Key donors release report on Whole Child Development efficacy

Whole child development (WCD) approaches to education focus on a wide range of a child's development: physical, social, emotional, and academic, with the active engagement and support of the community. A growing body of evidence shows effective holistic approaches within education systems lead to improved academic, health, income, employment, societal, and well-being outcomes throughout the life of a child. Despite this, the wider institutionalization of holistic practices in education systems remains the exception rather than the rule. To this end, key GC-DWC donors, led by Porticus, commissioned an evidence review on the impact of WCD approaches to education. The report, Challenging the False Dichotomy: An Evidence Synthesis, summarizes existing literature on the impact, value, and need for WCD approaches within education systems.

Key findings include the effectiveness, feasibility, and cost-effectiveness of approaching education holistically. Poverty is complex and therefore requires multifaceted and multidimensional solutions. A WCD education utilizes these varied approaches to help children grow, not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well. Holistic approaches in education are foundational to successful school life, academic success, and long-term life outcomes. The evidence shown in the report is decisive across age ranges, social economic levels, and national boundaries, and finds that children and youth are more likely to succeed if they develop holistic skills which help them more readily respond to the demands of life. Decades of research clearly show that holistic skills are integral to mastering academic content and developing behaviors that support students to reach academic benchmarks.

These approaches are not ambitious and a change in educational culture does not necessarily require a major increase in resources. However efforts to sustain gains from investing in and scaling holistic approaches within education systems will only succeed with community buy-in and support. By breaking down the false dichotomy often perceived that a trade-off exists between holistic and academic outcomes, the report makes a strong evidence-backed case for investment in WCD by communities by showing the societal and economic benefits it can have in a community.

The research synthesis supports the GC-DWC approaches to changing the life trajectories of children in adversity.