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Celebrating Families, Education and Well-being on International Day of Families

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by Hassan Khan, Vice President and Executive Director, Asia Pacific Forum on Families International (APFAM)Logo for International Day of Families

This year’s observance of the International Day of Families on May 15 focuses on the role of families and family-oriented policies in promoting education and overall well-being. In particular, the goal of the day is to raise awareness of the role of families in promoting early childhood education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and youth.

The day will highlight the importance of all caregivers in families, and the importance of parental education for the welfare of children. It will focus on good practices for work-family balance to assist parents in their educational and caregiving roles. Good practices from the private sector in support of working parents, as well as youth and older persons in the workplace, will also be highlighted.

The day also aims to discuss the importance of ‘knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development’ (SDG4, target 4.7).

Families and family-oriented policies and programs are vital for the achievement of many goals and targets of the Sustainable Development Agenda. In particular, families have a unique role in supporting the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

In the 2030 Agenda, Member States commit to “strive to provide children and youth with a nurturing environment for the full realization of their rights and capabilities, helping our countries to reap the demographic dividend, including through safe schools and cohesive communities and families.” 

Indeed, cohesive, stable, supportive and well-functioning families are primary educators for young children. Primary caregivers educate and socialize children and youth and ensure their well-being. Parents, and often grandparents, have a vital role in safeguarding good quality education, starting with early childhood and extending throughout their children’s and grandchildren’s lifespan.

Early childhood spans the period up to eight years of age. It is essential for physical, social, cognitive and emotional development of children. Early childhood education (target 4.2) is essential to prepare children for primary education. Beyond that, research indicates that early childhood learning lasts a lifetime and brings about many benefits. 

In particular, early stimulation and interaction with parents and caregivers ‘jumpstart the journey of brain development and a lifetime of learning.’ The first years of life are crucial for children: how they are parented and cared for affects their brain function for the years to come. Investments in early childhood care, education and development also help to reduce disadvantages for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. In fact, the returns of such investments are highest among low-income children and serve as a stepping stone out of poverty and exclusion.

As the components of early childhood development include education, health and nutrition, protection and stimulation, safe, nurturing, responsive and stimulating family environments are crucial. In fact, girls and boys with involved and supportive parents tend to have high attendance records, positive attitudes toward school work, achieve better grades and have higher career aspirations. 

It is vital for parents to support their children on their lifelong educational journey. Programs that support parental education and development of parental skills are often an untapped potential toward the achievement of SDG4. 

Similarly, the educational role of grandparents in families should not be overlooked. The number of households where grandparents are primary caregivers for their grandchildren is on the rise mainly due to external migration of parents. Thus, grandparents take on a role of a caregiver and an early educator for children and youth in their families. 

Working conditions of parents affect their ability to play an active role in their children’s education. In fact, in order to be good educators in families, parents need family-friendly policies ensuring work-family balance so that they can be productive employers and involved parents. Policies encouraging corporate responsibility and family-friendly work environments are essential here and have already shown improvement in workers’ productivity and dependability.

The private sector plays a role in supporting training and education of young people, be it through internships or on-the job training. Some enterprises also support intergenerational exchanges where both youth and older adults are mentors or mentees, learning new skills in intergenerational settings.

To increase awareness of the role of families in promoting early childhood education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and youth, APFAM is extending the one-day focus over a 12-month period. Over the course of the next year, the role of families in supporting education and well-being for youth will be championed by organizations globally.

The social service workforce is central to the success of families in improving children’s education and wellbeing. These workers play an enabling role as the wellbeing of individual family members and the community as a whole is at the heart of social service programs.

To learn more and show your support, contact APFAM