Putting self-esteem on the school syllabus
Recently, a private boys’ school in Queensland took the progressive step of incorporating emotional intelligence into its syllabus. Bravo.
In Western society, we have for too long adopted a blinkered approach towards education, focusing heavily on the development of cognitive skills, such as writing, reading and counting, and not those associated with a child’s emotional development.
Research and early childhood literature has shown that children who possess well-developed emotional and mental skills, have a greater likelihood of being successful later on in life.
Just as we encourage children to read regularly, we should also be motivating them to exercise their emotional muscles, so when they do find themselves in an emotionally chaotic situation, they are able to draw upon their inherited strengths and skills.
Unsurprisingly, emotional literacy skills are even more crucial for adolescents as a result of puberty, which makes them more susceptible to mood swings and prone to emotionally erratic behaviour. Recent research by Swinburne University on brain development suggests adolescence is a critical period for the development of emotional intelligence.
Another trend common among adolescents is their desire to be around peers of the same age, as opposed to the company of adults. Peer attachment has strong consequences for success in education. Children who are socially isolated, tend to have lower self-esteem, dislike school and are significantly more likely to be involved in risky behaviour, including substance abuse, gang involvement, teen pregnancy, and violence at school.
However, as we have tragically witnessed with the recent spate of teenage suicides in Geelong, peer liaison also has a dark underbelly – in the form of outright bullying or more subtlety, the exchange of misguided and disproportionate emotional responses to problems.
In addition, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more vulnerable than children from advantaged backgrounds to experience peer pressure or bullying as a result of limited access to emotional and social development opportunities.
Further, young people in the lowest income bracket are three times more likely to have never participated in organised activities such as sports, music, arts, and social activity clubs, than children in the highest income bracket.
Despite the long road ahead, there are a number of organisations in Australia which are taking positive first steps to develop better emotional literacy support for young people.
The Head of Kings School in Sydney, Dr. Tim Hawkes has responded to the challenge by building a Centre for Leadership Studies at Kings and developing learning resources to ‘train the heart and mind’ in the development of character, identity and leadership skills.
The Smith Family has recently completed its emotional literacy framework, which will underpin its suite education and learning programs for disadvantaged Australian children.
This is an exciting area of development within the education and learning sector and one that reflects the synchronisation of visions between education providers for all children, regardless of their socio-economic status.
Read all about it
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