Concerning bears, tigers and elephants : an exploration of health education in ACT schools

  • Antoinette Ackermann

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This study presents an evaluation of health education in schools in the Australian Capital Territory, listing as evidence the perceptions and experiences of students and teachers at three levels of schooling. There is a particular emphasis on the high school. First, a broad-based literature review was undertaken, in order to arrive at some theoretical principles for health education. For The evaluation itself a combination of methods has been used including student questionnaires, teacher interviews, group discussion, participant observation and an9lysis of documents. While the questionnaire was the major research tool, all sources are integrated
    in the final discussion in order to provide a broad picture of health education at the different school levels. Conclusions drawn from the review of literature include (i) that contemporary health education in the Western world is concerned with the quality of life and
    with the decisions, at both individual and community levels, which relate to lifestyle, and (ii) the inevitability of social change had led to the recognition in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia of the need for young people to develop strategies for coping with a changing environment. In Australian Capital Territory schools, health education has been recognised as carrying
    the responsibility for developing these strategies. A key theme emerging from the review and explored in the evaluation is that, if these goals are to be achieved, particular emphasis must be placed on the process of learning and on the social emotional environment as an integral part of that process. In order to explore this hypothesis information was collected on student and teacher perceptions of the above concepts of health education and how these differ in a range of schools. To this end six schools which
    positively identified health education as part of their curriculum were used as case studies. As individual schools they were found to approach this in different ways and these different approaches build a broad picture of school health education in action. It was found
    however, that there were major difficulties !n effectively incorporating contemporary health education in schools. These difficulties repeat those already identified in my review of health education in Australian schools in this century. A "reaction pattern" of "Band-Aid" response to social change is repeatedly incorporated into the traditional education curriculum of the time under the title of health education. In the present era, there can be identified a mismatch between the objectives of contemporary health education and the present educational paradigm. A major finding in this regard was the failure of the high school to match up either to needs of students or the ideals of health education. While the fulfilment of these ideals was shown to be possible given specific teacher qualities, it was also found to be inhibited by a range of environmental factors. Examples of these were found to be organisational barriers and staff and student pressure to conform to the established structure and to the established roles. The study highlights the frustrating position of the teacher who seeks, or is given, the task of implementing contemporary health education in present-day
    Date of Award1983
    Original languageEnglish

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