BLOG PAGE: A View from the Bridge
By Mr. Clayton
By Mr. Clayton
Let me say something at the start of this blog entry which is this, a child’s emotional health is the best predictor of whether the adult they will grow into will be satisfied with their life-far more important than their academic achievement. (Lord Darzi 2015)
Does anyone need to read it again? If so, now is the time to do that. People who persevere and work hard are more likely to succeed in a highly dynamic and skill-driven labour market. Those who work hard are more likely to follow healthier lifestyles and remain fit. The evidence surrounding well-being, personal and social health, mindfulness etc is overwhelming. This is not just coming from ‘new-age’ types who have spent too long in California, it is coming from hard edged research from hard edged institutions and individuals.
Approximately one-third of the world’s population is under 18, at least one in ten of those is suffering from a diagnosable mental disease. These children are not just residing in the less economically developed parts of the world but in the more economically developed parts. In other words GDP seems to have little to no impact on happiness. In fact it has been argued that there is a better measure of a country’s world standing by measuring gross national happiness. (HK came in around 72nd place out around 150 countries surveyed!) The UN has these reports over the last 3-4 years as it has become clearer that happiness is a key feature of economic and life success.
Over the last 10-15 years schools have increasingly become exam factories, driven by scared governments, scared parents and ultimately scared teachers and students. Yet the paradox is that happy children do better academically than scared, worried or stressed ones. Great schools have tried to rise to the challenge in terms of academic success. They have made sure that their students had access to the most advanced knowledge and worked hard to strengthen creativity, communication, critical thinking and other key things. However, according to the OECD, the institution responsible for the PISA rankings, the very best schools aim to develop character aspects, such as mindfulness, resilience, courage and grit. A survey of 200 schools that had implemented these programmes found that their academic scores had increased by 10%. Schools like Wellington College under the leadership of Dr Anthony Seldon, introduced well-being classes to address the emotional and spiritual needs of children as well as their intellectual development way back in 2006.
The World Happiness Report has outlined the kinds of things that schools should be doing to help maintain and promote the well-being of the children in their charge. For example each school should have well-being of students as an explicit objective of the school. Schools should measure the well-being of the students regularly and there are some metrics for that. If you treasure it, measure it. There should be a life skills curriculum of at least one hour per week to explicitly teach these skills. All teachers should be trained in promoting and noticing student well-being. At FIS we are have recently undertaken these initiatives and they are all helping to support our students.
A massive word of warning here too. Please don’t confuse determination and resilience as working into the wee small hours and missing out on sleep or adopting bad eating habits. Instead research shows that determined students were more likely to be well-balanced and lead healthy lifestyles and would not miss a night’s sleep to enhance their exam performance. Neuro scientist Christina Hinton, a faculty member of the Harvard Graduate School of Education says: ‘Our results suggest that grit does not require pushing yourself at all costs, but rather cultivating healthy emotional regulation skills and effective learning strategies.’