EDC’s Health and Human Development Programs (HHD), UNICEF, CARICOM, and local country partners have recently created a regional curriculum framework for Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) in the English-speaking Caribbean with the goal of improving the health, social adjustment, and academic performance of children and adolescents. The framework, which emphasizes a life-skills based approach, was designed as a tool to allow curriculum planners, education officers, teacher educators, and teachers to review, develop, and strengthen national HFLE curricula and curriculum guides. By extension, the framework will harmonize HFLE curricula across the region.
“The framework’s regional perspective is ground-breaking for the Caribbean,” says Connie Constantine, HHD’s Project Director. It now has the philosophy and standards for teaching, and the desired knowledge, skills, and behavioral outcomes for Health and Family Life Education for students ages 9 to 14. “A strengthened HFLE curriculum, with its emphasis on building competence, will help alleviate some of the health and social problems in the region, including HIV/AIDS, violence, and substance abuse,” says Constantine.
In 1995, the World Health Organization defined life skills as the abilities and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. Research shows that skills-based health education is effective in reducing high-risk sexual behaviors, interpersonal violence, and criminal behavior in young people. In the Caribbean, the curriculum framework has been developed to focus on four related themes: Sexuality and Sexual Health, Self and Interpersonal Relationships, Eating and Fitness, and Managing the Environment. It includes age-appropriate, interactive sample lessons, which are essential in building the skills necessary to make healthy and responsible decisions.
Development of the Caribbean framework took almost 18 months. The core writing team for the project included local partners Ms. Jocelyn Rampardad, an instructor from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus; Ms. Arthusa Semei, a representative from the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia; and Ms. Annette Wiltshire, an HFLE consultant from Trinidad/Tobago. Their participation ensured that the framework reflects local cultures, issues, and customs and was an essential component in the project’s success. Their skills complemented HHD’s strengths as content experts in health and family life education, life-skills education, and Health Promoting Schools.
According to Elaine King, Project Officer at UNICEF, “The HFLE regional curriculum framework, which emphasizes accurate knowledge and skill development and encourages the exploration of values and attitudes, will assist in providing Caribbean youth with a sound foundation for making decisions that have a direct impact on their health and well being.”
In September 2005, a three-year study involving implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of an HFLE curriculum based on this framework will begin in four pilot countries: St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, and Antigua. The curriculum will cover two of the four framework themes: Sexuality and Sexual Health (including HIV/AIDS prevention), and Self and Interpersonal Relationships (including violence prevention). The study will provide evidence of measurable impact from the curriculum on teacher and student outcomes, as well as indicators for use in future curriculum evaluations across the region.
Originally published on August 31, 2005