certificate of experience.

Moderator’s Note

It is cliché to say that the advancement of technology and automation of many tasks are reducing the potential for employment. The youth face this reality more starkly than the generations that came before them, and the phenomena of change is not new. As automation in certain industries increases, more opportunities open up in other industries. The nature of work is changing more rapidly – operating a machine gives way to setting up and programming a machine. Mechanisation and automation creates unemployment in some places and opportunities need to be found it other places but do young people emerge from education systems with the necessary digital literacy?

The expectations of younger generations are not always the same as the generations that came before. Not only do the nature of jobs change rapidly, but incumbents choose to move on more easily; the adage that a person joins a company but resigns because of a manager is often pointed to with a more mobile and globally-connected generation. Education systems are sometimes criticised for being out-of-date and that new, specific skills are required; But specific skills can become out-of-date more rapidly than general skills, which do not necessarily prepare a person for immediately deployment in the workplace. Where is there a balance?

How can policy-makers adapt to improve the systems that support education and health in the longer term?


Lynn Oliver, USA

1. How do health and education policies and services need to change to adequately address the needs of young people responding to contemporary societal challenges such as?

a. Urbanisation, which includes challenges for rural populations;
Idea – As jobs become fewer in the rural communities with the growth of corporate farming and other corporate areas, we need to begin looking at providing ways to help young persons in the rural communities have “long-term tools” to slowly develop their minds in more intellectual, open-minded ways and to understand better the need for more communication with others for more constructive partnerships with employers. This means also removing the false genetics models very early in school and providing more continual hope for change for students and adults. At the same time, we need to help employers learn to understand the problems and delicate dynamics of life in both rural and urban areas. This will be important in the future to maintain more peaceable, constructive interactions between those groups. I feel the future will become more complex and uncertain for everyone. This is why we need more insight in maintaining more constructive communication between groups.
I feel more persons living in rural areas are so beset by much more by any increase in cost for fuel and transportation. I don’t know the answer to this one.

b. Changes in job markets including; skilled labour migration and technological unemployment;
Idea – We need to of course, provide more hope for students and adults from a young age, again removing the false genetics models from our schools and putting into intense focus, using many environmental variables as tools to continually improve and change our lives over time. http://learningtheory.homestead.com This is vitally important for Males, for they are given love and honour only on condition of some achievement or status. Males not achieving, both young and old are given more ridicule, even abuse by society in many subtle and not so subtle ways. Too often many employers are using Unskilled Males and also slowly hurting their spirit and esteem. This cannot be allowed in the information age, for the prospect of mass violence is all too real in this new world.

I am afraid the false belief in genetics; the completely misunderstood definition of average stress; and the archaic belief, “boys and men should be strong” – allowing more aggressive and less supportive treatment from infancy through adulthood, is creating many Males who are not able to have success in school and in addition, not able to succeed in the information age, which requires much more communication, trust, and developed competency in academics and use of academic skills. On top of this, due to the false genetic models, men are now given more ridicule by society in general. We need to understand how our individual environments greatly affect thinking, learning, motivation, and mental health. We need to use many “great environmental variables as tools” to help “all students” have hope of continually changing and improving. We need to understand and use both a better definition of average stress and the important dynamics of approaching newer mental work, both are very important for long-term learning and motivation in the information age. See learning theory – http://learningtheory.homestead.com

c. Impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss;
The impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity is not in my area of present knowledge, aside from the lack of preparation by all for potential changes in food and property.

d. Extremist violence;
Idea – We must see the growing use of corporate control of masses, the ever-growing gap in education, resources, knowledge, and the yes, the myth of genetics and lack of hope provided the masses due to the false genetic models, misunderstanding of average stress, and false use of hard work, which is maintaining and growing the gap of depravity of the masses in favor of fewer and fewer persons and groups. We “cannot breed hopelessness” for individuals and especially groups. The old colonial style use of control of masses will not work in the information age, for both groups are too closely intertwined and dependent upon each other for safety. We must provide hope and justice for everyone. We must provide a net for those in the lower rungs at least until we can find a better way. This goes for all nations which interact with one another.

e. Gender inequities.
I feel gender inequalities are not as they appear. There is talk of Males holding much more political, economic, and scientific clout in the world. There is talk of Females earning less than their male peers. I feel there is much society is missing that is creating the illusion we as women are still suffering in the world of work. I feel the information age is creating much better learning and advancement for girls and women in education and yes, also the information age of earnings. We are doing very well; however, we are not as driven to obtain the higher – political, corporate, or scientific areas of society. We are given love and honor for being girls and women. We are choosing many wonderful professions where we enjoy much fulfilment and inner security. We are taking over many white collar positions while our male peers are being driven out of those areas due to much less support and poor treatment from a young age. The differences in earnings are but a total of earnings both for those top positions in society and accumulated wealth over many years by men. As young women we are already earning more than our male peers and this gap is growing due to the better treatment and support we receive.

