Select Page

Europe: Fueling Academic Excellence Through Diet and Wellness

 

By Tetiana Rak, We Are Innovation

The European Union’s education system is marked by a rich diversity of educational structures, reflecting the continent’s cultural and linguistic fabric. However, this diversity also poses challenges, with glaring disparities in academic performance, repetition rates, and other early school leaving indicators. At the same time, these challenges should be seen as the potential to improve education. Let’s give them a more detailed look.

Each member nation articulates and oversees its educational system in the intricate panorama of the European educational fabric. For instance, some countries, such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and Cyprus, set the end of compulsory education at 15 years of age, while Croatia places it at 14 years of age. Others, such as Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, and many other European nations, set this limit at 16. In contrast, such countries as the Netherlands and Portugal raised this threshold, making school compulsory for those 18 years of age and older. Addressing the disparity of European education systems, it is necessary to dig into its reasons. Usually, they include difficult economic situations, academic barriers, socio-cultural influences, and challenges linked to mental health.

One of the best tools to overcome the existing differences is student mobility. Student mobility is a rising trend, significantly driven by the establishment of the Erasmus+ Programme. This initiative serves the interchange among the academic community, weaving a rich educational and cultural fabric through engagement with a spectrum of pedagogic environments. Moreover, Europe keeps improving education by promoting several initiatives. 

However, although inclusive education resonates vehemently in educational rhetoric, it must transcend mere words and crystallize into palpable policies that ensure actual diversity. Today Europe reached a decisive pedagogical and methodological turning point, facing the inherent complexity of its educational diversity. To overcome it, EU institutions should foster an educational space in which diversity is perceived as an asset rather than an obstacle, promoting an academic standard that recognizes the richness of different educational traditions and ensures that all European students enjoy equitable and high-quality learning opportunities.

Since the turn of the millennium, the European Union has shown renewed determination to combat early school leaving and improve academic performance. From 2002 to 2018, the school dropout rate in the EU experienced a remarkable reduction from 18% to 12%. However, despite this achievement, the rate still needs to reach the EU target of less than 10%. 

However, there are still 13 members with rates above the 10% threshold, a sign that there is still work to be done. The Council of Europe’s Education Policy Implementation Report sheds light on these challenges, underlining the need to adapt educational strategies to each population’s linguistic and cultural specificities. This perspective emphasizes the importance of implementing early intervention programs for the most vulnerable populations, both from a material and cognitive point of view. A critical aspect in this context is bullying, which has psychological consequences for the victims and can be an underlying factor in academic failure. Educational institutions must promote an inclusive environment where cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity is valued and respected.

On the other hand, the impact of academic failure transcends the classroom, leading to limited employment opportunities and undermining economic autonomy. This phenomenon lies in such causes as family, socioeconomic factors, and education systems themselves. Sometimes, teaching methods do not fit the students’ pace, and the assessment does not reflect their true potential. Another important aspect is the ability of schools to foster an inclusive environment, especially for neurodivergent students, enabling a compelling and resonant learning process that complies with the demands of the modern world.

A recent report published by We Are Innovation found that education extends beyond classroom walls, and schools must consider students’ overall well-being, not just academics. The report suggested that integrating areas like nutrition, physical health and others significantly benefits cognitive abilities and academic achievement. 

Indeed, proper nutrition, meticulous oral health care, and regular exercise can improve academic performance. Educational institutions should recognize the interdependence between well-being and academic success and invest in habits and practices that promote holistic health. When considering nutrition, prioritizing a balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc can maximize brain capacity. Students’ bodies need a proper ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to ensure optimal brain function. Imbalances in our diet can generate ups and downs in energy, hindering concentration and structured thinking. Lastly, regular exercise is vital to optimal wellness regarding physical health, mental health, and cognitive agility. Exercise enhances brain plasticity, drives the generation of new neuronal cells, and reduces stress-related hormones like cortisol, all of which directly influence academic efficiency and knowledge assimilation.

Investment in habits and practices that promote holistic health is an investment in cognitive capacity and, by extension, academic and professional success. It is of utmost importance that educators and guardians recognize and promote these simple and easily accessible tools and strategies to improve citizens’ quality of life and education. By adopting these practices, the EU will create a harmonized educational framework that guarantees quality standards and facilitates transnational cooperation, enriching the continent’s educational tapestry while ensuring equitable and high-quality learning opportunities for all European students.

 


Tetiana Rak is the CCO of We Are Innovation. She is a communications manager, journalist, and freedom activist. with eight years of experience. She has worked with renowned media outlets, including CNN, TechCrunch, Fox News, HackerNoon, the BBC, and Radio Free Europe.