The very few Males (and this group is growing smaller) who are making high grades in academics and reach into the very high – political, stem, and corporate fields are driven from first much more support from the fewer middle to upper class families with more long-term stability, knowledge/skills, support provided and *most importantly the “need to keep achieving to continue to receive love and honor from society”. This then becomes a kind of drug of success, for which they must continually strive. I feel as more middle to upper class families fall in the world, this group of Males will also fall, leaving more openings for the many more successful women with more education and skills over time.

We must bridge this ever-growing gap in education between failing Males and more successful Females. We must provide Males with much of the same protection, support, verbal interaction, and respect from infancy as we as girls and women receive unconditionally. We must at the same time, explain to our girls and women that yes, we are enjoying much more care, protection, support, from an early age that is creating part of the growing educational and economic gap between “young men and women”. We cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by the supposed lack of women in politics and corporate areas.

I have a theory that close to 90 percent of our trust, acceptance, and respect for individuals is “based on our collective trust, acceptance, and respect for that group: by gender, race, etc. I feel the growing gap will create a much higher accepted subtle and more open derision of Males in school, employment, stores, offices, and the media by many women who through much modelling, lack of understanding, and a growing freedom of expression from feeling of both protection and superiority. I feel unless we change our current mistreatment of Male children and adults, those micro and more open abrasives will accumulate to create very real harm for society, especially as those vast majority of Males begin to lose their very means of self-worth or desire to live.

2. How can governments meet the health and education services expectations of young people in Commonwealth countries?
Idea – We need to begin providing hope for all. We need to remove the false teachings of genetics and change our instruction to an environmental instruction of change for students and parents (beginning in infancy). We need to use the learning theory presented – http://learningtheory.homestead.com as a tool to help bring this about. We need to show equality but also many environmental variables as tools to help bridge the large gaps in society.

3. What techniques work to engage young people in education and health policy development in Commonwealth countries?
Idea – After all is said, we need to do away with the genetics models. We need to use the many environmental variables of hope and change. The old teachings of Galton and Gardner: “succeed by ability and effort” and “more fixed multiple intelligences” are losers and create much hopelessness for many students and adults. We need my learning theory and hopefully other persons’ ideas that will also help provide tools for students and adults to continually improve their lives.


 Azinwi Ngum, Cameroon

I would like to contribute to the online discussion on Education Hub of the Commonwealth relating health and education within the Commonwealth.

How can governments meet the health and education services expectations of young people in Commonwealth countries?

In other to address this question, it is important to look at the link between health and education of the young people. Education is a fundamental human right same as the right to food as stated in the UN Declaration of Human Right.
Looking at health as an aspect of food security, I would say that, this service is not been met in many governments especially this in developing countries like Cameroon and those under conflict.

Food insecurity is eminent in these countries and the consequences are enormous including malnutrition.
Malnutrition as we will note has devastating effects on the health and education of the young people with plenty of economic costs to the governments.

To the young people, malnutrition negatively effects brain development causing delays in motor and cognitive development which could lead to; impaired school performance, Decreased IQ scores, Memory deficiency, Learning disabilities, Reduced social skills, Reduced language development, Reduced problem-solving abilities.

Malnutrition also slows economic growth and perpetuates poverty. In total, the economic cost of malnutrition is estimated to range from 2 to 3 percent of GDP, to as much as 16 percent in most affected countries like Ethiopia and South Sudan (Reference).

Governments must therefore tackle food insecurity issues in order to meet the expectations of health and education of young people.

– In other to guarantee an educated future young people, they could engage with young people to integrate nutrition-specific modules within primary school programmes in order to address nutrition-related diseases and health problems, especially among children and mothers. This was the case of Cameroon years ago with domestic science classes in primary schools across the country. My choice of primary school is because kids are mostly affected by malnutrition but when they are educated on nutritious feeding habits, they can participate in fighting malnutrition at school and household levels which has ripple effects at the macro level.

– They could also work with civil society organisations to identify and carry out surveys into to have statistics on the links between health and education among young people so that better and practical policies could be put in place.

Resource: Peace and food security are linked in Africa

Lynn Oliver, USA

I hope my learning theory will help many students and adults. It will explain clearly the reason for the Male Crisis.

This article shows how environments affect ability and provides tools to improve learning & mental health. This is a new approach. It redefines average stress as many layers of past present future experiences values needs anything that creates unresolved mental work and is maintained in the mind which take away real mental energy. It shows how our individual environments are creating many essential & nonessential layers that are maintained and can be permanently reduced to improve learning reflection and improve mental health. It provides a way to improve motivation mental reward received for mental work expended. It shows how layers accumulate to create psychological suffering shorter reflection time leading to deaths from drug/alcohol abuse and suicide. Theory provides a way to reduce layers reducing psychological suffering reducing harmful escapes and deaths. It shows why Males are falling behind and why Females are surging ahead.

Resource: Tools we can all use to Improve Hope and Ability